Annual Wholesale Trade Survey

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To provide detailed industry measures of sales, end-of-year inventories, inventory valuation, inventory outside the United States, total purchases of products, and total operating expenses for wholesale trade activities. The United States Code, Title 13, authorizes this survey and provides for mandatory responses.


Companies with employment that are primarily engaged in merchant wholesale trade in the U.S. These include merchant wholesalers that take title of the goods they sell, and jobbers, industrial distributors, exporters, and importers. Excluded are non-merchant wholesalers such as manufacturer sales branches and offices; agents, merchandise or commodity brokers, and commission merchants; and businesses whose primary activity is other than wholesale trade.


Merchant wholesalers and manufacturers' sales branches and offices (MSBOs) provide estimates on annual sales, end-of-year inventories, inventory valuation, purchases, operating expenses and e-commerce data. The AWTS also began collecting sales, commissions, and operating expenses data for agents, brokers, and electronic markets (AGBRs) in 2005.


Collected data are for activity taking place throughout the calendar year; collected data are for activity taking place throughout the calendar year. Survey has been conducted annually since 1978. New samples are chosen every 5 years and are updated quarterly.


The sample for AWTS consists of three separate samples: (1) a sample of merchant wholesalers, MSBOs, (2) a sample of MSBOs, and (3) a sample of wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers. AWTS uses a stratified, one-stage design with primary strata defined by industry (e.g., Motor Vehicle and Motor Vehicle Parts, Furniture and Home Furnishings, Grocery, etc.). There are 59 primary strata: 40 from the merchant wholesale sample, 17 from the MSBOs sample, and 2 from the Agents and Brokers sample. The primary strata are substratified into 4, 7, 10, or 13 annual sales size strata. The largest sales size stratum within each industry stratum consists of companies, all of which are selected with certainty (sampling weight equal to one).

The other strata are populated by Employer Identification Numbers. Sample sizes are computed to meet multiple coefficient of variation constraints on estimated annual sales and end-of-year inventory totals. Constraints are specified at detailed industry levels and at broad levels up to the total wholesale level. Sampling weights range from 1 to 250. Units are selected independently between strata using simple random sampling without replacement within the size substrata. The current sample of 8,000 businesses consists of approximately 2,100 certainty companies and 5,900 EINs. Updates to the sample are made on a quarterly basis to account for new businesses, deaths, and other changes to the universe.


Estimates are released in the first quarter of each year. These estimates are benchmarked to the most recent Economic Census of Wholesale Trade.


The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the estimates as an input to estimate sales and inventories for the Gross Domestic Product.

The Council of Economic Advisers uses the estimates for assessing near term economic activity.

The Department of the Treasury uses the estimates to research economic trends.

Business and industry groups use the estimates to forecast future demand.

Researchers use the estimates to benchmark the results from their own sampling operations.

Manufacturers can use inventory estimates as a proxy for the distributors confidence for future expected sales.


Provides the only source of current purchases and gross margin data for merchant wholesalers.


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