Ontario accounted for most of the decrease, Statistics Canada says.
OTTAWA — Wholesale sales in Canada fell 3.1% to $53.7 billion in January – the biggest monthly drop since January 2009.
Economists had expected a drop of 0.8%, according to Thomson Reuters.
Statistics Canada said the drop in January more than offset a gain in December as automotive-related sales plunged.
The motor vehicle and parts subsector fell 11.3% to $9 billion as the group posted the largest decline in January.
Not including motor vehicles and parts, wholesale sales fell 1.3%.
“The sharp decline in wholesaling, combined with the weak manufacturing figures yesterday, and pretty downbeat expectations for retail sales data, point to a slow start to the year for Canadian GDP,” CIBC economist Andrew Grantham wrote in a note to clients.
Wholesale sales were down in five provinces – representing 67% of total sales – with Ontario accounting for most of the decrease.
Sales were down 3.3% in volume terms.
In addition to the automotive-related group, sales for the building material and supplies subsector dropped 5.3% to $7.7 billion, the lowest level since May 2014.
Sales in the miscellaneous subsector also fell 2.7%t to $7.2 billion after five consecutive monthly gains. The farm product group dropped 8.6% to $692 million.
Sales in the personal and household goods subsector and the machinery, equipment and supplies subsector were unchanged in January.
Food beverage and tobacco sales were up 0.9% at $10.5 billion.
© 2015 The Canadian Press