The weak housing market and comparisons to the post-Katrina clean-up period took a toll on the major appliance industry in October, when factory shipments of white goods fell 9.1 percent year-over-year to 5.2 million units.
Steep declines were seen almost across the board, with double-digit drops in food preservation, laundry and other sub-sectors.
According to the latest data from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), only built-in gas ranges (up 3.2 percent for the month) and shipments of dehumidifiers (ahead 14.6 percent) survived the carnage.
The hardest hit sector was food preservation, which plummeted 18.8 percent. Wholesale sales of refrigerators, a core product category, fell 19 percent to approximately 909,300 units, topped only by a 19.8 percent plunge in chest-style freezers, representing the deepest dive of the month.
In home laundry, dryers fell 17.7 percent to 536,000 units, lead by a 19.4 percent decline in shipments of electric models. Washers came out relatively clean, with only a 5.1 percent decline in factory sales, to 657,900 units.
Less affected were cooking and kitchen cleanup, which fell 7.7 percent and 4.2 percent, respectively. Among the latter, disposers showed the most strength with a 1-percent decline, although the core dishwasher category fell 7.1 percent to 554,600 units on greater weakness in portable, vs. built-in, models.
In cooking, gas ranges outpaced electric models, falling 8.9 percent to 477, 300 units, vs. the latter's 11.8 percent spiral to 283,400 units shipped. For both fuel types, built-ins stood up better to freestanding models, which dropped 11.6 percent in electric and 13.4 percent in gas. Microwave ovens were also caught up in the downdraft, falling 6 percent to just under 1.1 million units.
On the home comfort front, dehumidifiers brought a breath of fresh air with their 14.6 percent increase in October, to 83,900 units. Room air also rebounded, to shipments of 7,400 units from last year's dealer returns that topped 26,800 SKUs.
Most telling were the numbers for the so-called AHAM 6, a composite category comprised of washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, and free-standing and built-in ranges. These core sectors combined posted a 12.7 percent decline year-over-year to 3.3 million units, lowering the year-to-date gains to 0.3 percent.
Industry Shipments of Major Appliances*
(IN THOUSANDS OF UNITS)
2006 10 mos.
2005 10 mos.