Archive:Wholesale trade statistics - NACE Rev. 1.1
- Data from January 2009, most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database
This article introduces a set of statistical articles which analyse the structure, development and characteristics of the economic activities in the wholesale trade sector in the European Union (EU). This sector covers NACE Rev 1.1 Division 51, and its activities are treated in more depth in six further articles covering:
- Fee and contract wholesale trade;
- Agricultural wholesale trade;
- Consumer goods wholesale trade;
- Intermediate goods wholesale trade;
- Machinery and equipment wholesale trade;
- Non-specialized wholesale trade.
Main statistical findings
By most output measures the EU-27's wholesale trade sector (NACE Division 51) was one of the largest sectors within the EU-27's non-financial business economy (NACE Sections C to I and K). It comprised 1.7 million enterprises in 2006, that together generated EUR 4 603 billion of turnover and EUR 518.8 billion of value added. As such, this was by far the largest of all the structural business statistics sectors in terms of turnover, recording 20.6 % of all turnover generated within the non-financial business economy, more than double the share of retail trade and repair (see Retail trade and repair statistics). This very high share of turnover reflects the nature of wholesaling, buying and reselling goods often in very large quantities – box 1 below focuses on own-account wholesale turnover. Wholesale trade's 9.2 % share of value added was the second highest among the structural business statistics sectors, lower only than the 15.8 % share of business services (see Business services statistics). The wholesale trade sector was less influential in terms of employment, as the 10.0 million persons employed in this sector registered a 7.7 % share of the EU-27's non-financial business economy workforce in 2006; the high value added and lower employment shares indicate an above average level of apparent labour productivity.
Among the activities that compose the wholesale trade sector, own-account wholesale trade (NACE Groups 51.2 to 51.9) accounted for 92.4 % of the EU-27's wholesale trade value added in 2006, while wholesale on a fee or contract basis (NACE Group 51.1) accounted for the remainder. Wholesale on a fee or contract basis was particularly important in Slovenia, Italy and Slovakia, where its contribution to wholesale trade value added was more than double the EU-27 average. The largest own-account wholesale trade subsector in value added and employment terms was the wholesale trade of consumer goods (NACE Groups 51.3 and 51.4) – followed by the wholesale of non-agricultural intermediate products, waste and scrap (NACE Group 51.5) and machinery, equipment and supplies (NACE Group 51.8), both of which made a larger contribution to sectoral value added than employment.
|Box 1: Turnover from own-account wholesale trade in the EU 
Own-account wholesale trade generated EUR 4 382 billion of turnover in the EU in 2006. The wholesaling of consumer goods was the largest activity and accounted for 39.7 % of own-account wholesale turnover in the EU, a share that exceeded 50 % in Romania, Greece, Portugal and Italy. The wholesale of non-agricultural intermediate products, waste and scrap was the second largest of the wholesale trade subsectors, averaging 35.3 % of own-account wholesale trade turnover in the EU, but exceeding 50 % only in Estonia. The importance of the wholesale of machinery, equipment and supplies varied greatly between Member States, from less than 9 % in Poland (2005), Romania, Bulgaria (2005), Cyprus and Slovenia, to over 25 % in Ireland and the Netherlands. The wholesale of agricultural raw materials and live animals (NACE Group 51.2) reached its peak share in France (8.7 %), double the EU average (4.3 %), and was less than 7 % in all of the Member States except for Hungary. Other wholesale trade (NACE Group 51.9) accounted for 4.8 % of own-account wholesale turnover in the EU, but its share exceeded 20 % in Slovenia and Slovakia and 30 % in Poland (2005).
The United Kingdom and Germany had the largest  levels of value added, turnover and employment in the wholesale trade sector. Relative to the whole non-financial business economy, the importance of the wholesale trade sector varied from just 7.4 % of the value added in Finland to 15.4 % in Latvia and 16.0 % in Greece, with both Germany (7.6 %) and the United Kingdom (8.5 %) relatively unspecialised. For more than half of the Member States the wholesale trade sector was the largest or second largest structural business statistics sector in the non-financial business economy in value added terms; it was the largest sector in Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Poland and Romania.
Regional employment specialisation (in some cases the whole country is treated as one region) can be seen from the map which is based on the non-financial business economy employment share of the wholesale trade sector. Given the essential nature of many parts of wholesale trade, providing services directly to retailers and to industrial consumers, it is unsurprising that most regions tended towards the average. In the regions where the wholesale trade workforce accounted for its highest share of the non-financial business economy workforce (around 15 % in two Greek regions), the relative specialisation was around five times higher than in the least specialised regions (as wholesale activities accounted for around 3 % of the workforce in two Finnish regions): only in retail trade and repair was there a lower ratio between the most and least specialised regions.
