Washington - The summer appliance slump is evident in the latest wholesale data from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), which shows a 4 percent decline in unit factory shipments last month.
But the figure, which reflects a nearly 22 percent boost in AC shipments amid record-setting heat throughout much of the eastern U.S. last month, belies continuing weakness in the industry's core categories.
The steepest decline was seen in home laundry, where washer and dryer shipments fell 9.6 percent and 11.3 percent respectively year over year, to about 800,200 units. The downturn was most pronounced among gas-fueled dryers, which dropped 16.3 percent last month.
Faring slightly better was the cooking category, which declined 8.2 percent in unit shipments on weakness in gas ranges (down 20.7 percent) and gas and electric ovens (down 14.5 percent and 14.2 percent, respectively). The only sub-sector to make it into the plus column was electric cooktops, which edged up 1.7 percent year over year.
Food preservation was on par with cooking, with total shipments down 8 percent on an 8.3 percent decline in full-size refrigerators that was partially offset by a 6.4 percent decrease in standalone freezers.
Kitchen cleanup fared best among the core categories, with dishwasher shipments down just 2.7 percent and disposers off by 5.8 percent.
Taken together, the six major categories that comprise the composite AHAM 6 -- washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, ranges and ovens -- fell 9.1 percent year over year in July, and are down 5.7 percent year to date.
Still, total shipments are down only 0.5 percent year to date, due to strong showings in February (up 6 percent) and March (up 11 percent), which preceded tough comparisons to last year's springtime boost from federal appliance stimulus funds.