Unusually heavy December orders in advance of stiff raw-materials price hikes in 2005 continued to suppress factory shipments of major appliances into February.
According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), wholesale unit sales of white goods fell 6.4 percent that month to some 5.6 million pieces, compared to shipments of 6 million units in February 2004. Year to date, factory sales have fallen 8.2 percent, which stands in marked contrast with reports of robust sell-through at the retail level.
Top performers in February were kitchen cleanup and home laundry. The former was up nearly 5 percent for the month, led by an 8.3 percent surge in garbage disposer shipments. But the steep gains were offset by a 14.5-percent fall-off in portable dishwashers and a 5 percent drop in trash compactor sales.
Similarly, laundry was up 4.5 percent in February, led by a 7 percent surge in shipments of washing machines, which helped to offset a 1.8 percent drop in gas dryer sales.
By contrast, food preservation posted one of the month’s worst performances, with total category sales slipping 6.5 percent to about 835,100 units. The drop-off was largely attributable to freezers, which saw sales of chest-type models plummet 26 percent and upright models fall 11.3 percent. The core refrigerator sector also experienced some slippage, with sales declining 2.5 percent to about 687,400 units year over year.
Wholesale sales were also soft in cooking, which fell 3.8 percent category-wide. The largest losses came from microwave ovens, down 7.6 percent, and electric cooktops, down 7.3 percent. By contrast, gas-fueled cooktops ignited with an 8.5 percent spike in sales, and built-in electric ranges sizzled as sales swelled 6 percent.
The largest February declines belonged to room air. Sharp price hikes due to rising raw materials and component costs, plus a new federally-mandated electric safety plug, combined with an abundance of carryover inventory from 2004, kept sales frigid. Shipments sank 40 percent to just over a half-million units.
Finally, the AHAM 6, an amalgamation of the core laundry, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer and range categories, remained essentially flat.
Industry Shipments of Major Appliances*
(In Thousands of Units)