From the Editor’s Desk: What’s on Your Calendar this Year?
 
January 1st, 2004

by Janet Arden, Editor
Jan-Feb 2004

Publishing a magazine requires us to work months ahead of the calendar. While you’re reading the November/December issue, we’re writing the January/February issue and planning the March/April and May/June issues and so on.

Running your business requires the same kind of planning. Selecting and stocking tile and accessories, arranging showroom displays, hiring staff, paying bills and taxes, maintaining equipment, and all the myriad details that make your company run. The question in this issue — what resources are helping you plan for 2004?

All indications are that 2004 could be exciting and profitable for the tile industry. Total tile sales have increased by over 8 percent in the first half of 2003 over the same period last year. Sales have doubled in the past seven years. After benefiting from the recent housing boom, the industry sees real growth in the commercial and renovation marketplaces. How are you going to tap this market?

The cover story in this issue, Outlook 2004: The Shape, Size and Color of Things to Come, identifies the large formats, rectangular shapes, and color trends experts see for the industry. In One-on-One, Bob Daniels talks about the reasons behind the demand for tile and why it’s taking market share from other products. How does this information shape your marketing?

Part of your plan for 2004 needs to include your access to the rest of the industry. Have you blocked out time for important industry events like Coverings (March 23-March 26), Cevisma (March 2-6), Cersaie (September 28-October 3) and the CTDA Management Conference (November 4-10)? Events like these give you a chance to view the latest innovations before they show up in a competitor’s showroom, to learn firsthand about new tools and techniques, and to benefit from the informal networking that plays a large role in every industry event.

Have you built training into your employee schedule? Last year 73 people participated in the CTDA Training Seminars offered in just two locations. This year CTDA plans to introduce online seminars making training available to an unlimited number of people.

To really make this information useful, however, you need to integrate it into what you know about your marketplace and your competition. Happy planning!


Innovations
 
January 1st, 2004

Jan-Feb 2004

TURKISH CERAMICS REVEAL LATEST TILE TRENDS

The Turkish Ceramics Association, world-leading manufacturers and exporters of ceramic tile, attribute the industry’s success to its advanced technology and design. “Sixty percent of the ceramic tile sector’s current production came into existence after 1990, and ceramic firms have been constantly renewing their investments over the last decade,” said Turkish Ceramics Federation President Adnan Polat.

Kaledebur, a leading Turkish manufacturer and exporter of ceramic tile, has recently introduced Kale Stones and the Ottoman Collection to the marketplace. Inspiration for the Ottoman Collection came from the Ottoman Palaces. The Saint Sophia line is based on the Saint Sophia Museum, recognized as the eighth wonder of the world. Each series in the collection includes borders and listellos in various sizes. The Kale Stone series uses twin press technology to duplicate the look of natural stone in ceramics. Ege Seramik’s new Santa Barbara series is based on Rapallano stone and includes wall and floor bullnoses. Vitra Tiles’ Galia Series offers porcelain floor tiles and earthy ceramic wall tiles for residential and commercial installations. (90-212-266-52-54; www.turkishceramics.com)

RADIANT FLOOR WARMING

Radiant Floor Warming utilizes state-of-the-art technology to place heated comfort under tile, stone, wood, vinyl and wall-to-wall carpeting or any surface approved for under-floor warming systems. Radiant uses an S-shaped heating element mat that ensures error-free installation, along with a simple, wall-mounted thermostat and timer provide warmth and comfort where and when you want it. The easy-to-install, reliable technology from Radiant Floor Warming comes with a ten-year Manufacturer’s Warranty. (203-228-0209; www.radiantfloorwarming.com)

LARGE TILE ECB KIT National Applied Construction Products introduces its newest problem solving product, the Large Tile ECB Kit. Designed specifically for large tile, at 24″ wide the ECB in this kit can be used for anti-fracture and crack bridging under 12″ x12″ and larger tile. This new KIT contains a 24″ wide roll of ECB Anti-Fracture Membrane, a pint of NAC TAC Interior Primer, a primer brush and a utility knife. (800-633-4622; www.nac-anti-fracture.com)

