WASHINGTON – Weak demand for room air conditioners kept factory shipments of major appliances essentially flat in August.
According to the latest monthly data compiled by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), wholesale sales of white goods slipped 0.1 percent to about 4.4 million units, dragged down by a 43.6 percent decline in room air shipments and a nearly 59 percent drop in dehumidifier orders.
The declines surprised dealers and vendors who anticipated early stock-outs amid blistering temperatures across many of the category’s major markets.
Similarly surprising was a 6.9 percent drop in shipments of full-size refrigerators, which, like room air, tend to sell well during periods of high heat.
But the softness masked pockets of strength in other core categories like cooking, which rose 5.8 percent on a double-digit gain in gas cooktops and a nearly 7 percent surge in electric ranges, offsetting a 24 percent drop in gas oven shipments.
The kitchen cleanup category also fared well, up 4.9 percent on strength in disposers, while home laundry climbed 4.3 percent, reflecting a 6.1 percent increase in washer shipments and a 2.1 percent gain in wholesale unit sales of dryers. For the latter, a 5.4 percent increase in electric models offset a 10 percent decline in gas-heated units.
Still, even excluding ACs, business was only fair in August, as reflected in the AHAM 6, an amalgam of the core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, range and oven categories, which edged up 0.8 percent for the month, and is down 3.2 percent for the year.