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January Major Appliance Shipments Plunge 24%

3/03/2009 01:46:00 PM Eastern

Washington — The major appliance industry’s two-year-long slump took a dramatic turn for the worse in January with unit shipments to dealers plunging more than 24 percent year-over-year.

According to data compiled by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), vendors shipped only 4 million units in January, compared with nearly 5.3 million units in January 2008.

The downturn may have reflected a post-Christmas holiday spending lull, ongoing economic weakness and higher cost prices imposed by some of the industry’s leading manufacturers.

The drop-off was felt across the board, with double-digit declines seen in every product category and sub-category tracked by AHAM, save dehumidifiers. That sector actually enjoyed an 84 percent increase year over year, with some 142,600 units shipped, and helped offset a 33 percent decline in room air shipments, leaving the general home-comfort category down 18 percent.

But that was cold comfort for the industry, which saw its bread-and-butter categories crater by significantly larger margins. The biggest lumps were taken in food preservation (down 29 percent), lead by a 31.4 percent decline in shipments of refrigerators and offset by a milder 18 percent downturn in wholesale sales of standalone freezers.

The cooking category also took it on the chin, with unit shipments down by nearly 27 percent. The softness was especially acute in cooktops, where shipments fell 43 percent for gas-fueled models and 39 percent for electric units.

Shipments of microwave ovens dipped 24 percent.

The kitchen clean-up category fared better, down 23 percent on a relatively mild 16-percent decline in disposer shipments. That helped offset a 30 percent drop-off for dishwashers and a 46 percent plunge for compactors.

Laundry had the smallest decline of the core categories, with shipments down 22 percent. Washers were down 20 percent to about 538,000 units and dryer shipments dipped 24 percent, led by gas-fueled models.

The AHAM 6, an amalgamation of the key washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, range and oven categories, declined 26.3 percent to 2.3 million units, down from shipments of 3.2 million units in January 2008.

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