In a stunning reversal of a nine-month run of negative numbers, factory shipments of major appliances soared 14.8 percent in unit sales last month as retailers finally worked off bloated inventories and vendors once again filled the pipelines with product.
The August figures, compiled by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), represented the first time that wholesale sales of white goods had entered positive territory since last November, and marked the industry’s first double-digit gains since March 2000.
Every major category enjoyed the upswing, with cooking soaring 28.3 percent, food preservation up 15.4 percent, laundry ahead 6.1 percent and kitchen clean up growing 5.5 percent.
But the biggest percentage gainer in unit shipments was room air conditioning, which rebounded from its mid-summer malaise to post a sharp 72.5 percent hike (see story above).
In addition, tallies for the so-called AHAM 6, a composite of the core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer and range categories, also confirmed majaps’ renewed vigor as shipments rose 11.3 percent to 3.2 million units.
Among the cooking contingent, microwave ovens led the pack with a 36.8 percent increase over year-ago sales to 1.14 million units. Second place went to built-in gas ranges, which enjoyed a 20.6 percent gain over the year-ago period. Also putting in a strong performance were freestanding electric ranges, whose unit volume was up 19.3 percent to about 274,000 units.
In food preservation, freezers continued to take the high ground as total sales spiked 17.1 percent, led by chest-type models. Also hitting the highway was a new generation of Department of Energy-sanctioned refrigerators, which helped drive wholesale sales up 15.1 percent to approximately 908,100 units.
In home laundry, electric dryers ruled the roost as factory shipments shot up 9.1 percent to some 379,700 units, and washing machines cleaned up as wholesale sales climbed 6.6 percent to about 572,700 units. The sector’s only losses were sustained in gas dryers, shipments of which fell 6 percent from August 2000 levels.
Dishwashers continued to lead the kitchen cleanup brigade last month, as factory shipments of built-in units rose a respectable 7.2 percent to about 452,000 units. The other bright spot was garbage disposers, sales of which rose 4.1 percent to 411,200 units last month. Faring less well were portable dishwashers, falling 0.1 percent in unit sales, while trash compactor volume dropped 10.8 percent to a mere 9,700 units.
Within the home comfort category, shipments of the aforementioned room air conditioners rose from some 74,600 in August 2000 to 128,800 last month, although the category is still off 15 percent year to date. Nevertheless, its performance still outdistances sector mate dehumidifiers, which plummeted 59.8 percent to about 41,200 units.
All told, manufacturers shipped some 5 million major appliances in August, compared to 4.4 million units during the same period last year. Ordinarily, an uptick of this magnitude in shipments of durable goods might have signaled the beginning of the end of tough economic times. But that was before the events of Sept. 11.
Industry Shipments Of Major Appliances*
(In Thousands Of Units)