Intermediate goods wholesale trade statistics - NACE Rev. 1.1

From Statistics Explained

Data from January 2009. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database.

This article belongs to a set of statistical articles which analyse the structure, development and characteristics of the various economic activities in the European Union (EU). According to the statistical classification of economic activities in the EU (NACE Rev 1.1), the present article covers intermediate goods wholesale trade, corresponding to NACE Group 51.5, which is part of the wholesale trade sector. The activities covered in this article are the wholesaling of non-agricultural intermediate products, waste and scrap, which includes the wholesale of all products used as production materials, fuel or other consumables, except for agricultural products (which are treated in Agricultural wholesale trade statistics - NACE Rev. 1.1). It includes, for example, the wholesaling of:

  • fuels;
  • construction materials;
  • hardware;
  • chemicals;
  • scrap.
Table 1: Wholesaling of intermediate goods (NACE Group 51.5). Structural profile, EU-27, 2006

Main statistical findings

Structural profile

Figure 1: Wholesaling of intermediate goods (NACE Group 51.5). Relative weight within wholesaling of intermediate goods , EU-27, 2006 (%)
Table 2: Wholesaling of intermediate goods (NACE Group 51.5). Structural profile: ranking of top five Member States in terms of value added and persons employed, 2006

The EU-27’s wholesaling of intermediate goods sector (NACE Group 51.5) consisted of 247.0 thousand enterprises in 2006, approximately one in seven of all wholesaling (NACE Division 51) enterprises. This sector's significance was greater in output and employment terms, as it generated EUR 1 548.0 billion of turnover, one third of the wholesale trade total, and also contributed more than one fifth of wholesale trade value added and employment.

Among the seven NACE classes that make up the wholesale of intermediate goods, almost half (49.5 %) of the EU-27’s turnover, but less than one fifth (18.1 %) of its value added was generated by the wholesale of fuels and related products (NACE Class 51.51), while the wholesale of wood, construction materials and sanitary equipment (NACE Class 51.53) contributed just 16.1 % of turnover, but 29.9 % of value added, and 40.5 % of its workforce.

Among the Member States [1], Germany and the United Kingdom were by far the largest contributors to the EU-27's output: the United Kingdom generated 25.3 % of the EU-27's turnover in 2006 and Germany 18.0 %, while these positions were reversed in terms of value added, whereby Germany's share was 20.0 % compared with the United Kingdom's 17.4 %. However, these two Member States were relatively unspecialised in this activity in terms of its contribution to national non-financial business economy (NACE Sections C to I and K) value added; in each country, the wholesale of intermediate goods generated no more than 2.1 % of non-financial business economy value added. In contrast, the Baltic States were the three most specialised Member States [2], as their intermediate goods wholesaling sectors contributed at least 3.8 % of non-financial business economy value added.

Annualised short-term statistics provide information on the evolution of the turnover index for the wholesale trade of intermediate goods – see Wholesale trade statistics - NACE Rev. 1.1. The wholesaling of intermediate goods recorded the strongest year on year growth during each of the last five years (2003 to 2007) among wholesale trade NACE groups. Growth was particularly strong in 2005 (17.0 %) and 2006 (13.8 %), but lower in 2007 (7.7 %). Over the period 2000 to 2007 sales within this sector grew on average by 7.3 % per year, the highest average annual growth rate over this period of all available non-financial services. These high increases may well reflect, in part, above average price increases – notably those concerning the wholesaling of fuel which makes up a large part of intermediate goods wholesaling.

Expenditure and productivity

Gross tangible investment by the EU-27's intermediate goods wholesalers reached EUR 14.6 billion in 2006, more than one quarter (27.5 %) of all the wholesale trade investment. This represented the equivalent of 11.8 % of value added, slightly above the 10.2 % average investment rate for wholesale trade. The highest investment rate within the intermediate goods wholesaling sector was recorded for the wholesale of waste and scrap (NACE Class 51.57) where tangible investment was equivalent to 21.1 % of value added.

The proportion of operating expenditure allocated to personnel costs was 4.2 % for the EU-27’s intermediate goods wholesaling sector, the lowest of all of the wholesale trade NACE groups, and the third lowest of all of the non-financial business economy NACE groups (with 2005 or 2006 data available). This extremely low share of personnel costs in operating costs for the intermediate goods wholesaling sector was, in large part, due to the wholesaling of fuels (NACE Class 51.51) where the share was only 0.8 %, as all other subsectors recorded shares above the average for the intermediate goods wholesaling sector, reaching 11.9 % for the wholesaling of hardware, plumbing and heating equipment and supplies (NACE class 51.54).

Apparent labour productivity in the EU-27’s intermediate goods wholesaling sector was EUR 58.4 thousand per person employed, while average personnel costs stood at EUR 32.2 thousand per employee. While the apparent labour productivity was above the wholesale trade average , average personnel costs were relatively lower, resulting in a wage-adjusted labour productivity ratio of 181.6 %, well above the wholesale trade ratio (159.8 %) and second highest within the wholesale trade activities, behind that achieved in other wholesale trade (see Non-specialised wholesale trade statistics - NACE Rev. 1.1). This ratio was remarkably high in the EU-27’s wholesale of fuels and related products subsector (332.7 %), and also very high in the subsectors of metal and metal ores wholesaling (NACE Class 51.52, 221.6 %) and waste and scrap (210.9 %).

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 - NACE Rev. 1.1): 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 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 (this aricle), machinery and equipment), while specialised wholesalers of other products are included in non-specialised wholesalers.

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


Main tables


Dedicated section

See also


  1. Bulgaria and Poland, 2005; Malta, not available.
  2. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland and Romania, 2005; Malta and the Netherlands, not available.