Wholesale Trade Sales: Mixed Results with Potential for Growth

Wholesale Trade Sales
  • Wholesale trade sales in South Africa experienced a decline of 1.4% in March 2023 compared to the previous year when adjusted for constant 2019 prices. This indicates a challenging trend for the sector.
  • However, sales measured in nominal terms, taking into account current prices, saw a significant increase of 8.3% in March 2023 compared to the previous year. This growth was primarily driven by dealers in machinery, equipment, and supplies, as well as agricultural raw materials and livestock.
  • Overall, while there are challenges in real terms sales, there is potential for growth in the wholesale trade sector, as indicated by the robust performance of certain segments. Policymakers, economists, and businesses can use this information to make informed decisions about the industry’s future.

Johannesburg — The latest report from Statistics South Africa (STATSSA) reveals a mixed picture for the wholesale trade sector in March 2023. While wholesale trade sales measured in real terms, adjusted for constant 2019 prices, experienced a decline of 1.4% compared to March 2022, sales at current prices witnessed a notable increase of 8.3% during the same period.

In terms of real terms, wholesale trade sales declined by 1.4% in March 2023 when compared to the same month of the previous year. This represents a negative growth trend, reflecting potential challenges within the sector. However, when taking into account the seasonally adjusted figures, wholesale trade sales decreased by a marginal 0.6% in March 2023 when compared to February 2023. The decline follows substantial month-on-month changes of 2.1% in February 2023 and 1.2% in January 2023.

Looking at the first quarter of 2023, seasonally adjusted wholesale trade sales showed a modest increase of 0.1% when compared to the fourth quarter of 2022. This indicates a relatively stable performance for the sector during the beginning of the year.

However, it is the sales measured in nominal terms, taking into account current prices, that display a more positive outlook. In March 2023, wholesale trade sales experienced a substantial increase of 8.3% compared to the same month in 2022. The significant growth was primarily driven by dealers in machinery, equipment, and supplies, contributing 35.9% and accounting for 4.3 percentage points of the overall increase. Agricultural raw materials and livestock dealers also made a noteworthy contribution, with a growth rate of 26.3% and a contribution of 1.6 percentage points. Additionally, the food, beverages, and tobacco sector saw growth of 7.0% and contributed 1.1 percentage points, while dealers in ‘other’ goods witnessed a growth rate of 12.8%, making a contribution of 1.0 percentage point.

Zooming out to the first quarter of 2023, wholesale trade sales experienced a robust increase of 10.7% compared to the same period in 2022. Dealers in machinery, equipment, and supplies played a significant role in this growth, with a rate of 23.3% and contributing 3.1 percentage points. Agricultural raw materials and livestock also showed substantial growth, with a rate of 34.1% and a contribution of 2.0 percentage points. Solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels and related products saw an increase of 7.4%, contributing 1.9 percentage points. Lastly, dealers in ‘other’ goods experienced growth of 19.1% and contributed 1.4 percentage points.

The data suggests that while the wholesale trade sector experienced some challenges in terms of real-term sales, there has been significant growth in nominal terms. The strong performance of dealers in machinery, equipment, and supplies, as well as agricultural raw materials and livestock, played a crucial role in driving the overall growth of the sector in the first quarter of 2023. These positive developments indicate that there is still potential for expansion and profitability within the wholesale trade industry.

The STATSSA report provides valuable insights for policymakers, economists, and businesses alike, enabling them to make informed decisions based on the current state of the wholesale trade sector. The mixed results highlight the importance of monitoring both real and nominal sales figures to gain a comprehensive understanding of the sector’s performance.

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