Washington - Factory shipments of major appliances continued their sequential improvement in September, suggesting that the beleaguered white-goods industry may have finally bottomed out over the summer.
According to the latest wholesale sales data compiled by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), the industry trade group, September majap shipments were down 6.7 percent year over year, compared with a 9.4 percent decline in August and a 19.1 percent drop in July, with several core product categories showing their first gains in years.
Leading the September surge was the kitchen cleanup category, which was up 7 percent last month on a strong showing by built-in dishwashers. Shipments of the latter increased 11.3 percent, offsetting weakness in trash compactors and portable dishwashers.
Also showing renewed vigor was food preservation, which rose 2.4 percent year over year on an 8.7 percent spike in freezer shipments. Within the category, refrigerators, which represent most households' single largest majap investment, edged into the plus column with a 0.8 percent gain.
Also squeaking into positive territory was home laundry, where washer shipments enjoyed a solid 4.4 percent gain. The increase was a wash, however, as dryer shipments slipped 3.9 percent.
The cooking category didn't fare as well. Shipments plummeted 25.4 percent on weakness in microwave and electric ovens, which offset a 20 percent explosion in gas-fueled oven shipments.
Elsewhere, a 52.4 percent increase in dehumidifier shipments offset a 56.3 percent plunge in room air conditioners, leaving the home comfort category down 2.4 percent.
The AHAM 6, an amalgam of the core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, range and oven categories, rose 1.3 percent last month, suggesting a return to a white-goods growth cycle.
But despite the hopeful signs, 2009 has been another bruising year for the industry, with total year-to-date shipments down 17.1 percent.