AQUARIUS SERIES

Ceramic Tile Trends’ Aquarius Series features five colorful fish designs for endless interior design options. The series is available in a 4-1/8 by 4-1/8-inch format with a 2-1/2-inch by 6-inch border with starfish and ocean designs. Two additional accent tiles emulating ocean waves are also available. (212-358-5557; www.ceramictiletrends.com)

CROSSVILLE’S STAINLESS STEEL SERIES OUTSHINES ALL OTHERS

Crossville Porcelain Stone®/USA presents the Stainless Steel Series – high-tech tile for walls and floors. A unique construction, which fuses a stainless steel exterior to a durable porcelain body, makes these tiles ideal for residential and commercial installations, particularly kitchens, restaurants, bars and baths. Nine textures, numerous sizes in square and triangular tiles, plus borders, offer designers and consumers a chic, modern look.

“The Stainless Steel Series adds a new dimension to Crossville’s metal offerings,” explains Barbara Schirmeister, color and design consultant for Crossville Porcelain Stone®/USA. “In addition to shining brightly in commercial settings, this amazing architectural product also enhances residential kitchens and baths when paired with stainless steel appliances, as well as nickel and chrome fixtures.” The Stainless Steel Series is available in a range of sizes including square tiles from 2″ x 2″ through 24″ x 24″; triangular tiles in 2″, 4″, 8″, 12″, 16″ and 24″; plus 1″ x 8″ and 2″ x 8″ liner bars, and a 3″ x 12″ surface bullnose. (www.crossville-ceramics.com; 800-221-9093)

ILLUMINESSENCE GLASS THE FIRST AND ONLY CAST GLASS TILE AVAILABLE IN THE U.S.

Designed by Boyce & Bean, Crossville’s new Illuminessence Glass is the only cast glass tile available in the U.S. The program’s three series – Prism Glass, Prism Glass Listellos and Radiance Glass – are made of cast, translucent glass that is textured front and back to capture, refract, bend and twist light as never before. Floors, walls and countertops come alive with great visual depth – like looking into a sun-dappled pool – reflecting an ever-changing essence of light from within. All are manufactured using a quantity of recycled glass and are available in nine water-inspired colors.

Prism Glass: The Prism Glass series offers texture on both sides, plus it’s the same size and thickness as Crossville’s Milestone Mosaics and Cross-Colors Mosaics (3″ x 3″ x 1/4″ thick), so it works well with them as an accent tile for walls and countertops. It’s available in three finishes: Clear, Frosted and Iridescent.

Prism Glass Listellos: The Prism Glass Listellos are solid glass trim pieces that reflect light differently than the Prism Glass tiles due to their thickness and surface texture variation. They are available in five surface textures and sizes: Ebb Tide (7/8″ x 7 15/16″), Waterfall (1 3/8″ x 7 ¾”), Surf (1 ¼” x 7 13/16″), Wave (9/16″ x 7 11/16″) and Icicle (3/4″ x 7 11/16″).

Radiance Glass: The Radiance Glass series is designed for floors, walls and countertops. Available in two finishes, clear and frosted, and three sizes – 3″ x 3″, 3″ x 6″ and 6″ x 6″ – all are 5/16″ thick to allow for floor applications. Radiance Glass is textured on both the front and back surfaces to provide a visual depth similar to that of Prism Glass; however, the textural design is different.

