Factory shipments of major appliances took a nosedive in May, but not to worry, the sky isn’t falling.
The downturn, explained buying group execs and other industry experts, is a natural ebb that followed the flow of inventory in February and March. That’s when retailers stocked up on washers and dryers ahead of a steep round of laundry price hikes in April, and built up their inventories in advance of the Memorial Day weekend, a major sales window for white goods.
According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), total shipments fell 4.7 percent last month, to 6.7 million units. Leading the downturn was washers, which plummeted nearly 18 percent year over year, and dryers and dishwashers, which both declined 14 percent.
By comparison, laundry shipments were up more than 17 percent in February.
The AHAM 6, a composite category comprised of the core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, range and oven segments, was down 10.5 percent in May, compared to a 9.7 percent increase in February and a 7.4 percent spike in March.
Anthony Bruno, executive director of the $1.5 billion NECO Alliance, the sprawling Northeast appliance buying co-op, said the nearly pan-vendor price hikes were the motivation behind the group’s own early buy-ins, while Chad Evans, merchandising general manager of the transcontinental AVB/BrandSource buying group, said U.S. tariffs on imported washers also had a hand in last month’s laundry drop-off. Others suggested that softer-than-usual Memorial Day promotions may also have tempered demand.
Regardless, industry consultant and former Home Depot appliance chief Bob Baird expects that dealers sold through their inventory in May and resumed robust re-ordering in June amid a strong retail environment.