Demand for white goods grew in May, with total factory shipments gaining 4.5 percent in units over the same month in 2002, according to the latest data collected by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM).
For the third month in a row, wholesale sales of room air conditioners soared and made up for most of the other core appliance categories' more modest gains. Nearly 1.4 million AC units shipped in May, an increase of 17.6 percent compared to the year-ago period. This follows a 36.9-percent increase in AC sales recorded in April.
Also showing stellar gains — albeit with far fewer SKUs — was dehumidifiers, sales of which skyrocket 37.1 percent in May, giving the combined home comfort category a 19.7 percent lift.
By contrast, the core AHAM 6 sector — a hybrid classification comprised of the key laundry, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer and range categories — slipped 0.7 percent for the month, and was down 2.0 percent year-to-date, to some 15.7 million units.
Especially hard hit in May was the home laundry category, which fell 6.2 percent. Weakness was felt across the board, with sales of gas dryers falling 8.4 percent, electric dryers down 7.2 percent, and washing machines off by 5.1 percent. Year-to-date, laundry saw a slighter decline with a 1.3-percent slip in sales.
The kitchen clean-up category fared better with a 3.2 percent gain in unit volume. Despite a nearly 22 percent spike in sales of compactors, the category was held down by portable dishwashers, which fell 9.3 percent for the month and remain 10.9 percent lower year-to-date over the comparable five-month period last year.
Sales were more resilient for the bellwether refrigerator sector, growing 3.7 percent in May. Nevertheless, a 6.3 percent plunge in unit shipments of chest-type freezers left the overall food preservation category ahead by only 2.5 percent, with just over 1 million units sold.
On another positive note, the cooking category climbed 2.2 percent, compared with the same month in 2002, although the rosy results were due in part to a 9.5-percent rise in built-in electric oven sales.
Indeed, built-in electrics compensated for a 4.2 percent decline in wholesale sales of their gas-fired counterparts. The biggest category gainer, however, was gas-fueled cooking units, which exploded 14.5 percent as some 35,900 units shipped last month.
Industry Shipments Of Major Appliances*
(In Thousands Of Units)
2003 5 mo.
2002 5 mo.