“There are basically three types of glass tile: enameled, fused and cast,” says Jim Dougherty, Vice President of Marketing and New Business Development for Crossville. “With the introduction of the Illuminessence program, Crossville now offers all three types: Illuminessence is an example of cast glass, where molten glass is pressed into the shape of the glass tiles. Because the color permeates the translucent glass, which is textured on two or more surfaces, Illuminessence Glass reflects light like no other tile on the market. It is truly a unique product.” (www.crossvilleceramics.com; 800-221-9093) MAPEI INTRODUCES ULTRABOND ECO 711

The challenge was a need to get the work done quickly. MAPEI responded with Ultrabond ECO 711 high performance adhesive, which allows floor-covering installers to begin setting vinyl composition tile (VCT) within 30 minutes of adhesive application over an approved substrate. The time saving adds up quickly when a large surface is being covered, because ECO 711 sets fast and holds strong. Mark Colbert, of Columbus Commercial Floors in Columbus, OH, puts it this way, “All jobs require floor preparation. With some products, floor prep can take valuable time while we wait for the adhesive to set up. ECO 711 dries quickly and retains great grab.” Ultrabond ECO 711 is a premium, clear thin-spread adhesive with superior tack that grabs the VCT right away and ultra-high shear strength that prevents the tiles from shifting if walked on during a large installation. “We wanted to provide a faster, stronger adhesive for installers, and Ultrabond ECO 711 meets their needs,” says Michelle Swiniarski, MAPEI Product Manager for Floor Covering Installation Systems. She adds, “Solvent-free ECO 711 also contains BioBlock™ antimicrobial protection, which reduces the chances of mold and mildew growth. ECO 711 saves time during installation and offers added protection in the long run.” (www.mapei.com; 800-42-MAPEI)

TRADITIONAL TOOLS, MADE BETTER

Roberts Consolidated Industries, Inc. reintroduces their 10-140 30′ Tape Measure. Brightly colored for “easy to find” visibility, this red rubber tape measure is hard to miss. The rugged case, strong spring return, thumb lock and steel belt clip make the 10-140 an easy choice for installers.

Roberts also announces the new 10-138 100′ Fiberglass Tape Measure. Featuring a 100′ fiberglass reinforced tape and steel end hook, the 10-138 resists stretching and is coated to resist abrasion. The 10-138 also features a tough ABS case with rubber hand grip and folding retracting crank.

Roberts is committed to supporting the professional installer’s needs. (www.roberts-consolidated.com; 800-423-6545)


Industry Insights
 
January 1st, 2004

Jan-Feb 2004

SALE AGREEMENT FOR SAINT-GOBAIN TERREAL

Compagnie de Saint-Gobain has agreed to sell its Saint Gobain Terreal to a financial company controlled by the Carlyle Investment Fund. Terreal, a terra cotta and brick manufacturer, is a major player in the French tile market. The Terreal Group was establishjed with the merger of Guiraud, Tuiles Lambert, and Tuiles de Briques de France. The group totaled 328 million euro sales in 2002. Terreal operates in Italy under its San Marso Laterizi brand, in Spain through Saint-Gobain Terreal Espana (formerly Ceramica del Ter), in the United States through Ludowici, and in Malaysia.

The company has more than 2,000 employees at 22 tile and brick production sites, including more than 1,500 employees at 14 sites in France. Saint-Gobain’s choice of Carlyle to support Terreal will enable Terreal to ensure longterm development without the need for funding from the Saint-Gobain Group.

LATICRETE JOINS RACE SPONSORS

Laticrete International, the largest employer in Bethany, Connecticut, supported that community’s annual 5K Road Race and Fun Run sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Department. This year’s race attracted nearly 100 adult runners and 17 youth participants. Race proceeds were earmarked for the construction of a community playground in Bethany. “It’s events like this that bring out the true community spirit in everyone,” said Kathleen Scranton, Marketing Manager at Laticrete International. “We’re pleased to participate in local events.”

TILE PARTNERS FOR HUMANITY ANNOUNCES BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Tile Partners for Humanity (TPFH), a nonprofit partnership between the tile industry and Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), recently announced the formation of its board of directors.

TPFH provides donated tile products, installation labor and other support to HFHI, an international nonprofit working to eliminate substandard housing around the world. Industry partners have participated in large- and small-scale projects with HFHI, including the Jimmy Carter Work Project in LaGrange and Valdosta, Ga., in June 2003 and a number of single-home projects across the country.

