The weak housing market continued to take a toll on major appliance manufacturers — particularly within the home builder channel — as reflected in the nearly 8 percent plunge in factory shipments of white goods this past January.
According to the latest wholesale data compiled by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), total shipments fell to 4.65 million units that month compared with the 5.1 million pieces shipped in January 2005.
Manufacturers don't anticipate any substantial improvement until midyear.
Among the general product categories, food preservation took the biggest hit, falling 14.4 percent to some 686,700 units. Chest-style freezers were the sector's weakest performers, down 21.2 percent year-over-year, followed by refrigerators, which posted a 14.2 percent decline.
Also taking it on the chin was home laundry, shipments of which dropped 11.9 percent to some 984,100 units. The biggest fall-off there was in gas dryers, which plummeted 18.9 percent, followed by electric dryers, down 14.9 percent. Washers fared relatively better, falling 8.7 percent to about 549,000 units.
Nearly tied for depth of decline was the cooking category, which slipped 11.7 percent year-over-year to 1.4 million units. Electric models (down 7.4 percent) outpaced gas-fueled products (down 12.8 percent), although electric surface cooking units weighed heavily on the sector with a 21.2 percent decline, compared with their gas counterparts which fell 13.9 percent.
Microwave ovens also cooled off in January with shipments falling 13.3 percent to approximately 827,100 units.
In kitchen cleanup, a 2.5 percent gain in disposer shipments helped offset 20.6 percent decline in compactors and a 41.6 percent freefall for portable dishwashers, leaving the general category with a 3.1 percent slip in January to some 939,400 units.
The one positive note came from the home comfort category, as the industry gears up for summer sales. Shipments of dehumidifiers increased 11.4 percent and room air conditioners enjoyed a 12.9 percent bounce, giving the overall category a 12.8 percent shot in the arm.
More reflective of the state of the industry is the AHAM 6, comprised of the core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, range and oven sectors. Sales for that group fell 11.4 percent year-over-year to 2.6 million units.
Industry Shipments of Major Appliances¹
(In Thousands of Units)