Helped by Home Sales, Appliance Purchases Climb

By , Boston

HE appliance industry is having a blockbuster year.

Boosted by record shipments in March, the result of a surge of air conditioner and dehumidifier purchases prompted by exceptionally rainy weather all over the country, the Chicago-based Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers projects that manufacturers will ship 50,461,000 appliances in 1994. Association members speculate that this year's figures could mean that the appliance industry is on track for a record year in 1995 with shipments hitting the 51 million mark.

The boom in appliance shipments this year is a ``continuation of momentum we had coming out of 1993,'' says Robert Holding, president of the association, which tracks appliance shipments. The industry shipped 48,522,000 units in 1993, representing the industry's first climb out of what had been a downward trend in appliance shipments because of the recession, Mr. Holding says.

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Such factors as increased consumer confidence, low interest rates, and increases in home building, existing home sales, and remodeling have boosted appliance shipments, he says. In addition, the industry is still feeling the residual effects from last year's floods in the Midwest, as consumers continue to replace damaged appliances.

But Holding says he is less optimistic today about how the appliance industry will fair at the end of '94 than he was at the start of the year. ``I think we'll see a leveling off towards the end of this year,'' he says. And Holding questions whether 1995 will be a record-setting year for the industry. ``I'm starting to get a little cautious,'' he says. ``Basically, we will have a strong '95. Whether it will be the record year? It will be a close call.''

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