TPFH pledged, on behalf of the industry, to provide Habitat with $250,000 worth of materials and labor per year for a minimum pledge of $1,250,000 over five years.

The TPFH board includes Rick Church, Executive Director of the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association; Bob Daniels, President of the Board of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation; Gray LaFortune, Executive Director of the Ceramic Tile Institute of America; Bart Bettiga, Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association; Curt Rapp, CEO of The Tile Doctor.com; and Eric Astrachan, Deputy Executive Director of the Tile Council of America.

Rapp, who co-founded TPFH with LaFortune, was elected to serve as chairman of the board. Bettiga will serve as vice chairman and Astrachan will serve as secretary/treasurer.

The board will work to raise awareness within the industry of TPFH and the value of participating in TPFH/Habitat projects. Members will also help solicit donations of materials, labor and funding for projects and continued operations.

“As chairman, I believe it’s important to acknowledge that our board is made up of a dynamic group of people within our industry, who, along with the organizations they represent, will represent our industry’s support for this notable cause,” Rapp said. “We are delighted they chose to become involved with TPFH and look forward to their participation in TPFH projects.”

Church recognized the role and contribution of CTDA in the organization. “CTDA has decided to participate on the board of TPFH for many reasons. Most importantly, though, is that it helps us achieve two missions: one, to work toward the elimination of poverty housing in the United States and two, to promote and grow the consumption of ceramic tile and related products in the United States. We look forward to seeing many smiling faces of new homeowners as they walk into their newly-tiled homes. We hope that some of those people will consider the tile industry as a professional career.”

TPFH solicits donations of tile, installation materials, installation labor, tile tools, tile cleaners, and other support for Habitat projects. Typically, TPFH provides floor tile for the kitchen/dining area, entryway, and bathrooms in a Habitat home. Partners have helped to tile 50 homes this year.

There are more than 1,700 active Habitat affiliates in North America with a singular goal to build 100,000 homes by 2005, and ceramic tile plays an important role in this initiative by providing simple, decent homes built with lasting quality. Habitat also builds in 89 countries worldwide. For more information on TPFH or the benefits of donating materials, please visit the website at www.tpfh.com.

CALL FOR AWARD ENTRIES

Coverings, the preeminent showcase for ceramic tile and natural stone floor coverings, is calling for entries to the 2004 Spectrum Awards honoring outstanding achievements in ceramic tile design. The $10,000 grand prize will be awarded at the opening General Session at Coverings 2004, slated to be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando from March 23 – March 26, 2004.

The 2004 Spectrum Awards competition is open to architects and other design professionals whose projects demonstrate creativity and achievement in the use of tile in residential and commercial design. The deadline for entries is 5:00 p.m. on February 27, 2004, and the projects must have been completed within the last two years (January 2002-December 2003) to be considered. Entries must include a binder with an official entry form, a typed project description, high-quality photographs of the entry and an identification of the submission. Entry forms and materials can be found on www.coverings.com/spectrum2004.

The Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) are coordinating the 2004 Spectrum Awards competition. An independent panel of judges organized by the CTDA and NTCA will evaluate entries based on creativity in design and excellence in implementation.

“The 2004 Spectrum Awards will feature the best in ceramic tile designs that the world has to offer,” says Tamara Christian, Coverings’ show director and president of National Trade Productions. “We are seeing a surge of interest in ceramic tile and mosaic design from everyone from professional designers, architects and artists to homeowners engaged in remodeling. We’re looking forward to not only displaying beautiful designs but to providing ideas on how to use these striking resources,” Christian adds. (www.coverings.com; 703.683.8500)

MARBLE INSTITUTE OF AMERICA THE LATEST CO-SPONSOR OF COVERINGS

The Marble Institute of America (MIA) will serve as a co-sponsor of Coverings 2004. As co-sponsor, MIA is responsible for developing educational sessions related to the stone industry that will be part of the Coverings conference program. MIA also will assist in the administration of the Prism 2004 Stone in Architecture awards, Coverings’ annual competition that honors originality and creative excellence in the use of natural stone products in residential and commercialprojects.

