The major appliance industry, which has been reeling from the imploding housing market and related sub-prime mortgage debacle, showed signs of stabilization in October.
According to the latest wholesale sales data from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), total unit shipments of white goods slipped 1.6 percent, compared with a nearly 6 percent decline for the first nine months of the year.
Core product categories including refrigerators, cooking and clothes dryers were either flat or showed gains for the four weeks between Sept. 30 and Oct. 27, following months of steady declines.
However, the increases could be considered illusory, and the declines even more profound, as they anniversary one of the weakest months for majaps in recent memory — October 2006 — when factory shipments fell 9.1 percent.
This October, shipment totals came in just under 5.1 million units, down from roughly 5.2 million pieces last year.
Buoying the numbers was room air conditioning, the strongest category, which showed a 632.1 percent growth spurt in October. Approximately 54,200 units were shipped, compared with just 7,400 during the year-ago period.
Business was less buoyant for the companion category of dehumidifiers. Unit shipments fell nearly 46 percent to some 42,400 pieces. All told, the combined home comfort category was up 12.9 percent.
The next-strongest category was food preservation, up 1.5 percent on strength in chest and upright freezers (ahead 5.8 percent and 5 percent, respectively). The core refrigerator category also entered positive territory, albeit barely, with a 0.7 percent gain for the month to approximately 757,600 units.
Also relatively flat was cooking, down 0.7 percent to 1.8 million units. Electric cooking products had the better showing, up 0.8 percent, compared to microwave ovens, up 0.2 percent, and gas cooking, which fell 6.4 percent. Surface cooking units for both fuels took it on the chin, with electric cooktops down 10.3 percent and gas versions off by 12.3 percent.
Taken together, the six core categories that comprise the so-called AHAM 6 amalgam — washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, ranges and ovens – slipped 1.2 percent to 3.3 million units.
Industry Shipments of Major Appliances
(In Thousands of Units)