To borrow from
T.S. Eliot, April was the second cruelest
month for major appliances this
Following a solid start to 2012 with
consecutive 4.7 percent and 5.1 percent
gains in January and February,
factory shipments fell off the cliff in
March, stumbling nearly 16 percent.
The free-fall subsided somewhat
in April, data from the Association
of Home Appliance Manufacturers
(AHAM) show, as wholesale volume
decreased 7.6 percent, to just less
than 4.9 million units.
The downturn can be attributed to
several factors, including reduced
production and consumer price sensitivity,
as factory costs continued to
increase and price promotions, most
notably by Sears, have abated from
The biggest drag on April shipments
was in home comfort, where
a relatively cool spring led to a 21.1
percent drop in factory shipments
of room air conditioners and a 25.7
percent decrease in dehumidifier unit
volume year over year.
Home laundry was also hard hit,
falling 7.5 percent to about 927,200
units, down from more than 1 million
last year. Within laundry, dryers took
the biggest knock, with a 12.1 percent
decline, while washer shipments fell a
more modest 3.5 percent but are still
off 12.1 percent to year to date.
Cooking was the third-softest product
category, falling 4.9 percent on
weakness in microwave ovens (down
10.2 percent) and gas ovens (off by
7.7 percent). Only electric ovens and
gas ranges and cooktops showed
strength, with gains of 7.7 percent,
7.1 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively.
Refrigeration also hit the skids,
slipping 2.6 percent on double-digit
declines in freestanding freezers and
flat demand for refrigerators.
Only kitchen cleanup came up
clean last monthly, as wholesale sales
rose 7.8 percent on a nearly 9 percent
surge in dishwasher shipments, to approximately
444, 500 units.
Taken together, the AHAM 6 classification,
which includes the core
washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator,
freezer, range and oven categories,
dipped 1.7 percent in April but is
down 8 percent for the year.