In addition to MIA’s co-sponsorship of the 2004 show, Coverings will sponsor a series of instructional CDROMs developed by MIA. These CDROMs are designed to expand and increase the level of competency in the fabrication and installation of natural stone. “We are very pleased to have been asked to be a co-sponsor of Coverings,” says Garis F. Distelhorst, executive vice president of MIA. “We look forward to providing a high level of educational programming for the show and to strengthening the awards competition by opening it up to architects who use natural stone to enhance the beauty and value of their projects.”

Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, MIA was founded in 1944 and is the leading resource for information and education in the natural stone industry. MIA members, numbering nearly 1,000 worldwide, include marble, granite, limestone, sandstone, and other natural stone producers and quarries, fabricators, installers, distributors and contractors.

In addition to MIA, the co-sponsors of Coverings include the American Institute of Architects (Orlando Chapter), the Associazione Italiana Marmomacchine, The American Society of Interior Designers (North Florida Chapter and Florida South Chapter), the Construction Specifications Institute (Greater Orlando Chapter), International Interior Design Association (Florida Chapter), the Terrazzo Tile and Marble Association of Canada, the Tile Contractors’ Association of America, and the Tile Heritage Foundation.


Outlook 2004: The Shape, Size and Color of Things to Come
 
January 1st, 2004

by Jeffrey Steele
Jan-Feb 2004

In recent years, manufacturers, distributors, and dealers of ceramic tile have profited handsomely from strength in new residential construction. With interest rates at or near historic lows and real estate proving to be today’s best investment option, Americans haven’t had to have their arms twisted to grasp the wisdom of home ownership. The resulting boom has delivered a business bonanza for makers, distributors, and dealers of ceramic tile products.

So what’s ahead this year? Industry experts look glowingly on the next twelve months. They’re convinced 2004 will hold more of the same, but with the added sales catalyst of a revived commercial building industry and the renaissance of the retail replacement market.

In the next pages, experts weigh in with their prognostications for 2004, and the trends they believe will impact the ceramic tile industry.

SIZING UP THE MARKET

As dealers, distributors and manufacturers look forward to the New Year, they’re seeing several important trends taking shape. One of the most notable — and one impacting all markets — is the use of larger-format square tile, says Ed Steed, director of commercial sales for Laufen and U.S. Ceramic Tile Company, ceramic tile manufacturers and marketers based in North Canton, Ohio, and owned by the Barcelona-based Roca group, a global manufacturer of tile. About 90 percent of the ceramic tile sold in the US in 2002 was 12-by-12 inch and larger glazed wall and floor tile. Steed says the standard in the industry has grown from 12-inch to 16-inch tile. And more and more customers are asking for 18- and 20-inch-formats.

That observation is substantiated by Harold Yarborough, vice-president for West Fort Lauderdale-based D & B Tile Distributors, a more that 40-year old business founded by Yarborough’s father David, and one of the top dealers in the competitive South Florida market. Yarborough calls Florida “one of the leaders in trends of size.” He observes that 15 years ago in the Sunshine State, 12-by-12 was a “big size,” and that a quarter century ago 8-by-8-inch tiles were standard. Today, 16-by-16-inch dimensions are considered small in both wall and floor tile among South Florida designers and consumers. D & B Tile Distributors’ largest volume product is a 20-by-20-inch tile, and there are even 24-by-24-inch products in common use.

The reason for the growth in tile format? Says Steed: “It’s the evolution of the artistic side of the product. Larger format looks better aesthetically, and has less grout. Manufacturers are spending their time in research and development labs creating larger products.”

Along with the growth in the size of ceramic tile have come tile products almost indistinguishable from marble, stone and other hard surface offerings, Yarborough says. “The manufacturers’ technology is growing every year,” he notes. “The products are amazingly superior, year after year. The look, the quality, the textures, the style.”

