Factory shipments of major appliances snapped a months-long slump in November by climbing 11.7 percent to some 5.3 million units.
The rebound, reported by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), ended a late-summer/early autumn decline that bottomed out in September, when wholesale sales fell 7.7 percent.
Since then, manufacturers have struggled to regain the momentum last seen in July, when shipments of room air conditioners and cooking units sent sales soaring by 19 percent.
According to CIBC World Markets analyst Dan Wewer, the double-digit gains recorded in November were most likely due to "inventory build ahead of the winter sales at Sears and Best Buy."
The shipments also helped fill holes in the course of what the buying groups described as a decent, though not stellar, holiday selling season.
"Appliance sales have been fairly strong," said Bill Trawick, executive director of the NATM Buying Corp., particularly compared to CE volume.
Noted Bob Lawrence, executive director of AVB/BrandSource, "Since August, we haven't seen many single-unit sales, but our members have been doing lots of complete kitchens."
Added Warren Mann, executive director of the MARTA Cooperative of America, "Our white goods business is good, although I don't know why. There seems to be a polarization in major appliances, with the low end and the high end both doing well — and 20 percent to 25 percent of what we sell is in high-end brands, where we won't compete with Lowe's."
And while Lowe's (No. 2 on the TWICE Majap Registry) and The Home Depot (No. 4) report that their majap businesses remain robust, Sears (No. 1) and Best Buy (No. 3) are still struggling to shake the malaise that's gripped their white goods departments, which are experiencing double-digit declines.
"Industry shipments have dropped pretty significantly," offered Mike London, Best Buy's executive VP/general merchandise manager. "We're continuing our work on logistics and retail tactics. There's very little innovation in appliances historically, so it will take hard work, but we believe we are making progress."
So where was the strength in November? Kitchen clean up experienced the biggest boost, up 21.2 percent to more than 1 million units on the strength of disposers (up 25 percent) and dishwashers, up 18.3 percent.
Also turning in a stellar performance after months of moderate gains was food preservation. The classification grew 19.1 percent to 912,600 units, and was led by freezer chests (up 27.8 percent) and the core refrigeration category (up 18.8 percent, to 708,000 units).
Next in line was home laundry, where a 9.7 percent hike (to 1.2 million units) was comprised of essentially equal contributions by washers and dryers.
Cooking showed the slimmest gains, rising 6.7 percent, but enjoyed the largest unit volume, at 2.2 million pieces. Within the sector, freestanding electric ranges led the pace with 24.6 percent growth, while microwave ovens shipments slipped 1 percent to 1.4 million units.
Bringing up the rear was home comfort, which saw a 22.2 percent decline in unit volume. Pulling the classification down was room air conditioners, whose 85.3 percent drop effectively offset a 95.7 percent gain in dehumidifier sales.
Summing up the month was the so-called AHAM 6, a composite category comprised of the core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer and range classifications. Reflecting the November bounce, that grouping gained 16.3 percent for the month, while year-to-date sales were up a more modest 6.9 percent.
Industry Shipments Of Major Appliances* (In Thousands Of Units)
2002 11 mos.
2001 11 mos.