Riding on a head of steam, major appliance manufacturers shipped some 7.9 million units in March, representing a 4.2 percent hike over wholesale sales for the year-ago period, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM).
The March gains continued the sharp reversal of fortune for white goods makers that began last fall following nearly two years of stagnant sales and promotional pricing. Indeed, total year-to-date shipments are up a healthy 5.2 percent to 16.7 million units, compared to the 15.9 million majaps sold to retailers during the first quarter of 2001.
The biggest gainers for the five weeks ended March 30 include portable dishwashers, up 30.3 percent; dehumidifiers, ahead 22.7 percent; and built-in gas ranges, which grew by 17.5 percent.
Losses continued to be sustained in room air conditioning, the only category to show a decline in March, with shipments falling 8.3 percent to 1.4 million units.
Among the major product categories, food preservation showed the largest gain at 9.9 percent, lifted by an 11.3 percent boost in freezer shipments and a strong showing in refrigeration, which rose 9.5 percent.
Next in line was kitchen clean-up, shipments of which grew 7.8 percent to 1.2 million units, followed by cooking, which was ahead 5.8 percent to 2.5 million units. Besides the aforementioned gas ranges, cooking was also carried by a 12.6 percent spike in gas-fueled surface cooking units.
Home laundry showed the mildest gains, up 4.9 percent to 1.6 million units, led by an 8-percent hike in shipments of gas-driven dryers.
More telling, however, was the 7.9 percent increase in wholesale sales of the AHAM 6, a composite category comprised of the core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer and range sectors. Reflecting the white goods rebound, the AHAM amalgam enjoyed a 9.4 percent gain for the first quarter of the year.