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So Far, Despite Heat, AC Sales Trail 2012

NEW YORK — The high heat and humidity that blanketed the Northeast and other traditional room air markets this month may have popped thermometers but barely moved the needle on AC comp sales.

According to majap merchants, a cool June and spot demand in July has led to an inventory surplus that will require an extended heat wave in August to work down.

The numbers bear that out: Monthly vendor data compiled by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) show that factory shipments of room air conditioners in June fell 15.5 percent year over year to about 809,400 units, and are down 8.3 percent year to date.

“I’m not particularly happy about it,” said Warren Chaiken, president/COO of national majap and CE distributor Almo. “It’s just an O.K. season compared to the stellar season we had last year.”

He added, “You get a burst of heat and its stops. You need sustained heat, and the earlier the better.”

Bill Trawick, president and executive director of the NATM buying group, representing independent bigbox chains across the country, said the AC season didn’t begin until the weekend after Independence Day, following soft demand in June.

“We’re still struggling to match our year-to-date numbers from last year,” he told TWICE, “although another week to 10 days of heat can make that up.”

And while merchants continue to monitor the weather and their AC stockpiles this month, they must also place their room air bets for next year, which is a daunting task at best.

“You’re buying it now for 2014,” Chaiken noted. “The weatherman can’t predict what it’s going to be like tomorrow, let alone next year.”

One way to reduce inventories is to give it away, which is what Electrolux North America did earlier this month. The company loaded up an 18-wheeler with 1,000 ACs that were donated to needy individuals and families in four Southeast communities near the vendor’s Charlotte, N.C. headquarters and manufacturing facilities in South Carolina and Tennessee.

The units, valued at $150,000, were distributed with the help of local nonprofit organizations.

“We are committed to giving back to the communities in which we live and work,” said Jack Truong, president/CEO of Electrolux Major Appliances North America. “Our products can help needy families and individuals who are suffering in the high heat and humidity.”