Cersaie Report, 2003
 
November 1st, 2003

Cersaie Report, 2003

By Steve Calkins, Lola Kladder & Jack Knies

At TileDealer we couldn’t imagine going to press with our inaugural issue just weeks after Cersaie 2003 without including a report on that important industry event. But we didn’t want to provide the same report you’ll be hearing in several other places. Instead we enlisted our own group of reporters to “embed” at Cersaie

Cersaie bills itself as “An assembly of ceramic, porcelain and marble – presented to the world market.” TileDealer’s reporters – like the rest of the Cersaie attendees – went with a schedule of appointments and a shopping list.

Steve Calkins, President of Statements, Inc., had a modest plan for Cersaie. “It was not our expectation to purchase many programs or lines during Cersaie. During the year we had been receiving product from decisions made at Cersaie 2002 and at Coverings 2003,” he said. “With that in mind, we identified the product mix we wanted to improve and stayed focused on finding those products only.”

Similarly, Lola Kladder, President of American International Tile Co., Inc., said her plan was to preview what American International’s manufacturers had that is new and to look for some upscale, unique materials in general.

Jack Knies, Vice President of East Coast Tile Imports, Inc., was more succinct in listing his goals:

Goal 1. Don’t buy anything. I’ve got enough tile already. Goal 2. Read goal 1 again. Goal 3. Understand where the trends are going: Design/fashion, Technology, Prices, Asian influence (China specifically). Goal 4. Get home safely.

 GETTING STARTED

The show runs Tuesday through Saturday. Kladder said the group arrived Sunday with plans to tour a factory on Monday. “Understanding how a product is made always makes the sales process easier,” she said. Factory visits also demonstrate the enormous commitment manufacturers make to the product.

According to Knies, many visitors got off to a slow start when the show opened Tuesday, at 9:30. “You need a bar coded pass to get in. In past years, if you had attended a previous show or had registered in advance you were mailed a card. Not this year. None of the Americans I spoke to had received cards,” Knies said. “So, there we were, 200 or so foreign attendees waiting at 9:15 for the booth to open that would issue the cards.”

With only six people available to register all foreign attendees, the lines were long and some people did not get into the show for an hour. “They have to fix this for next year,” Knies said.

IF YOU HAVEN’T BEEN TO CERSAIE, UNDERSTANDING THE LOGISTICS CAN BE CHALLENGING.

It’s a huge show – attendees must have a plan to maximize their time there. Kladder said they began on Tuesday armed with a map of the entire fair and a plan to plot the locations of factories to maximize their time. The first day they managed to see two of the buildings in total.

Knies had ten appointments set up for the first day; eight appointments the second day, ten appointments the third and so on. On day four he scheduled few specific appointments to have time to walk around to see what other vendors were doing and to follow up with vendors seen previously. As Knies pointed out, “The specific appointments do not include the 30 or so booths that you stop in to say hello to agents and factory reps that you have known for years or have agreed to see but without an appointment. The show is exhausting.”

TRENDS AT THE SHOW

On Wednesday, Kladder’s team took an afternoon trip to visit a major supplier’s facility and review products appropriate for American International’s marketplace. They discovered what Kladder calls the most exciting line of the show – metal glazed ceramic/porcelain tile. It has multiple uses and meets ADA specifications.

Knies reported the return of an old trend — the wood look for floors, both parquet and planking. “Been there, done that,” he says. It didn’t work the first time, so East Coast Tile Imports is not going to try it again. And, he noted, this year’s stuff doesn’t look as good as the similar lines several years ago.

Knies went on to identify two additional trends, but questioned their marketability for his company. “Color,” he said, “and lots of it. Mostly in wall tiles. Don’t know what market it was intended for, but too strong for ours.” He also noted long, narrow wall tile (approximately 3” by 16” but in various sizes from different manufacturers) shown primarily vertically but sometimes horizontally. But again, he said, “Not for our market.”

Knies noted additional trends including:

• A resurgence of the slate look was evident probably due to the factories’ ability to technically duplicate the real thing. A number of companies had copies of Brazilian and African slate-some in their back rooms away from the prying eyes of their competitors. Islatiles was one of the best.

