NEW YORK —
Consumers found little relief from last week’s triple-digit heat wave in appliance stores, where a combination of supply-chain problems and late-spring heat has kept room air inventory scarce.
The problem began earlier this year with a shortage of Chinese-made compressors, which created what Cowboy Maloney president Eddie Maloney described in May as the tightest supply situation he’d seen in 40 years (see TWICE, May 2).
Since then, supplies have been further constrained by an early AC selling season in the category’s core Midwest and East Coast markets, buying group executives reported.
As a result, said John White, appliance executive VP for BrandSource, manufacturers and distributors are cleaned out of AC stock and some retailers are working down years’ old inventory that built up over previous cooler seasons.
“Room air is always a crap shoot because the lead time is so long,” White told TWICE. “Everyone wants to time it just right to avoid holding onto inventory, but if you miss your target, you’re out.”
MEGA Group president Rick Bellows concurred. “Every manufacturer had supply issues, and there’s not much out there right now,” he observed. “We have some inventory squirreled away, and we’re working with a few distributors that are still filling in as needed. But even if we see some containers show up late, most of the business is done by now anyway.”
Bellows noted that regardless of supply issues, room air “is not the business it was 15 years ago” due to central air and sub-$100 models that are widely available through home-improvement chains and other retail venues.
Bill Trawick, president and executive director of the NATM Buying Corp., said larger retailers, like those that comprise his group, probably have sufficient AC inventory to tide them through the season, unless they experience sustained heat in their trading areas.
“There aren’t tons of units out there,” he said. “But with the early heat we’re seeing some decent room air business — and some refrigeration replacement.”