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
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.”