Factory shipments of major appliances rose 6 percent for the five weeks ended Dec. 31 to 6.9 million units according to the latest vendor sales data culled by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM).
The increase capped a generally positive year for the white-goods industry, which ended 2003 with an 8.5 percent gain in wholesale sales over 2002, to nearly 73.7 million units shipped.
Leading the charge last month was home laundry, which enjoyed a 15.1 percent spike in factory sales to 1.8 million units. Fueling the gain was gas dryers, which saw sales rocket 21.2 percent to some 202,900 units for the month.
Second place went to kitchen clean-up. Aided by a 45.9 percent power assist from compactor shipments, the category grew 11.4 percent in December to 1.4 million units. Dishwashers, the category's core component, also gained a respectable 13.5 percent in unit sales for the month.
Coming in a hair's breadth behind was food preservation, which grew 11.2 percent over the prior year period to 1.2 million units. The hard charger here was refrigeration, which turned out one its healthiest monthly performances of the year, if not the decade, with a 15 percent hike in factory shipments.
In cooking, a 7.2 percent decline in microwave oven shipments canceled brisk sales gains for electric and gas ranges (up 21.2 percent and 20 percent, respectively), leaving the category ahead by a modest 3.2 percent.
Trailing the pack was home comfort, whose 113.3 percent decline was attributable to retailer returns of room air conditioners.
Results for the AHAM 6, a composite of the core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer and range categories, mirrored December's merry sales totals, with the segment increasing nearly 15 percent to 4.7 million units.
For the full year, home comfort won out with a 37.1 percent gain, followed by cooking at 6.4 percent, home laundry at 5.8 percent, kitchen cleanup at 5.7 percent and food preservation at 2.2 percent.
The AHAM 6 garnered a 4.2 percent gain in 2003, to 42.5 million units shipped.
Industry Shipments Of Major Appliances*
(In Thousands Of Units)
2003 12 mos.
2002 12 mos.