The headlines surrounding appliance sales were bleak this week, with hhgregg filing for bankruptcy protection and Sears, once the appliance king, reporting dismal sales overall and in the appliance category specifically.
In fact, though, appliance sales have been one of the industry’s bright spots, helped by an improved housing market and consumers’ growing interest in both energy-saving and internet-connected smart home appliances. Euromonitor data showed US consumer appliance sales last year rose 5.6% to $69 billion.
“We continue to see categories like appliances gain traction in the market,” said No. 1 U.S. home-improvement retailer Home Depot CEO Craig Menear in a recent earnings call.
Home Depot and other retailers including Lowe’s, Best Buy and JC Penney have all called out appliances as a sales outperformer in recent earnings calls. All of them promised to make more strategic investment there.
Sears, on the other hand, on Thursday reported a 12.3% decline in fourth-quarter same-store sales at its namesake US locations, leading to a 9.3% drop for the year, with the company blaming appliances as a key culprit.
Other retailers are looking to poach Sears’s shoppers.
“Customers are spending a disproportionate amount of their wallet on beautifying their home,” said J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison recently. “We share over 400 malls with a struggling retailer that was once dominant in this category and we have some in-house talent that understands this space really well.”
Penney plans to open 100 new appliance showrooms early this year after seeing strong sales performance in over 500 of them, Ellison said. Stores with features like the showrooms have outperformed other locations, he said.
For brick-and-mortar retailers seeking to drive traffic to stores, appliance displays are a strong attraction. A September PricewaterhouseCoopers survey showed that the majority of internet users would still prefer to buy appliances in store vs. online.