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Major Appliance Sales Off 3.3% In January

For the major appliance industry, 2003 began with more of a whimper than a bang.

According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), factory shipments of white goods fell 3.3 percent in January to 3.7 million units compared to the same month in 2002.

Leading the decline was food preservation, where wholesale sales of upright freezers plummeted 23.6 percent and the core refrigeration category fell nearly 15 percent to 627,300 units.

Also feeling the winter blahs was home laundry, down 7.5 percent as a whole as shipments of gas dryers declined 10.1 percent. Right behind was kitchen cleanup, which slipped 6.7 percent on weakness in compactors and built-in dishwashers.

The cooking category managed to push into positive territory with a slim 1.6 percent gain for the month, led by a 6.7 percent surge in microwave oven sales and a modest gain in gas-fueled surface cooking units.

January’s star performer was home comfort, up 55 percent as the inventory buildup begins for room air conditioners.

But AC couldn’t offset the slump in the industry’s core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer and range categories — the so-called AHAM 6 — which cumulatively fell 8.3 percent to 2.4 million units.

Industry Shipments Of Major Appliances*

(In Thousands Of Units)