Major appliances are still not purchased online

Reading the latest issue of Consumer Electronics publication TWICE I came across their list of the top 100 Major Appliance Retailers and was struck by how there are no online companies on the list.
There are companies that have a significant online presence, of course, like Sears, but I think it’s safe to say that unlike consumer electronics purchasing habits, major appliances (the industry calls the category “majapp”, by the way) are still purchased based on in-store discussions with salespeople and hands-on experience.
The list of top Majapp retailers:

  1. Sears, with $8.3 billion in major appliance sales in 2007 (a drop of 7.3% from their 2006 sales)
  2. Lowe’s, with $4.3 billion in majapp sales (an increase of 3.1% over their 2006 sales)
  3. Home Depot, with $3.8 billion in sales (an increase in 2.3% from 2006 sales)
  4. Best Buy, with $1.9 billion in sales (an impressive increase of 8.3% over 2006 sales. Best Buy is really becoming a powerhouse in both majapp and consumer electronics sales!)
  5. Wal*Mart, with $713 million in sales (an increase of 5.1% over 2006)
  6. P.C. Richard & Son, with $602 million in sales (a drop of 4.1% from 2006 sales)
  7. hhgregg, with $486 million in sales (a staggering increase of 36.6% over 2006 sales)
  8. BrandsMart, with $269 million in sales (a decrease of 2.7% from 2006 sales)
  9. Conn’s, with $224 million in sales (a 3.0% decrease over 2006 sales)
  10. Costco Wholesale, with $211 million in sales (an increase of 0.9% over 2006 sales figures)

The rest of the top 25? Pacific Sales Kitchen & Bath Centers, Target, ABC Warehouse, ABT Electronics and Appliances, Menards, Sam’s Club, EXPO Design CEnter, R.C. Willey Home Furnishings, American TV & Appliances, Nebraska Furniture Mart, The Great Indoors, Appliance Direct, Kmart, Fry’s Electronics and Grants Appliance.
Somehow, in 2008 I expect to see some sort of company like “Appliances Online” or even Amazon show up on the top 25 list (after all, Grants Appliance is on the list with only $77 million in annual major appliance sales)…
Is it possible that major appliances will always be purchased primarily through a physical storefront, perhaps simply due to the complexity of delivery and installation? What do you think?

7 comments on “Major appliances are still not purchased online

  1. I do not think that major appliances will always be purchased through a physical store front.
    I tend to be an early adopter but this year my buying habits moved to the web in areas that I never thought. Examples are PVC picket fence (3 tons) after extensive local research it was a risk that I took with over 50% savings…great results. Infrared gas outdoor grill, $6500…great results, whole house generator (required professional installation…but not a problem with organizing) total cost of equipment was $5000…Deep Freeze, worst “online” experience as I was forced into using Lowes after Sears “canceled my order” with no option of alternate choice due to low inventory; this was a total blunder on the part of Sears and poorly executed on the part of Lowes…clearly both need to learn how to use the internet as a retail outlet. So…I think that it will be an easy switch for consumers to avoid incompetent people.

  2. I ordered a Whirlpool refrigerator (Model ED2KVEXV) from Grants Appliances Electronics in Merrillville, IN and it arrived broken. I called hours after the installation because the refrigerator was on but was not cooling. I was told that it would take 24 hours for the fridge to be completely operational. I called customer service 24 hours later and found their attitude excessively rude and dismissive, especially since I had a legitimate complaint.
    After being shuffled around from customer service to the store manager, I requested a different customer service representative.
    The next customer service rep,offered reluctant cooperation in an exaggerated saccharine tone. Politely, rigidly and severely terse she attempted to antagonize the situation and avoid assistance.
    The service rep completely ignored my logical reasoning that since I paid them for the fridge, I could only hold them responsible.
    With no other recourse, I spoke with Whirlpool’s customer service and they informed me that they would never replace the defective fridge, but would send someone out to look at it.
    Another disturbing revelation, especially since I paid for a NEW refrigerator, I expected the defective refrigerator to be replaced with a new fridge.
    This experience is an example how many may not feel comfortable purchasing an appliance online. Many people would be leery purchasing an appliance online because many of us have bad experience or heard of such experiences with customer services.
    Generally, customer service departments are inadequate at satifying complaints. Without a person or place to go to, consumers will be doubtful and insecure about their online purchases. I wouldn’t want to take that kink of gamble.

  3. While I agree that traditionally white goods have not sold well online, that will change. After all, the internet as we know it has only been around since the late 90s. As younger people get to the age of buying homes and settling down, their attention will shift towards necessities, like big white things that wash clothes and keep food cold.

  4. Buying online is actually a lot more popular than most studies show. Even during the recession, Amazon, one of the top online retailers, showed a 25% increase in sales.
    I guess it just goes to show that if you’re a good enough company, you’ll be up there and comparable with any store-front.

  5. Buying a new major appliance isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. Here are some ways you can find discounts when it’s time to shop for a major appliance online :

    Use Online Resources
    Check for Tax Credits on Energy Efficient Appliances
    Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
    Learn if Expensive Accommodations Will Be Necessary
    Scope out Service Options Before You Buy

    Bring your tape measure shopping with you, to make sure the appliance you choose will fit.

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