NEW YORK –
The early summer heat wave that scorched much of the Midwest and East Coast throughout the July 4 holiday period gave room-air dealers a welcomed sales lift, although volume fell short of expectations.
Indeed, retailers, distributors and buying groups reported plenty of AC inventory to go around, although another extended round or two of double-digit temperatures could finally deplete their stocks.
Industry players attributed the moderate performance to tough year-ago comparisons, when component shortages left manufacturers, merchants and consumers scrambling for product. The memory of those stock-outs also led to aggressive buy-ins this year, leaving warehouses brimming with merchandise.
“A number of people bought heavier this year, given how clean it was last year,” observed Warren Chaiken, president/COO of national CE/majap distributor Almo. “But another heat wave or two will make things tight. It’s amazing what five days of heat does to a person, and 10 days will change them dramatically, especially when it remains above 75 degrees at night.”
Chaiken also attributes the better in-stocks to improvements in the supply chain, and believes that overall industry sales are higher at this point than they were a year ago.
Abt Electronics, whose hometown of Chicago broiled under three consecutive days of 100-plus temperatures, “did really well with AC and dehumidifier sales,” co-president Jon Abt reported. “Luckily we stocked up early and haven’t had any major issues with supply.”
Similarly, Bob Baird, appliance and kitchen merchandising VP at No. 3 majap chain The Home Depot, said “AC sales are good, very good. It’s incredibly hot out there.”
But Baird said the extended, and extensive, heat wave was beginning to eat into the retailer’s room air stockpile.
“We are getting very skinny, particularly on the fives and sixes [5,000 and 6,000 btu models],” leading him to anticipate “a total sellout” by all retailers this season.
Business has also been good for the NATM Buying Corp.’s 12 big-box regional chains, which include Abt. “We’re comp-ing some decent numbers from last year, and last year was good — we sold out,” said president and executive director Bill Trawick.
Nevertheless, Trawick was surprised and a little disappointed by the relatively tepid demand, given the blistering temperatures. “With 10 days of heat like we had across much of the country, I thought the business would have been on fire,” he told TWICE.
“Back in the 1980s and 1990s demand would have been uncontrollable,” Trawick said. As it is, “there are still units out there and most members have pretty good inventory. But it’s only early July.”