Warehousing in Canada


Any profile of the warehouse sector must begin with a more clear definition of what exactly we mean when we talk about a “warehouse worker.” This type of work can often take place across traditional industrial classifications, and can be absorbed by the ultimate end good or service created or provided by the employer. For instance, warehouse employees working for a food manufacturing company might inadvertently be classified as manufacturing workers. Additionally, what we might informally think of as “warehouse work” falls into several different categories of both the two main systems for industrial classification, the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the National Occupational Classification (NOC).

However, generally speaking, and to keep things simple for the purposes of this profile, we will mostly follow the warehouse work definition provided by NAICS – 4931 Warehousing and storage. According to that classification, the “warehouse and storage” industry group “…comprises establishments primarily engaged in: operating general merchandise, refrigerated and other warehousing and storage facilities. These establishments provide facilities to store goods for customers.”* Some additional aspects of the industry group (which we will refer to as the “warehouse sector” for the sake of brevity):

  • These establishments take responsibility for storing the goods and keeping them secure, but do not take title to the goods they handle.
  • They may also provide a range of services, often referred to as logistics services, related to the distribution of a customer's goods.
  • Logistics services can include labelling, breaking bulk, inventory control and management, light assembly, order entry and fulfillment, packaging, pick and pack, price marking and ticketing and transportation arrangement.
  • However, establishments in this industry group always provide storage services in addition to any logistics services. Furthermore, the storage of goods must be more than incidental to the performance of a service such as price marking.
  • Both public and contract warehousing are included in this industry group.
  • Public warehousing generally provides short-term storage, typically for less than thirty days. Contract warehousing generally involves a longer-term contract, often including the provision of logistical services and dedicated facilities.
  • Bonded warehousing and storage services, and warehouses located in free trade zones, are included in the industries of this industry group.

However, some of the major players we would think of as belonging in the warehouse sector, companies like Amazon could also at least partially be categorized under NAICS – 454110 Electronic shopping and mail-order houses.** This classification captures the online advertising and sales aspects of companies like Amazon, but would not appropriately capture the companies’ warehousing activities.

Industry analysts use the term “third-party logistics companies” (3PLs) to describe companies that specialize in distribution, warehousing and fulfillment services. These 3PLs are contrasted with those firms that maintain their own internal logistics and delivery services, including companies like Amazon in the e-commerce segment, or Loblaw in retail.


* “Summary - Canadian Industry Statistics: Warehousing and storage – 4931.” Government of Canada. (from https://www.ic.gc.ca/app/scr/app/cis/summary-sommaire/4931).

** https://www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb/p3VD.pl?Function=getVD&TVD=307532&CVD=307548&CPV=454110&CST=01012017&CLV=5&MLV=5