Sacramento appliance dealers seeing sign of upturn in economy

SACRAMENTO — With the economy tumbling on spin cycle and consumer spending stuck on low, it wouldn't seem like good times for the home appliance industry.

But nationally, appliance sales are holding steady from their housing-boom highs. And locally, companies that sell and service refrigerators, dishwashers, washer/dryers and other household appliances are reporting increased consumer traffic and solid sales in recent months – flying in the face of high unemployment, low housing starts and state government furloughs.

The apparent drivers: Less competition and more demand by new owners of foreclosed homes.

"We're having a lot more foot traffic, and more people are buying on the spot," said Mike Gustafson, senior sales representative at A&A Appliance Solutions Distributors at 6800 Folsom Blvd. in Sacramento. Gustafson said washers, dryers and kitchen appliances – at varied price ranges – are moving out the door.

"It's not as good as it was two or three years ago, but it's definitely better. The last six months of last year were bad, and we had a slow start this year."

Nationally, appliance stores experienced a slow start to 2009 as recession-wary consumers cut back on spending, but things have picked up of late.

The U.S. Census Bureau's monthly retail trade survey shows nationwide home appliance store sales of $5 billion through April this year, down from $5.5 billion in the January-April period in 2008. However, month-to-month sales increased slightly in both March and April, and the bureau's preliminary estimates for May also show an increase.

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