The trend toward more compact living is also producing compact appliances. ``The 1980s have seen an increase in singles, retirees, and smaller families,'' explains Norm Murdock of the Whirlpool Corporation, ``many of whom live in condos and small homes and apartments. They are extremely space-conscious. Also, many of them do not require full-sized appliances.''
Consequently, appliance manufacturers are coming out with more and more space-saving devices, such as scaled-down microwave ovens and vertically stacked washer-dryer combinations.
According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, shipments of microwave ovens were up 54 percent in l984 to 9.1 million units from 5.9 million the year before. The association is forecasting shipments of 9.5 million units in 1985, 48 percent of which will be in compact and subcompact sizes.
At Whirlpool, compact and subcompact microwave ovens range in size from .5 to .9 cubic feet capacity. Ron Whitford, merchandising manager of microwave ovens, sees a growing market for even smaller sizes.
Whirlpool's newest subcompact model will be suitable, he says, for vacation homes, college dorms, family rooms, small kitchens, and even boats and recreational vehicles. The model is 91/2 inches high, 183/4 inches wide, and 13 inches deep, weighing 33 pounds.
``The buyer profile is changing,'' says Peter J. Caravella, vice-president of marketing for Litton Microwave Cooking Products, ``and we see two distinct groups of consumers -- those who bought their first microwave ovens in the early to mid '70s and are ready for a replacement, and those who see the units as a widely accepted kitchen appliance, available at popular prices, and feel ready to purchase their very first microwave oven.''
Litton has introduced a new subcompact ``Little Litton'' model and has recently redesigned its somewhat larger Go-Anywhere compacts to fit under cabinets or be easily carted about on family excursions.
Capitalizing on the success of its ``Little-Big'' microwave oven series, Magic Chef is introducing an even more compact (5.3 cubic feet) microwave oven series. Toastmaster is just entering the microwave oven market with the introduction of five models, including two subcompact sizes. Emerson has also entered the market with its first compact dual-power microwave oven. Both General Electric and Frigidaire have also introduced space-saver models.
Smaller homes have also spurred several manufacturers to take a new look at stacked washer-dryer combinations, which take up half the floor space of the conventional side-by-side arrangement.
Speed Queen has introduced the Ultra-Mate Laundry System, two fully sized, fully featured appliances designed into a single stack unit to retail at about $1,200. The depth of the laundry tub is 13 inches, the same as in the side-by-side model.
The Maytag Company has come out with a unit that is 271/2 inches wide, 271/2 inches deep, and 73 inches tall and features a single electronic control center that operates both washer and dryer. This model marks the first time that one unified touch-control microprocessor allows the consumer to operate the washer and dryer simultaneously or independently, as the user chooses.