The soft housing market, compounded by the diversion of discretionary income for holiday gift giving, continued to impact the major appliance industry in December.
According to the latest data compiled by Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), factory shipments of white goods fell 4.8 percent year-over-year for the month of December to less than 6.8 million units, down from nearly 7.1 million pieces in 2005.
For the full year, sales were essentially flat, with factory shipments up 1.1 percent to just under 80 million units in 2006.
Sales were down across the board in December except in home laundry, where shipments of washers rose 5.4 percent to some 995,600 units and electric dryers were up 2.8 percent to 685,200 units. Wholesale sales of gas dryers were flat. The home laundry category finished out the year up 0.5 percent.
Also enjoying a surge in demand was dehumidifiers. Shipments shot up 155.2 percent to 51,700 units, although the category was still down 24.5 percent for the year.
The biggest December decline was seen in room air, which plummeted by 66 percent to 122,800 units. In contrast with dehumidifiers, however, shipments ended up 25.2 percent for the year.
Also taking it on the chin with a double-digit decline in December was the gas range sector, down 10.8 percent to 355,900 units. Electric ranges fared only slightly better with a 6 percent slide, while microwave oven shipments slipped 2.1 percent. The overall cooking category fell 4.8 percent for the month and 1.3 percent for the year.
Similarly, refrigerators fell 5 percent for the month and 0.5 percent for the year, with just under 11.1 million units shipped in 2006.
Dishwasher declines were comparable in December. Sales slipped 4.6 percent to about 700,000 units and were down 2.3 percent for the 12 months.
The AHAM 6, the composite category that includes the core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer and range categories, was down 2 percent in December and 0.7 percent for the full year.
Among sub-categories, shipments of electric surface cooking units fell 12.8 percent to 51,200 units in December and wound up flat for the year. Their gas-fueled counterparts fared slightly worse last month with a 13.3 percent decline to 49,600 units, ending out the year just 0.6 percent ahead.
Industry Shipments of Major Appliances*
(In Thousands of Units)