Source: CHEAA-run China Appliance magazine

In the beginning of 2024, China’s washing machine industry maintained the growth trend in both production and sales in 2023, making a continued growth in export and a recovery in domestic sales, based on data from the first two months of 2024. Could the industry keep up the good work this year?

Strong export

China’s washing machine industry posted an output of 79.958 million units, up 16.4% YoY, and sales of 80.45 million units, up 16.9% YoY, according to

It’s worth noting that the export of washing machines from China made a significant growth of more than 38% in 2023, the fastest growth of the three categories of white goods, with a quarterly growth of 18%, 52%, 44% and 38% respectively. My interviewee from Panasonic who is responsible for the company’s washing machine business pointed out that the significant export growth was made under the influence of several factors such as the decreasing inventory in overseas market, the depreciation of Chinese yuan, the intensified domestic competition that drove industry players to go global, the rising demands from Belt and Road countries as well as a fall in shipping price.

The export of washing machines in the beginning of 2024 maintained the high-growth trend of 2023, with the export in January alone up 25.6% YoY to 3.462 million units. However, with the pent-up demands gradually released, it is uncertain if the export can keep the strong momentum this year. Plus, with big importers such as the European market and the American market going through a consumption downgrade due to long-term inflation, the remarkable export performance of washing machines made in 2023 was largely due to the cost effectiveness of Chinese washing machines. But for high-penetration products like washing machines, stepping up the layout in the mid-to-high-end market through product structure adjustment, rather than exporting low-priced products, will benefit the industry in the long term. In fact, many industry leaders have started this transition. For instance, Haier’s energy-efficient products rated A or above accounted for more than 90% of its total exports of washing machines to Europe in 2023, as I learned.

Steady recovery of Domestic sales

As to domestic sales, the laundry industry including washing machines and dryers also achieved outstanding growth. In 2023, the omni-channel retail sales volume of washing machines in China was 40.05 million units, a YoY increase of 3.4%, with retail sales reaching 93.4 billion yuan, a YoY increase of 5.8%; the omni-channel retail sales volume of dryers was 2.17 million units, a YoY increase of 16.4%, with retail sales reaching 12.9 billion yuan, a YoY increase of 23.8%, according to All View Cloud.

However, the fast growth rates are made mainly due to the low domestic sales in 2022 and the small base of dryer sales. In my interviews with mainstream companies, most of them referred to it more as a recovery growth for the domestic washing machine market, saying the real growth still takes time to be made.

The concept of intelligent, green and health-oriented products has been gaining popularity among Chinese consumers. And the washing machine industry has been all set for it. For instance, smart technologies such as connected washing cycle and drying cycle, auto dispensing, fabric identification, and voice control are widely applied to products, moving the intelligence level of washing machines up a notch. Plus, more and more health-oriented technologies have been introduced by major brands, making health functions a standard feature of washing machine products.

Innovation-driven breakthroughs

Making innovations on mature categories with consumers’ needs in mind is what needs to be done now to bring out the vitality of the market. Through my interviews, I learned three major demands that deserve our attention.

(1) Upgraded demands, especially for high-end products. Upgrading has been a trend for the washing machine industry after it reached high penetration. It currently revolves around function upgrading from washing to drying and caring. The rise of washer dryer combos in 2023 reflects the trend. What kind of growth could the drying function bring to the industry? With retail sales of washers standing at around 40 million units and that of dryers around 2 million units in 2023, it can be imagined that great market space would be released if dryers got as popular as washers. At the same time, the clothes caring function is also a key focus of the industry. In fact, the market competition on exquisite laundry experience has been on.

(2) Niche demands. Washing machines are highly mature products, but it does not mean there is no room for innovation. The segmentation of consumer groups and demands leads to the emergence of many new categories such as mother & baby use washing machines, shoe washers and underwear washers. In 2023, mini washing machines with a capacity of less than 3kg stood out with an online market share of 6%, and small-capacity products such as underwear washers are increasingly favored by young consumers. But it’s worth noting that the development of new categories requires targeted research and technological innovation. Hindered by the product homogeneity and poor user experience, the once popular shoe washer sector in 2022 only had a lukewarm response in the market in 2023.

(3) Customized laundry solutions. The popularity of washer and dryer combos indicates that consumers want upgraded laundry solutions instead of products that only meet their basic demands. Therefore, customized whole-process laundry solutions such as intelligent laundry scenarios made up of multiple products, washer dryer packages, and integrated multifunction combos go viral. And the trend is going up in the bigger context of the integration of home appliance and home furnishing.