By Patrick Avenell

Small appliances and air conditioning were the two star performers in the lead-up to Christmas, with both categories recording exceptional sales results in-store, according to the latest GfK TEMAX report. Major appliances, however, suffered a slight blip, mainly brought about through a decline in washing machines.

"Compared to Q3, the value of the market segment rose by 20 per cent, contributing to year-on-year growth of 14 per cent," said GfK strategic planning manager Gwenno Hopkin. "Most of the power behind this phenomenal growth came from the cooling appliances sector."

Hopkin said the record-breaking high temperatures in New South Wales and Victoria at the end of last year triggered a rush on cooling products. In value terms, air conditioners increased by 46 per cent and electric fans jumped 61 per cent.

Losses were sustained, however, in the major appliance categories, which was down 2 per cent in Q4 2009.

"However, a slight increase in residential building approvals was encouraging, with dishwashers and cooking appliances benefiting with a small increase of 0.7 per cent for the total category over Q3," Hopkin said.

For the future, Hopkin warned retailers against comparing Q1 2010 sales against last year’s corresponding figures. She said the unique stimulus package delivered in 2009 has skewed the figures, making it an untenable comparison.

"A lack of government cash stimulus packages in the first six months of the year will impede retailers’ efforts to create the same growth rates that were seen at the start of 2009," she said.