Some of these new products are the result of a technology called “double pressing.” Rather than single pressing and firing, the double pressing process involves pressing a host body, glazing it, and then repressing it to fuse the whole entity together. The result is a product that mirrors the natural characteristics of stone, yet provides the technological qualities of porcelain, including ease of installation, ease of maintenance and life cycle considerations. In addition, characteristics that ensure compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements for coefficient of friction can be engineered into double pressed product, which is impossible with stone. “We’re very excited about the double press technology, because we think this stone evolution will revolutionize porcelain,” Steed says.

Also noting the enhancement in the appearance of porcelain tile is Svend Hovmand, president of Crossville, Tennessee-based Crossville Porcelain Stone, a 17-year-old manufacturer that sells almost exclusively through tile distributors to commercial end users. Hovmand says that in porcelain tile, his company is able “to make some very high-level looks. We make it very natural looking. Today, it goes into any application on the floor, and has started creeping up the walls.”

Hand in hand with this enhancement in ceramic tile aesthetics has come the growing preference for glass and metal tile, both of which are classified as ceramic tile. Increasingly used in full bathrooms to add an eye-catching brilliance to surfaces, glass tiles are also being incorporated in accents and inlays, as well as in fountains, pools and backdrops, Yarborough says. Glass tiles come in all kinds of colors, among them blues and greens. He also notes the increasing use of metal tiles, such as brushed stainless steel and rustic textured brass, many with what he terms “medallion-type imprints” cast into the metals. “It’s a very classic look, and it’s very appealing in a kitchen with all stainless steel appliances to use it in countertop backsplashes,” he says. “The brass materials can be used in a rustic atmosphere with in-laid stone in a vertical wall surface. It really is amazing what this industry does.”

Asked to name a tile manufacturer he finds especially progressive, Yarborough says there are so many that naming just one is difficult. Finally, he cites Crossville Porcelain Stone. “They’re one of the most innovative in the US market. So many of the foreign manufacturers are not focused on the American market,” but Crossville is, he observes.

Marketplace by the Numbers

TileDealer took a look at some of the numbers that define the US ceramic tile marketplace. The most complete statistics are available for 2002, when the US Census Bureau reported that factory shipments plus imports of ceramic tile totaled 2.63 billion square feet, an increase of 15-percent over 2001. In 2002, Exports increased 25.2% (from a sluggish 2001) and imports increased by 18.1 %. Domestic factory sales increased 8%.

The largest share of the US market belongs to Italy (26.9%), then US producers (22.7%), Spain (14.9%0, Mexico (11%) and Brazil (9.1%).

Italian ceramic tiles account for more than 600 million square meters of tiles annually, about 13% of world production and 43.35 of total European Union production. Exports accounted for about 72% of 2002 sales (437.7 square meters). Nearly two-thirds of the tile produced in Italy is in the porcelain category.

The Embassy of Spain -Trade Commission, Department of Tile, Stone & Building Materials reports exports (in square meters of tile) to the US of 31,466,000 square meters in 2000; 31,724,000 square meters in 2001; and 36,361,000 square meters in 2002, also reflecting a 15% increase compared to 2001.

COLORS TO WATCH FOR

According to Steed, it’s not hard to forecast the colors that will be popular this year. Neutrals have always been favorites, he says, but the trend for the past few years and into 2004 has been the use of deeper, richer neutrals, such as nocce, also known as walnut. “We don’t look at any residential line without considering nocces,” he says.

Neutrals are perennial favorites in residential applications because Americans still sell their homes on average about every seven years, and neutral colors are better accepted by potential buyers, Steed points out. The nocces, which are a medium to dark brown, imbue the residential environment with added warmth, and are not as stark as whites and beiges. In addition, they appear to be excellent at “camouflaging lifestyle,” he adds. That quality fits well with homeowners’ increasing preference for the ease of maintenance and ability to hide the wear and tear of daily life offered by tile and hardwood in general. One of the reasons tile and hardwood are gaining in the marketplace at the expense of carpet and vinyl is that they’re not only more durable, they’re more hygienic, easier to maintain and better at absorbing family lifestyles, Steed observes.

