Washington - Factory shipments of major appliances took another turn for the worse in June, when unit volume fell 29.2 percent year over year.
According to the latest data from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), shipments totaled less than 5.7 million units for the four weeks, ended July 4, compared with the 8 million units shipped during the same period last year.
By comparison, wholesale sales fell 17.4 percent in May and are down 19.3 percent year to date.
Compounding the direness of the numbers is that they now anniversary two years of declining appliance sales.
Leading the downturn in June was the room air conditioner category, which fell 60 percent in June to about 727,000 units. The cool, wet weather that blanketed much of the nation in late spring and early summer proved disastrous for A/C sales, which dealers depend on for cash flow during the otherwise languid summer months.
But the rout was not limited to seasonal sales. The core refrigeration, laundry and cooking categories were battered as well, falling 15.3 percent, 18.5 percent and 22.4 percent, respectively, in June.
Big losers among the latter included gas-fueled stove tops, which declined 34.6 percent, and microwave ovens, which fell 28.2 percent.
In laundry, unit shipments of washers fell 19.1 percent to about 708,000 units as more cash-strapped consumers repair rather than replace their older models.
Refrigerators, which traditionally enjoy a summertime bump when older units fail in the warmer temperatures, similarly declined 16.4 percent, to 931,000 units.
The majap downturn, now entering its third year, had been driven primarily by the collapsing housing market. But demand has been further blunted by the recession and mounting unemployment, which has caused consumers to put off many big-ticket purchases.
Sears recently addressed the situation by insuring certain majap purchases against job loss. Nevertheless, as Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig observed, "The demand environment remains a significant challenge."