Washington - Factory shipments of key major appliance categories roared back to life in December, as steep Black Friday discounts helped trigger pent-up consumer demand.
The sales surge put a grace note on an otherwise dismal year for white goods, in which total unit shipments decreased 13 percent for the 12 months, ended Dec. 31, 2009.
Total unit shipments edged up only 1 percent in December, hindered by a sharp decline in room air orders. But according to the latest wholesale data compiled by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), the core refrigeration and laundry categories snapped back with high single-digits gains last month following nearly three years of declines.
Indeed, shipments of refrigerators climbed 9.3 percent to some 830,700 units, while freestanding freezers enjoyed an 8.7 percent lift over the year-ago period.
Full-year shipments for the total food preservation category were down 8.1 percent in 2009.
Also showing renewed vigor was the critical laundry category, which rose 6.1 percent last month to 1.3 million units shipped. Broken out by product, washer shipments increased 7 percent to 720,700 units and total dryer shipments were up 5 percent, led by an 8.2 percent surge in gas-heated models.
Total home laundry shipments were down 5.5 percent in 2009.
Whether the white-goods industry can maintain that momentum past the holiday selling season remains to be seen. So far, Whirlpool North America president Marc Bitzer told TWICE, sales activity in the new year has been choppy.
Elsewhere in AHAM's monthly shipment figures, December demand was less robust. While the kitchen cleanup category enjoyed a 4.5 percent bump last month, the increase was due solely to a 10 percent surge in disposers, while dishwasher shipments were flat and compactor unit volume fell nearly 23 percent. The total kitchen clean-up category ended the year with a 7.8 percent decline.
Similarly, a 9.3 percent spike in shipments of gas ranges couldn't offset an 8 percent drop in microwave ovens and a 3.5 percent decline in electric ovens, ranges and cooktops, leaving the cooking category with a 4.1 percent decrease for the month and a 14 percent fall-off for the full year.
The aforementioned room air category cratered with a 62.6 percent decline in unit shipments that offset an 81 percent hike in dehumidifiers, giving the total home comfort category a 42.5 percent drop for December and 32.3 percent decline for the full year.
Finally, the so-called AHAM 6 - a compilation of the core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, range and oven categories - experienced a 5.1 percent bounce in December, but fell 8 percent for the full year.