Hovmand agrees with the popularity of neutrals, but adds that one of the biggest stories in color is the increasing by tile manufacturers. “We have very broad palettes, very wide choices in color,” Hovmand observes. “Our color selection is much broader than it was just a few years ago.”

While agreeing the lighter tones of beiges, browns and nocces are dominating, another observer reports he’s seen growing demand recently for what he calls “stronger colors.” That expert is Harold Turk, executive vice president of Dallas-based Dal-Tile Corporation, the largest manufacturer and distributor of ceramic tile and natural stone in North America. Turk says the stronger colors, including reds and greens, are increasingly favored because ceramic tile and stone are fashion items in homes and require strong colors to add complementary tones to existing decor elements. “People want to use that, and are not afraid to use that,” Turk says.

As for ceramic tile in non-residential settings, Steed notes that he and his colleagues are seeing more greens, olives and darker blues in commercial applications. What’s more, grays — particularly those edging into the midcharcoal hues — are increasingly popular. Dark gray or charcoal tends to be a gender-neutral color appreciated by both men and women, he explains. When large, upscale retailers select the design schemes for their chains of stores, they look for colors that not only appeal to upscale sensibilities, but that also are not too feminine or masculine. Grays and charcoals seem bill on both criteria, Steed observes.

Color preferences aside, he also sees the commercial market seeking more concrete looks and larger sizes. Commercial purchasers will increasingly demand products that look like stone without the installation and maintenance problems of stone, Steed says.

THE FUTURE TAKES SHAPE

Steed also sees emerging trends in tile shapes. He reports that commercial applications will increasingly feature rectangular tile, in sizes such as 12-by-24, 13-by-26 and even larger. “I think it’s an aesthetic that’s been driven by design,” Steed says. “The rectangle is a shape that has deep roots in the American design community. If you looked at tile from one hundred years ago, a lot of it would be rectangular, because it replicated brick. The rectangle shape has come and gone three or four times in the last hundred years.”

He adds that one of the sizes of rectangular tile that has particularly seen its ups and downs is the 3-by-6- inch tile. Several years ago, there may have been only one or two 3-by-6-inch tiles on the market, he says. These days, there’s not a manufacturer that doesn’t make that size. “If you make wall tile, you make 3-by-6,” Steed says. Hovmand also foresees rectangular tile growing in favor. “We see tile getting bigger, with more irregular or rectangular shapes,” he says. “People are putting more emphasis on design, with different sizes and accents.”

It’s clear from the comments of experts quoted here that tile manufacturers and marketers place a great deal of emphasis on charting the psychology of tile selection by both the residential and commercial markets. And for good reason, Steed says. “We are in a fashion industry, but more important, we are in one of the most expensive parts of the fashion industry,” he notes. “If you put tile in your home, it could be the fourth most expensive purchase you make in your life.” He points out that adding one to two thousand feet of tile could turn out to be a $15,000 to $20,000 installation, and that it’s not uncommon for a homeowner selecting a high-end master bath to expend $40,000 on a tile installation. “As a manufacturer, you produce something that costs you x amount to produce, but by the time it filters through the distributor and retailer and installer, it’s more expensive yet,” Steed notes. “It goes back to the psychology. We do spend time on the psychology of the product and its intended use, but also the psychology of how you sell that to the market.”

THE OUTLOOK FOR 2004

Ceramic tile industry executives seem unanimous in their forecast for an outstanding year in 2004. The industry has benefited from a strong new housing market for the last several years, but has been hamstrung by an economic climate that tended to discourage robust commercial development and large-scale remodeling of residential housing. As the economy improves in the coming year, they see commercial building and residential renovation providing strong markets.

