Vacuum cleaner manufacturers said the decline in industry vac shipments is not a cause for concern. Rather, they are encouraged by the acceptance of new products and have a positive outlook for the fourth quarter.

For the month of July, manufacturer shipments of upright, canister and stick vacuum cleaners declined 17.1 percent, according to the Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturers Association.

In July, 1,030,193 units were shipped, down 17.1 percent from 1,242,476 for the same month in 1996.

Year to date, 8,579,820 units have been shipped, a decrease of 8.6 percent from 9,384,089 during the same period last year.

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Cliff Wood, executive vice president of the VMCA, pointed out that last year, the industry had record shipments consistently, so comparisons with last year can be misleading.

“I’m looking at other Julys, not counting last year, and it isn’t a very good July. Both 1986 and 1985 were higher, in the 1.1 million and 1.2 million range. July’s never a good month anyway from a factory viewpoint,” he said.

Industry executives said they found no cause for concern in the month-to-month dips.

“I don’t think a couple of months of shipment data is an indication of a major trend,” commented Mike Merriman, president of Royal Appliance Mfg. “I don’t know what’s underneath those industry numbers. We have experienced growth in the upright segment and would hope that it would continue. The back half is typically stronger than the first half.

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Jim Krzeminski, vice president of sales and marketing for Bissell, added, “This is a replacement business; 98 percent of homes have a vacuum cleaner. We’re going to see that 11 million-unit plateau, give or take 3 or 4 percent. But I don’t think you’ll see the huge growth we had five years ago.” He added that the influx of new products continues to fuel dollar sales, even if unit sales are down.

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The Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturers Association (VCMA), North Canton, Ohio, reports that industry sales of full-size household Vacuum cleaners amounted to 4,713,011 units in the third quarter of this year, up 5.5 percent from 4,466,341 in the comparable period of 1999. Sales in the third quarter of this year were the highest for any third quarter in history. Sales in the first nine months reached 14,460,570 units, an increase of 11.6 percent over 12,957,968 units in the corresponding period of last year.