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Major Appliance Shipments Fall 12% In March

Factory shipments of major appliances tumbled 11.7 percent in March and are down nearly 16 percent for the year.

Nevertheless, the decline, reported by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) here, is trending down from the steep 24 percent downturn in January and the 14 percent shortfall in February.

Leading the March retreat was the home-comfort category, which fell 17.4 percent year over year on a nearly 23 percent decline in unit shipments of room air conditioners. The drop-off was moderated by a 25 percent gain for humidifiers.

Kitchen cleanup also took it on the chin, down 13.5 percent on weakness in compactors (down 40 percent) and portable dishwashers (down 32 percent). The category’s core built-in dishwasher segment fell 17.5 percent.

Double-digit declines were also seen in cooking (down 11 percent), where gas-fueled cooktops and electric ovens led the rout with drops of 37.5 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

Food preservation and laundry fared better, with respective declines of 8 percent and 6.3 percent. Although refrigerator shipments fell 13.3 percent to about 775,600 units, wholesale sales of freezers rose 20 percent as consumers continued to clamor for the freestanding units as a means of preserving economical bulk purchases of food.

In laundry, the core washer category was down by a relatively moderate 4 percent in March, offset by a nearly 10 percent decline in shipments of electric dryers.

Providing a snapshot of the month, the AHAM 6, a composite category comprised of the key washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, range and oven categories, fell 10.6 percent to about 3.7 million units in March.

Year to date, the AHAM 6 is down 16.4 percent to 8.6 million units, compared with shipments of 10.3 million units during the first three months of 2008.

Industry Shipments Of Major Appliances*

(In Thousands of Units)