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Ouch, August Appliance Shipments Flatline

At a time when appliance dealers should have been building up inventory for the key Labor Day selling period, unit shipments tumbled.

According to the latest vendor data amassed by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), total industry shipments were essentially flat in August, slipping 0.2 percent year over year to 5.7 million units. But the totals — buoyed by a 141 percent surge in room air shipments thanks to the excessively hot summer — mask weakness in other core categories.

Taking the biggest lumps was laundry, with washer shipments down 11.2 percent. Cooking also cooled, with gas ranges down 7 percent and electric cooktops down nearly 9 percent.

Even refrigerators, a traditional summertime stronghold, were off by half a percent.

So what gives? The problem may lie in last year’s exceptionally strong August, when nearly every core category was up by double digits and total industry shipments increased12.5 percent — a tough performance to lap.

Last month’s soft majap numbers jibe with the Census Bureau’s disappointing retail sales estimates for August, which pointed to a 3.1 percent decline for CE and appliance dealers.