Factory unit shipments of major appliances continued their four-month-long rebound by soaring 8 percent in November.
According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), strong showings in the core cooking, laundry and food preservation categories led the resurgence, although longtime stalwart kitchen clean up slid 1.6 percent.
Leading the white goods parade was home laundry, which surged 10.7 percent beyond Nov. 2000 wholesale sales thanks to a 13.6 percent hike in washing machine shipments and 10.6 percent rise in factory sales of electric clothes dryers. The one drag on the category was gas clothes dryers, which slipped 1.3 percent to approximately 112,200 units, and are down 7.2 percent year-to-date over the comparable period last year.
Coming in a close second was food preservation, which rose 10.4 percent on the strength of a stunning 44.7 percent hike in freezer shipments. Sales were up sharply for both chest and upright formats, with the former ahead 40.3 percent to about 95,000 units and the latter up 50.7 percent to some 75,400 units. The powerful performance of freezers in November masked softer sales of refrigerators, which rose 3.4 percent for the month and are flat year to date.
Meanwhile, riding a wave of built-in gas range sales, the cooking category posted an 8.7 percent gain in November to 2.1 million units. Solid sales of built-in ranges in both gas (up 9.4 percent) and electric models (up 4.5 percent), plus a sizzling 15.6 percent rise in microwave oven shipments, belied weakness throughout the balance of the category. Indeed, sales of freestanding gas ranges fell 8 percent, electric surface cooking units fell 4.9 percent, and freestanding electric ranges were down 2.7 percent.
Posting a second consecutive blockbuster month was home comfort, which is up a stunning 501.6 percent over Nov. 2000, due ostensibly to retailer returns of room air conditioner last year. Although a percentage increase was unavailable from AHAM at press time, some 21,500 units were sold in November, compared to the 2,800 that were shipped back to vendors the year prior. Dehumidifiers also enjoyed a solid November run, with factory sales up 38.8 percent to 11,500 units.
More significantly, the so-called "AHAM 6," a barometric amalgam of core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer and range sales figures, was ahead 5.6 percent in November to nearly 2.9 million units. This continued strength in sales could be a harbinger of a recovery, as sales of consumer durables are a leading indicator of economic health. Just as white goods shipments began their 18-month decline in advance of the recession, the current uptick in factory shipments could signal the start of an economic rebound, some analysts argue.
Industry Shipments Of Major Appliances*
(In Thousands Of Units)
2001 11 mos.
2000 11 mos.