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Appliance Shipments Fall 10% In February

WASHINGTON, D.C. -Factory shipments of major appliances continued to fall from year-ago levels in February, although that month’s nearly 10 percent sales decline was softer than January’s 17 percent plummet.

According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), the home comfort category, off 19.1 percent, continued to take the biggest hit, dragged down by sales of dehumidifiers (off 25.7 percent) and room air conditioners (off 18.6 percent).

Cooking also took it on the chin, with wholesale sales down 13.5 percent from the year-ago period due to falling shipments of freestanding gas ranges (down 16.8 percent) and microwave ovens (down 14.5 percent).

Laundry fared somewhat better, with washing machines down 7.2 percent and dryers down 3.6 percent.

The carnage was less severe in the kitchen, where refrigerator shipments declined 2.1 percent and dishwashers were down only 1.1 percent.

Despite the somber figures, industry executives remained upbeat. Jeff Cohen, brand VP for No. 1 majap maker Whirlpool, said his company expects the pace to pick up by the third quarter, after vendors and retailers work through excess inventory caused by the slowing economy and the loss of Circuit City and Wards.

“Durables are the first to feel the effects of an economic slowdown, and some of the AHAM data was hastened by Circuit and Wards-those units are not being replaced by new production,” Cohen said. “Right now we’re in a process of inventory trade management, but consumer sell-through is looking pretty good.”

Industry Shipments Of Major Appliances*/(In 1,000s Of Units)