Employment for the EU-27's wholesale trade sector increased in 2007, up 2.9 %, the fourth consecutive year of an increase in the rate of employment growth. Over the period 1997-2007, the index of employment recorded one slight negative year on year rate of change, -0.5 % in 2003, and averaged growth of 1.1 % per year during this ten year period. The index of turnover grew by 7.6 % in 2007, slower than the 9.0 % growth recorded in 2006, and the first slowdown in the rate of growth in five years. During the period 1997-2007, the index of turnover rose on average by 4.9 % per year.
Turnover indices for the largest subsectors show that during each of the last five years the strongest growth was recorded by the wholesaling of non-agricultural intermediate goods, waste and scrap. In 2007 this subsector recorded growth of 7.7 %, considerably less than the 13.8 % recorded in 2006 and the 17.0 % recorded in 2005. Over the period 2000 to 2007 this subsector grew on average by 7.3 % per year, the highest average annual growth rate over this period of all available non-financial services . However, note that this activity covers the wholesaling of fuels, and such products recorded large price increases towards the end of the period studied and these are also reflected in the turnover index.
The two consumer oriented NACE groups, namely the wholesale of food, beverages and tobacco, and of household goods, recorded uninterrupted year on year sales growth between 2000 and 2007, resulting in average annual growth rates of 3.9 % and 4.4 % per year respectively.
The turnover index for the wholesaling of machinery, equipment and supplies showed a less regular development, with a decline in output recorded in 2001, 2002 and 2003, since when output increased each year. Looking across these two periods with very different developments this activity's turnover grew on average by 3.0 % per year. The two remaining own-account subsectors averaged 3.1 % annual growth in the case of agricultural wholesaling and 4.5 % annual growth in the case of other wholesaling.
Wholesale trade enterprises averaged EUR 2.7 million of turnover each in 2007, the second highest average sales figures among the activities covered by the non-financial services structural business statistics sectors, slightly smaller than the average recorded for media and communications enterprises. A more detailed analysis of the size of enterprises, for four enterprise size classes shows that in terms of value added, the size class structure of the wholesale trade sector was very evenly distributed, with none of the size classes dominating. As a result, SMEs (enterprises with less than 250 persons employed) contributed just over three quarters (77.2 %) of the value added in the EU-27's wholesale trade sector in 2006, well above the non-financial business economy average of 57.9 %. In particular small enterprises (enterprises with between 10 and 49 persons employed) contributed a particularly high proportion of the wholesale trade sector's value added. In terms of employment, the contribution of the four size classes was less even, with close to one third of the wholesale trade sector's workforce employed in micro enterprises (with less than 10 persons employed).
According to Labour Force Survey data for 2007, two thirds (66.6 %) of the EU-27’s workforce in wholesale trade were men. This share was only slightly higher than that recorded for the non-financial business economy as a whole, while it was well above the distributive trades’ average (51.2 %). Slightly less than nine tenths (89.1 %) of the persons employed in the EU-27’s wholesale trade sector in 2007 worked full-time, a proportion that was 10.8 percentage points above the distributive trades average and slightly above the non-financial business economy average (85.7 %) as well. Among the Member States, only in Romania was the incidence of full-time work significantly lower in wholesale trade (90.8 %) than in the non-financial business economy as a whole (97.8 %), while in Slovenia, Bulgaria and Malta it was slightly lower.
A breakdown by age of the workforce for the EU-27’s wholesale trade sector in 2007 shows a lower proportion of younger workers (aged less than 30) when compared with the non-financial business economy average, and a higher proportion of the other two age groups. This was in stark contrast to the situation in the two other distributive trades sectors (motor trades, and retail trade and repair) which recorded particularly high shares of younger workers.
Expenditure, productivity and profitability
The level of tangible investment made by the wholesale trade sector in 2006 reached EUR 53.1 billion. This was equivalent to 5.1 % of the tangible investment made in the whole of the non-financial business economy, a much lower share than the wholesale trade sector recorded in terms of employment or value added. This relatively low level of investment was confirmed by a low investment rate. Investment by the wholesale trade sector was equivalent to 10.2 % of the sector's value added, just over half the 18.4 % rate recorded for the non-financial business economy as a whole. This was in large part due to an investment rate of just 7.8 % in the wholesale of machinery and equipment subsector, and to the 9.8 % rate for the largest subsector, wholesaling of consumer goods. The closest any of the subsectors got to the average rate for the non-financial business economy was 17.6 % recorded for agricultural wholesaling.
