New York — Despite a strong start to 2006, the major appliances business has seen a sharp falloff in almost all categories as the year draws to a close.
A couple of notable acquisitions and mergers among major players — like the melding of Whirlpool and Maytag and Best Buy’s buyout of Pacific Sales — were among the year’s highlights. However, year-over-year declines in most white-goods categories this fall, due mostly to the absence of last year’s post-hurricane replacement business and a soft housing market, put a damper on holiday cheer.
Best Buy Acquires Pacific Sales: Best Buy purchases the nation’s 10th largest white-goods dealer, Pacific Sales Kitchen and Bath Centers, for $410 million. Pacific operates 14 kitchen and bath stores in Southern California. Best Buy says it bought the chain as part of a move to “capitalize on the rapidly growing high-end segment of the U.S. appliance market.” It plans to operate Pacific as a wholly owned, indirect subsidiary and expand its store count.
Glad Tidings: Some of the nation’s biggest players in major appliances report positive sales in the fourth quarter of 2005. Home Depot says its sales were up 15.9 percent, raising majap market share from 8.1 percent to 9.7 percent, while H.H. Gregg saw sales rise 10.6 percent for the quarter. On the vendor side, Maytag’s appliance segment’s sales rose 6.9 percent, while net sales at Electrolux spiked 17.6 percent.
Maytag Merger On Hold: The planned acquisition of Maytag by Whirlpool is delayed as federal regulators take more time to review the $1.7 billion deal, casting doubt on its completion.
NATM Enjoys White-Goods Boon: NATM Buying Corp. reports a 10 percent increase in unit sales of majaps year-to-date this month and a 10 percent increase in dollar volume. Bill Trawick, NATM’s president and executive director notes at the $3.6 billion buying group’s annual meeting that members saw growth in every appliance category.
GE Completes Monogram Kitchen Collection: GE unveils two new bottom-mount refrigerators under its premium Monogram moniker and introduces the first GE-branded dishwasher that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act at the annual Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS). GE says it’s the only American-branded leading manufacturer to offer an ADA-compliant dishwasher. The show itself represents the trade debut of a co-joined Whirlpool and Maytag.
Maytag Retrenchment: Whirlpool says it plans to eliminate 4,500 Maytag jobs and close several facilities in the United States, Cananda and Mexico, including the former Maytag corporate headquarters, as part of its integration plan for the company. “We are taking these actions to rapidly restore the competitiveness of the Maytag brands,” says Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig.
Appliance Sales Up 12% For Top Retailers: According to TWICE’s annual Top 100 Appliance Retailers Report, the leading white-goods retailers saw cumulative dollar volume exceed $24.2 billion in 2005, fueled by a brisk replacement business in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. At the top of the heap are reigning white-goods champ Sears, followed by Lowe’s and The Home Depot.
White-Goods Biz In Flux: According to TWICE’s 2006 State of the Industry Special Report, the major appliance business has been undergoing fundamental structural changes due to a variety of factors including shifts in channel preference, an over-heated housing market, successful penetration by alternative offshore brands and strong demand for higher-end white goods. Meanwhile, dealers are bracing for a new round of price hikes from vendors, who are seeking relief from sky-high oil and raw materials costs.
Electrolux, Sharp Team on Majap Technology: Electrolux and Sharp are partnering on a long-term project to develop innovative majap technology. The first products to come out of this collaboration were part of platform of environmentally friendly, energy-saving refrigerators that were set to launch in the fall. Each company plans to sell versions of the products under its own brands.
Brand Source Expands Assortment: Brand Source/AVB offers dealers a more expansive white-goods program at its national convention and buying fair. New additions include two group exclusives: AVB’s new private-label Gourmet platform of premium kitchen appliances and a Gibson freezer program. The former features gas cooking products, a built-in dishwasher and a built-in side-by-side refrigerator, all in stainless steel finishes. The line, says executive director Bob Lawrence, was developed to offer members an exclusive, quality-built product that will allow them to compete in the marketplace and still retain healthy margins.
NECO Picks Low-Hanging Fruit: In an effort to capture younger shoppers and make them customers for life, the NECO Alliance, the Northeastern unit of the $10 billion Nationwide Marketing Group, debuts a “Bill of Rights” program at its annual Fall Expo that promotes lower-priced products rather than the buying organization’s bread-and-butter premium lines. “We’re trying to make sure our members cover the entire price range,” says executive director Mel Hunger. “There’s a market of young people coming in who can’t go upscale yet. We want to capture this audience.”
Whirlpool Bears First Fruits of Maytag Merger: Whirlpool announces plans for a series of re-branding initiatives for Maytag. The new initiatives will be rolled out over a period of 18 months, beginning with the launch of the first Maytag-branded product to be released since the acquisition. Earning that distinction is the Epic front-load laundry pair, which debuts at The Home Depot.
LG Expanding Price Spectrum: LG Electronics is making moves to expand its appliance lineup with products that appeal to the higher and lower ends of the market. New additions to the higher end of the market include a suite of kitchen products at a collective $7,500 retail that is competitive with other luxury lines. On the lower end, the company is also launching side-by-side refrigerators with reduced feature sets that will lead to suggested retails between $1,000 and $1,600.
Majap Shipments Nosedive in Fall: Statistics from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) show that factory shipments of white goods fell dramatically this fall, with a 9.1 percent year-over-year decline in October alone to 5.2 million units. The drop-off was attributed mostly to the weak housing market and comparisons to the post-Katrina period last year, when replacement sales artificially bumped up business. According to AHAM, only built-in gas ranges and dehumidifiers saw increases that month.