• Stone, stone, and more stone looks. Very sophisticated and technically enhanced using rotocolor, double loading and now twin (or double) pressing. Twin pressing is a new process, which utilizes two presses. A tile is pressed once, the surface is altered using dry glazes or other surface techniques, and pressed a second time so that the application becomes part of the body. These tiles are pressed in very large sizes, some up to 30”x60” and then cut to various modular sizes and rectified (edges ground to exact tolerances).

• Rustic tile mosaics (2”x2” or 3”x3”) are in every booth being cut from and used with the larger field tile. Rex has a great line that is cut from, and coordinates with, their large modular floor tile and has beautiful decorative inserts for both floor and wall use.

Knies said although he did not have a chance to talk at length with any CTDA members, the general comments at the show were:

• Provenza (entry to booth by invitation only) introduced a great line of sophisticated stone looks. An innovative display idea to incorporate in showrooms features small tiles hung from hooks along a metal rod. Shoppers can easily flip through the product. Metallics were one of the more exciting offerings at Cersaie 2003.

• Floor Gres, utilizing twin press technology, was also the talk of the show with their new “Tracks’ line-an exact replica of various international slates.

• Saicis is always the talk of any show. Their floor tile lines are extreme to say the least. Glass over ceramic glazes for example, metallic finishes another. “Every one talks about the products but are they ever produced and if so who buys them?” asked Knies.

Knowing the market is everything. Kladder cautions that Cersaie offers an international view of the offerings, not just what would sell in the American marketplace. In fact, she says, many factories supply product for other markets that is light years away from what American customers will buy.

But, Kladder says, there were some other trends beyond the metals worth taking note of: a contemporary, minimalistic look in grays, greens, and browns; accents featuring a mix of ceramic with metal; and continued growth in mosaics in a range of prices from Japan, Italy, Spain and Germany.

The buyers at Statements were more cautious. “We did not find innovation this year that was appealing to the U.S. market,” said Calkins. “Two and a half days into the show, we realized the only programs of interest were the ones we had seen at Coverings 2003 or before and were ready for delivery. The theme of the show was in three areas: quartzite look, cotto stone, and technical stone. All of which we had covered, so the challenge to find something new and innovative was difficult. No luck, we came away from the show satisfied with the looks that were coming, but not inspired for next year.”

PRICE PRESSURE AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET

Calkins indicated that Statements, Inc. identified real price pressure early. “From our first meeting on Sunday, we realized our opportunities [for adding to the product mix] would be far and few between. Prices were 20% higher on new product, apparently a reflection of the weakness of the US dollar.” Calkins said talk of the show centered around the advisability of price increases, the increase of Chinese product entering North America and the struggles some tile producing countries are having in maintaining market share. “I felt that many manufacturers were satisfied with their sales for the year, but were not receiving the level of orders they would have liked.”

Knies looked at the economics of the industry differently. He said the show seemed crowded with European, Asian and American buyers. “This show was as busy as the busiest CERSAIE that I have been to in 30 years. The exhibitors I talked to were happy with the turnout and the general response to their products. Orders were written and commitments given. The Chinese were taking pictures of everything. Soon to be copied and promoted. There is great concern in the Italian manufacturing community about the effect the Chinese will have on the worldwide tile market.

The bottom line from Calkins: “A flat show for Americans with little buying enthusiasm. It seemed that those I talked to did not come to buy anything, so the lack of must-buy programs was okay. Most came to the show to see what was new and were disappointed.” In the end, however, Calkins said he left the show feeling positive about the condition of the tile industry. “Increased capacity from manufacturing advances will continue to have downward pressure on pricing. The strength of the Euro offsets this condition for now, but hopefully will improve over time. Overall, through-body porcelains and glazed porcelains, along with the new pressing methods, will continue to advance the look of tile and acceptance by the end user.”

FINAL THOUGHTS

Jack Knies added a final PS: And I am pleased to report that the miniskirt is not dead. Women in Italy dress beautifully-lots of black, some purple a little orange when you least expect it. Long pointy high heel shoes that I would not want to get kicked with and probably are used to keep the Italian men in line.

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