Higher interest rates and a hurting housing market took the wind out of major appliance sales in September.
According to the latest vendor-supplied data from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), factory shipments of white goods fell 3.5 percent that month, to about 7.2 million units.
The declines were fairly consistent across the board, with all major categories save for home comfort feeling the squeeze. The biggest drop was seen kitchen cleanup, which fell 9.7 percent to 1.4 million units. The heaviest drag here was portable dishwashers, which plummeted nearly 18 percent in unit volume, while disposers declined 10.1 percent year-over-year and the built-in dishwasher business fell 9 percent.
Also ailing was food preservation, where a healthy 9.5 percent increase in chest-type freezer sales could not offset a nearly 6 percent decline in factory shipments of refrigerators, a critical industry category, to 1.2 million units. All told, food preservation fell 4.5 percent in September, but still stands 3.6 percent ahead for the year.
Similarly stymied was home laundry, down 4.1 percent, with declines recorded all down the line with the core washer category down 4.4 percent; electric dryers down 4.6 percent; and gas-type dryers off by 0.2 percent.
The cooking category got off fairly easy, with just a 1.8 percent dip in unit shipment. Buoying the business was built-in ranges (up 9.8 percent in electric, 5.1 percent in gas) and gas-fueled surface cooking units (up 3.6 percent). But the gains could not offset the 6.3 percent decline in freestanding gas ranges, 3.5 percent drop in freestanding electric ranges, and 1 percent drops in electric surface cooking units and microwave ovens.
Only home comfort enjoyed a strong September, rising 30.9 percent on strength in dehumidifiers, while room air shipments fell 18 percent.
Summarizing the month was the AHAM 6, an amalgam of the core washer, dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, and free-standing and built-in range product categories, which fell 4.8 percent in September and rose a mere 1.7 percent year to date.
On a 9-month basis, total majap shipments rose 3.7 percent year to date to 60.7 million units. The big winners for the nine months were home comfort, up 18.3 percent led by room air, and food preservation, up 3.6 percent led by refrigerators.
Industry Shipments of Major Appliances*
(In Thousands of Units)
2006 9 mos.
2005 9 mos.