Washington – Factory
shipments of key major appliance categories roared back to life in
December, as steep Black Friday discounts helped trigger pent-up consumer
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
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
Total home laundry shipments were down 5.5 percent in
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
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
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