Strong demand for room air conditioners and microwave ovens, driven by blistering summer climes, helped send unit shipments of major appliances soaring 19 percent in July.
But the summer scorchers failed to ignite any interest in refrigerators, whose sales traditionally peak in step with the temperature.
According to the latest monthly wholesale sales data compiled by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), some 5 million SKUs of white goods were shipped to dealers that month, up from the 4.2 million units sold during the comparable year-ago period.
With much of the AC sector's core Northeast market baking beneath a record-setting heat wave, consumers sought relief by cleaning out retailers' room air inventory. Manufacturers responded to dealer pleas for product by filling the pipeline with 618,100 units of mid-season replacement stock, representing a staggering 144.4 percent increase over the 252,900 ACs shipped during the milder July 2001.
Likewise, consumers who were loath to light their conventional ovens turned to microwave units, further goosing a category that was already gearing up for the back-to-college season. Accordingly, the sector's wholesale sales rose 41.9 percent to some 973,300 units in July, compared to the 685,900 SKUs shipped during the prior year period.
The assist from microwave sales boosted the cooking category 26.4 percent to 1.5 million units. Also contributing to the strong performance were freestanding gas ranges, whose July shipments rose 10.2 percent to 168,500 units, more than offsetting a 2.3 percent decline in electric surface cooking units.
The third-biggest gainer after home comfort and cooking was home laundry, up 4.2 percent to 944,800 units in July. Leading the pack was washing machines, which cleaned up with shipment gains of 8.3 percent, to 513,400 units, while gas dryers grew a more modest 3 percent and electric dryers slipped 1.1 percent.
In fourth place was food preservation, which grew 3.8 percent on the strength of freezers. Indeed, shipments of upright configurations rose 23.6 percent and chest-type units were up 15.5 percent, although both stood in sharp contrast with refrigerators, which remained relatively flat at 0.6 percent growth.
Trailing the other major categories with 3.3 percent growth was kitchen clean up, which was dragged down by a 6.4 percent decline in compactor shipments and an 8.5 percent drop in portable dishwashers. Salvaging the sector were built-in dishwashers, up a respectable 5.9 percent, and disposals, which edged up 1.2 percent.
On the whole, majaps faired fairly well for the month, as evidenced by the 4.6 percent gain in shipments of AHAM 6 goods. The classification, which is an amalgamation of the core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer and range categories, provides a snapshot view of industry activity.
Industry Shipments Of Major Appliances* (In Thousands Of Units)
2002 1 mo.
2001 1 mo.