Purchases of goods and services represented a high share (93.5 %) of operating expenditure in the EU-27’s wholesale trade sector, the largest share recorded in 2006 among all the structural business statistics sectors, and the second largest among all of the non-financial business economy NACE divisions, just below the share for the extraction of crude petroleum and natural gas. The high share relating to purchases of goods and services underlines the characteristics of wholesale trade, namely, that it involves the purchase of goods for resale. Consequently the share of personnel costs (6.5 %) was low, particularly so among the subsectors of agricultural wholesaling (4.4 %) and the wholesale of non-agricultural intermediate products (4.2 %).
Apparent labour productivity was EUR 52.1 thousand per person employed in the EU-27's wholesale trade sector in 2006, EUR 8.5 thousand higher than the non-financial business economy average. However, this ratio varied greatly between the wholesale trade subsectors, ranging from EUR 40.0 thousand per person employed for other wholesale to EUR 64.6 thousand for the wholesale of machinery and equipment. Average personnel costs in the wholesale trade sector were also higher than the non-financial business economy average in 2006, with the same subsectors recording the highest and lowest values.
The wage adjusted labour productivity ratio combines the ratios of apparent labour productivity and average personnel costs. This ratio was 159.8 % for the EU-27's wholesale trade sector in 2006, marginally above the 151.1 % average for the non-financial business economy, and higher than in both of the other distributive trades sectors. Despite having the lowest apparent labour productivity, the particularly low average personnel costs in the other wholesale trade subsector resulted in this subsector having the highest wage adjusted productivity ratio of all of the wholesale trade subsectors, while the lowest ratio was recorded for wholesale trade on a fee or contract basis.
The ratio of the gross operating surplus to turnover (the gross operating rate) was 5.2 % in the EU-27’s wholesale trade sector in 2006, less than half the corresponding rate for the non-financial business economy as a whole (10.8 %), reflecting the high turnover (resale in the same condition as purchased) and relatively low margins typically associated with wholesale trade activities. The only wholesale subsector to report a gross operating rate above the non-financial business economy average was wholesale on a fee or contract basis (11.0 %) which is a not typical wholesaling activity in that it does not involve buying and reselling in large quantities.
Data sources and availability
The main part of the analysis in this article is derived from structural business statistics (SBS), including core, business statistics which are disseminated regularly, as well as information compiled on a multi-yearly basis, and the latest results from development projects.
The activities in NACE Division 51 cover all wholesale trade except that concerning motor vehicles and motorcycles (see Fuel retail and service station statistics): the wholesaling of automotive fuel is considered as a wholesale trade rather than a motor trade. This article covers resale (sale without transformation) of new and used products, as well as wholesale activities carried out on a fee or contract basis.
The wholesaling activity consists of selling to retailers or to industrial, commercial, institutional and professional users. Wholesalers can act on a fee or contract basis as agents (as covered by Fee and contract wholesale trade statistics) or for their own-account, buying and selling goods. The own-account wholesale sub-sectors distinguish the types of product in which the wholesaler is specialised: agricultural products, consumer goods, intermediate goods, machinery and equipment (covered by Agricultural wholesale trade statistics, Consumer goods wholesale trade statistics, Intermediate goods wholesale trade statistics and Machinery and equipment wholesale trade statistics), while specialised wholesalers of other products, along with non-specialised wholesalers, are included in Non-specialized wholesale trade statistics.
In the supply chain, wholesalers are located between producers and users, providing know-how and knowledge in markets for which they have expertise. Competition within the wholesale trade activity is often centred on providing more efficient services or more sophisticated value added services. Wholesalers can provide a range of services from basic storage and break of bulk, sorting, grading and logistics to pre- and post-production operations (for instance, labelling, packaging, bottling and installation).
Further Eurostat information
- Fee and contract wholesale trade statistics
- Agricultural wholesale trade statistics
- Consumer goods wholesale trade statistics
- Intermediate goods wholesale trade statistics
- Machinery and equipment wholesale trade statistics
- Non-specialized wholesale trade statistics
- Bulgaria and Poland, 2005; Malta, not available.
- Bulgaria and Poland, 2005; Malta, not available.
- Note that the services turnover indices are available at a mixture of NACE levels, sometimes, classes, groups, divisions, or special aggregates thereof.
[[Category:SBS_-_ Wholesale trade]] [[Category:Statistical_article]]