Factory sales of major appliances went from bad to worse in April as the housing market meltdown continued to take a toll on the industry’s home-builder business.
According to the latest data compiled by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), unit shipments of white goods fell 14.1 percent in April to 6.2 million pieces, a sharp decline from the 8 percent drop reported for March.
Fortunately for retailers, or at least those with limited contract sales, the greatest carnage continues to occur within the home-builder channel. Nonetheless, business overall remains soft, with manufacturer shipments down nearly 11 percent year to date.
The greatest casualty in April was the home-comfort category, which fell 24 percent on weakness in room air. AC shipments declined 29 percent to 1.8 million units, suggesting that this traditional dealer cash cow is running dry. By contrast, dehumidifiers, one of only two categories to see growth in April, enjoyed a nearly 20 percent spike in unit shipments.
The other bright spot was freezers, up 5.3 percent to some 129,600 units. Upright models were the more popular format, also ahead nearly 20 percent, while chest-style models fell 3.4 percent.
The other side of the food-preservation coin, refrigeration, didn’t fare as well. Factory shipments of this core majap category declined 7.4 percent to about 722,700 units in April, and are down more than 10 percent through the first quarter.
Also taking it on the chin was kitchen cleanup. Total category shipments fell 15 percent in April, led by a 19 percent decline in trash compactors, a 17 percent decline in garbage disposers, and a 14 percent fall in wholesale dishwasher sales.
Elsewhere, home laundry and cooking were nearly neck-and-neck in their freefall. The former fell 8.6 percent on a 22 percent decline in gas dryers, buoyed by a 4.2 percent decline in washer shipments, while the latter fell 8.3 percent on weakness in gas-fueled surface cooking units (down 15 percent) and electric ovens (off 13 percent).
The core laundry, cooking, food preservation and dishwasher categories together fell 8.5 percent.
Industry Shipments Of Major Appliances*
(In Thousands of Units)