Appliance makers expect a strong year in 1995 but probably won't break the record for shipments set last year, predicts an industry official. ``Everyone is waiting to see what the feds will do'' with interest rates, said Robert Holding, president of the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers in Chicago.
He estimates the industry will ship more than 50 million units this year - a strong performance, but short of last year's record-breaking activity.
The U.S. appliance industry shipped about 52.6 million units last year, Holding said in an early January interview. That figure surpassed previous 1994 estimates, was 8.5 percent higher than 1993 shipments and beat the previous record of 50.7 million units in 1987.
Holding said growth last year was caused by pent-up demand ``abetted by opportunities to re-mortgage the house and put the money in [home upgrading].
``Retailers are seeing consumers buying hard goods such as appliances rather than soft goods,'' he said. ``It's our turn for how people spend money.''
Holding said interest rates will be key to appliance shipments and sales this year. Sales are affected by new home construction, remodeling and replacing outdated products, often by buying on credit. High interest rates can hurt all these sales opportunities.
AHAM expects shipments of dehumidifiers and room air conditioners to remain high because the hot, wet summer last year depleted inventories of the appliances.
Some processors are benefiting from strong appliance sales and industry restructuring.
An official with Beach Mold & Tool Inc. of New Albany, Ind., reported late last year his firm was so busy with work for GE Appliance that it was not trying to bid on other appliance jobs.
Wollin Products Inc. of Stevensville, Mich., landed more molding work from Whirlpool Corp. when the Benton Harbor, Mich., appliance giant decided last year to close its Columbia, S.C., captive molding plant.
As in other industries, however, supplier base consolidation threatens noncore suppliers to appliance original equipment manufacturers.
A Maytag Corp. official recently confirmed the Newton, Iowa, firm is ``pruning'' its outside molder base, but he would not disclose which companies are affected.