JCPenney’s re-entry into major appliances underscores what other long-betting retailers have expected: After several fallow years following the housing market implosion, appliances are a hot category once again.
Just take a gander at the factory shipment numbers for 2015, courtesy of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM). Total wholesale sales were up an impressive 8.1 percent in unit volume, to some 72.5 million pieces, which certainly gave the CE industry a run for its money. This compares favorably to 2014’s appliance performance, when total industry shipments rose a more measured 4.9 percent.
Leading the appliance parade last year was the cooking category, up a whopping 15.2 percent on strength in microwave ovens — ahead 22.6 percent — and electric ovens, up 7.4 percent. Those gains helped offset a serious 32.3 percent drop in gas-oven shipments, which totaled just 20,000 units.
Meanwhile, the other core AHAM categories — food preservation, kitchen cleanup and laundry — mounted solid mid-single digit increases in 2015. The former led the trio with a 6.5 percent spike on strength in chest-style freestanding freezers (up nearly 11 percent for the year), while full-size refrigerators showed a hefty 6.1 percent gain.
Laundry was close behind, up 6.2 percent on strength in dryers, where electric also outperformed gas: 7.3 percent vs. 4.1 percent. Washer shipments meanwhile rose by a very respectable 5.7 percent.
In kitchen cleanup, a 15.4 percent surge in portable dishwasher shipments overcame flat demand for compactors and a softer 4.7 percent increase in disposers to give the overall category a 5.4 percent increase for the year.
Rounding out the appliance lineup is home comfort. There, a 5.2 percent increase in room air shipments more than offset a 2.8 percent decline in dehumidifiers to give the overall category a 3.1 percent gain for 2015.
Taken from another perspective, core category shipments, as represented by the AHAM 6, which is comprised of washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, ranges and ovens, rose 6.3 percent last year, compared to 5.3 percent in 2014.
As if to emphasize the point, 2015 ended with a bang, with total factory shipments rocketing 17 percent in December. Once again, cooking outperformed its AHAM 6 peers, up 29 percent year over year on strength in electric ovens, while home comfort hit it out of the park: Room air shipments surged 63.7 percent and dehumidifier volume was up 50.4 percent for the month.