Factory shipments of major appliances were up nearly 7 percent in March, ending the first quarter of 2016 on a high note.
Driving the gains were a buildup in room air inventory in advance of the summer months, and across-the-board strength in clothes washers, dishwashers and refrigerators.
According to the latest monthly tally by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), vendor shipments of ACs rose 13.5 percent year over year, to some 1.6 million units, in a sharp reversal of last year’s inventory overhang, when shipments fell nearly 31 percent. In contrast, dehumidifiers, room air’s category companion, were down 4.5 percent.
Also heading into spring on a head of steam was kitchen cleanup, up 9.1 percent; food preservation, ahead 8.3 percent; and laundry, rising 7 percent.
In cleanup, disposers led the charge with a 10.1 percent spike year over year, with dishwasher shipments close behind with an 8.3 percent increase. Within the latter, portable models outpaced built-ins, with 11.8 percent growth vs. 8.2 percent, while compactors trailed the category with a 1.3 percent gain.
Within food preservation, freestanding freezers were tops with an 11.2 percent increase, although full-size refrigerators also enjoyed a strong month with a 7.7 percent rise in wholesale unit sales.
In laundry, washers outpaced dryers, with increases of 8.8 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively, and electric dryers outperformed gas models 5.5 percent to 1.2 percent.
In contrast, the cooking category appeared to be on a low setting last month, with shipments rising just 1.7 percent. Laggards there were gas ranges and microwave ovens, up 1.1 percent each, and electric cooktops, ahead a mere 1.2 percent. Wall ovens, a newly combined AHAM category for 2016, had the best showing, up 4.7 percent for the month.
Providing a snapshot of March is the so-called AHAM 6 category, comprised of the core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, and range and oven segments. The amalgamation was up 6.7 percent year over year, and an encouraging 7.7 percent year to date.
Total factory shipments year to date through April 2 were up 3.9 percent, which puts the industry behind vendors’ full-year shipment forecasts of 5 to 6 percent growth.