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About the Annual Wholesale Trade Survey


The Annual Wholesale Trade Survey (AWTS) produces national estimates of total annual sales, e-commerce sales, end-of-year inventories, purchases, total operating expenses, gross margins, and commissions (for electronic markets, agents, and brokers) for wholesale businesses located in the United States.  Additionally, in years ending in "2" and "7," the survey also generates detailed operating expenses estimates through the Business Expenses Supplement (BES).

AWTS provides estimates that are more timely than those generated via the Economic Census, which is conducted in years ending in "2" and "7," and more detailed than those produced through the Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey (MWTS), which is conducted each month.


This survey is conducted annually.


The AWTS samples employer businesses that are classified in the wholesale trade sector and located in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  AWTS excludes data for businesses located in the United States territories.  New samples are drawn approximately every 5 years and are updated quarterly.


Merchant wholesale companies provide estimates on sales, e-commerce, end-of-year inventories, inventories held outside the United States, purchases, and total operating expenses. In years ending in “2” and “7,” AWTS collects detailed operating expenses and sales tax information through the Business Expenses Supplement.  Purchases and detailed operating expenses are only collected for merchant wholesale companies, excluding manufacturers’ sales branches and offices.

Agent, broker, and electronic market companies provide estimates on sales, commissions, and operating expenses.

Legal Authority and Confidentiality

YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.  Title 13 United States Code, Sections 131 and 182, authorizes this collection.  Title 13 United States Code, Sections 224 and 225 require businesses and other organizations that receive this questionnaire to answer the questions and return the report to the U.S. Census Bureau.  By Section 9 of the same law, YOUR CENSUS REPORT IS CONFIDENTIAL.  It may be seen only by persons sworn to uphold the confidentiality of Census Bureau information and may be used only for statistical purposes.  Further, copies retained in respondents’ files are immune from legal process.

Primary Customers and Users

  • 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.


All estimates are published at the national level by 2-digit through 4-digit NAICS.  Further industry detail is published for NAICS 42343 (Computer and Computer Peripheral Equipment and Software) and 42345 (Medical, Dental, and Hospital Equipment and Supplies). 

Estimates are released approximately 12 months after the collection year, via the internet.  These estimates are benchmarked to the most recent Economic Census of Wholesale Trade. For more information about benchmarking, see the Methodology section.

Release Schedule

  • Estimates are released annually, typically 12 months after the end of the data year.
  • The 2021 Annual Wholesale Trade Report was released on December 14, 2022.
  • The 2022 Annual Wholesale Trade Report is scheduled for release in fourth quarter 2023.
  • Since 2003, estimates are released as a separate report annually. Prior to 2003 estimates were released as part of the Annual Benchmark Report for Wholesale Trade.
  • In the event of an unplanned data revision, revised statistics may be made available under “Updates” or under “Tables.” Internal Census Bureau policies are followed for notifying sponsors and primary stakeholders.

Page Last Revised - December 1, 2022
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