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October Major Appliance Shipments Up 5 %

Factory shipments of major appliances defied the weak economy, falling consumer confidence and soft retail sales by forging ahead 5.2 percent in unit volume in October.

Even more heartening for industry vendors and retailers was a 7 percent gain in wholesale sales of six core majap categories: washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers and ranges.

According to the latest figures from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), some 3 million of these big ticket units were shipped in October, although the group — dubbed the “AHAM 6” — is still down 1.7 percent year-to-date over the comparable 10 month period in 2000.

The October spike jibes with upbeat anecdotal accounts from the field. “Appliance sales are very strong,” reported Warren Mann, executive director of the MARTA Cooperative of America. “It’s not a traditional appliance period, but they’re selling well.”

Leading the charge, according the AHAM report, was the food preservation sector, comprised of refrigerators and freezers. Of the two product categories, more refrigerators were sold (705,400 units), although chest-type freezers showed the most spectacular growth by gaining 24.8 percent in monthly volume to 106,800 units.

Also putting in a strong showing was the kitchen clean up crew, which includes dishwashers, disposers and compactors. The latter category posted the most significant gains, growing 42.4 percent in October to 10,000 units, while dishwashers enjoyed a respectable 5.4 percent spike to 444,100 units. The month’s clean up king, however, was disposers, which crowned the month with shipments of 476,600 units, representing an 8.4 percent gain over October 2000.

Coming in a close third was home laundry, shipments of which rose a cumulative 6.7 percent to 1.1 million units. The top gainer here was electric dryers, up 11.2 percent to 401,100 units, while automatic washers once again won out in terms of sheer volume. Some 554,900 washing machines were shipped in October, representing a 4.1 percent hike over the year-ago period.

Taking it on the chin, however, was the cooking sector. Despite simmering wholesale sales of electric ranges, weakness in gas range and microwave oven shipments dragged the entire group down 1.2 percent below October 2000 levels. For gas ranges, the pilot light went out in freestanding units, which fell 5.7 percent to 218,900 ovens, while microwave oven sales were short-circuited by 4.6 percent. Nonetheless, microwaves remained the unit volume leader in cooking by shipping some 880,600 units that month.

Electric ranges provided the sole spark within the cooking category by turning up the volume voltage 9.3 percent to 418,900 units, led by a 10.8 percent surge in shipments of built-in models.

Technically speaking, the home comfort sector showed the largest percentage gain among all majaps: up 589.8 percent. But the statistical anomaly, which reflects the stunning 15,900 room air conditioners that were returned to manufacturers last year, belies the meager 32,400 ACs and dehumidifiers shipped this past October.

Industry Shipments Of Major Appliances*

(In Thousands Of Units)