Unit factory shipments of major appliances cratered in January amid a stagnant housing market and worsening economic climate.
According to data compiled by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), the industry trade group, January shipments fell 17 percent to 3.9 million units compared with the 4.7 million majaps sold during the year-ago period.
The sharp declines are more reflective of sales to homebuilders than the retail channel.
Taking the biggest hit was the home-comfort sector, which was dragged down by a nearly 60 percent drop in room air shipments. The decline was only minimally offset by a 2.8 percent increase in dehumidifier sales, AC's sister category.
The cooking category also felt the heat, down 15.6 percent year-over-year to nearly 1.2 million units. Leading the decline was microwave ovens, off nearly 19 percent in January. Among ranges, ovens and cooktops, gas-fueled models fell 10.7 percent while electric models saw an 11 percent decline last month. Gas cooktops were singed by a 17.2 percent decline, marginally offset by a 1.2 percent increase in gas oven shipments. By contrast, electric cooktops enjoyed a 5.1 percent gain, while shipments of electric ovens dropped 10.6 percent.
Among the other core appliance categories, kitchen cleanup dropped nearly 14 percent to some 808,300 units, food preservation fell nearly 9 percent to approximately 623,700 units and home laundry slipped 3.1 percent to about 964,000 units.
There were, however, several bright spots. Besides the gain in electric cooktops, portable dishwashers saw shipments climb 21.3 percent and wholesale sales of gas clothes dryers were up nearly 6 percent. But among their category counterparts, electric dryers declined 3.1 percent and washing machine shipments were off by 4.5 percent, to about 519,300 units. Similarly, shipments of build-in dishwashers declined 7.8 percent, disposers fell 19.4 percent and compactors dropped 19.5 percent.
Within food preservation, refrigerator shipments declined 8.8 percent to some 513,700 units while freestanding freezers fell 9.5 percent, led by a 12.7 percent decline in chest-style models.
Summarizing the month is the AHAM 6, an amalgam of the industry's core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, range and oven categories. Factory shipments for that grouping fell 7 percent in January, to 2.4 million units.
Industry Shipments of Major Appliances*
(In Thousands of Units)