WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Major appliance manufacturers' sales to dealers fell 5 percent last month, due largely to a dramatic double-digit drop in shipments within the home comfort category.
Unit sales were down 18.2 percent in home comfort products, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, with room air conditioner factory sales falling 16.5 percent and dehumidifiers off a whopping 29.7 percent from April 1999. Taking it on the chin in laundry were automatic washers, with 3.9 percent fewer units sold this April than last. Weighing down the cooking-appliance category were built-in gas ranges, whose numbers dropped 13.3 percent year over year. Saving the sector from even steeper declines were freestanding electric ranges, which were up 4 percent with more than 298,000 units shipped.
The one relatively buoyant business was food preservation, up 2.6 percent for the month, thanks to a 3.7 percent hike in factory shipments of refrigerators and a 3.3 percent improvement in wholesale sales of chest-style freezers.
The appliance industry's six core categories -- washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers and ranges -- together managed to muster a mere 0.5 percent gain for the month, although year-to-date shipments for the benchmark AHAM six were ahead 5.3 percent.