The bloodletting may be ending for major appliance manufacturers, who are predicting a near return to last year's record shipments in 2002.
According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), which culled sales forecasts from member companies, total factory shipments could well hit 64.1 million units next year. While the figure still falls shy of the record 65 million majaps shipped in 2000, it represents a 1.7 percent uptick over the 63 million units that vendors expect to sell at wholesale this year.
Showing the biggest anticipated gain is the kitchen clean-up category, which is expected to grow from 11 million units shipped this year to 11.4 million in 2002. Leading the sector will be sales of garbage disposal units and built-in dishwashers, while factory sales of portable dishwashers and trash compactors will remain essentially flat, vendors forecasted.
Also showing significant projected increases are the cooking, home laundry and food preservation categories, each of which is expected to exceed their record 2000 shipments. Within cooking, the most robust growth is likely within the microwave and the freestanding gas range sectors, while washers and electric dryers will likely lead a resurgence in laundry sales, manufacturers said. Refrigerator shipments are also expected to pop, with sales nearing 9.3 million units in 2002, compared to 9 million this year and 9.2 million in 2000.
The sole sector showing continued softness is home comfort, where room air conditioner sales are likely to remain static at 5.5 million units, and dehumidifiers will remain essentially flat at 975,000 units sold next year, vendors project.
The general optimism of manufacturers is reflected in their sales projections for the composite AHAM 6 category, comprised of washers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers and ranges. Vendors anticipate that the sector will rebound next year to the 38.4 million unit level achieved in 2000, which is higher than the 37.6 million that will be shipped by this year's end.
Despite current concerns over softness in this year's sales, a significant rebound within the short term would not be unprecedented. The industry experienced a greater slump 10 years ago, when unit sales slipped from 43 million in 1990 to 40 million by 1991, only to surge to 49.2 million units within the following three years.