Turk echoes the thoughts of many other industry experts in his forecast for the year ahead. “We’re very optimistic about 2004,” he remarks. “Even if interest rates climb a bit and the residential market cools somewhat, we feel it will have only a modest impact. And the number of homes built will still be at one of the highest levels in our history. In addition, the improving economy bodes well for an improvement in commercial building.”

Steed agrees, forecasting new construction to continue at a record pace, and the builder market to remain vibrant. He also foresees an upsurge in commercial development, with all leading indicators pointing to 2004 as a strong year for commercial growth. Finally, he envisions a renaissance coming in the residential replacement, or traditional retail market. Said Steed: “It’s going to integrate us into the residential remarket in a way we haven’t been before.”


Showtime! Surfaces and Cevisama Initiate 2004 Show Calendar
 
January 1st, 2004

 

Jan-Feb 2004

The turn of the calendar to a new year – 2004 – also marks a new schedule of industry trade shows. Promotional evidence indicates that one could attend a different show, somewhere in the world, every week if time and budget allowed. However, most of us find it difficult to manage time away from business to attend even the most important shows to our businesses. This makes it even more important to select those venues where we will see the most important suppliers and manufacturers, where our businesses will get the best exposure and where the networking is most beneficial. TileDealer has researched two of the larger upcoming events, talking to prospective attendees and exhibitors about what to expect from Surfaces and Cevisama.

Surfaces 2004 is January 28-30th in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year the event is expected to draw more than 900 exhibitors of carpet, rugs, hardwood, tile, stone, marble and specialty flooring. Industry leaders say the key to understanding Surfaces is the product mix – carpet, hardwood and rugs as well as ceramic tile. This means the exhibitors and buyers are drawn from a much larger pool.

Many CTDA members choose not to attend Surfaces because they are not buying from this product mix. Others, like Steve Stone of Master Tile, will be an exhibitor at Surfaces but calls Coverings the company’s “buying show.” Stone says he views Surfaces as primarily a West Coast show with more floor coverings than tile.

The absence of some of the larger carpet manufacturers, who are adopting a different marketing tactic, will undoubtedly have some impact on the 2004 show. However, some attendees and exhibitors believe this may direct more attention to smaller exhibitors.

Cevisama is March 2 – 6, 2004, in Feria Valencia, Spain. The 2004 fair will benefit from an additional 10,000 square meters of exhibit space, the result of an expansion of the fair premises. As a result Cevisama is set to enjoy a net occupation of 86,000 square meters. Before the fair closed in 2003, over 70,000 square meters of exhibition space had already been booked for 2004. More than 17% of the participating companies will come from outside Spain, making the 22nd Cevisama the most international in the history of the fair. Despite the growing importance of bathroom exhibitions at the fair, ceramic tile continues to be the most important sector represented at Cevisama.

TileDealer talked to a number of “occasional attendees,” who have shopped Cevisama, although not necessarily every year. As one dealer pointed out, “It’s interesting to see what’s there. But if I don’t go, chances are the salesmen I would see there will show up at my door. They really do want to sell their product.” Cevisama does give exhibitors the opportunity to debut new lines.


One-on-One with Bob Daniels
 
January 1st, 2004

By Cathy Szmurlo
Jan-Feb 2004

For nearly sixty years, the Tile Council of America (TCA) has focused on expanding the U.S. ceramic tile market. Today, the council’s membership represents over 80 percent of U.S., Canadian and Mexican tile producers. Acting as an industry resource, the council offers guidelines for tile installation, provides relevant publications and conducts product and performance testing for its members. The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation, created in 1996, educates professionals about selling and installing ceramic tile through training classes.

TileDealer asked Bob Daniels, executive director of the council for nearly ten years, to give us an overview of recent changes in the ceramic tile industry. Daniels attended a seminar for major tile producers in early December in Criciuma, Brazil, where he presented on the state of the U.S. ceramic industry. His comments from the seminar plus our interviews pinpoint vital trends, challenges and changes in the industry and the council itself.

TileDealer: Before we talk about changes in the ceramics industry, can you update us on any news about the Tile Council?

Daniels: We have just announced that, effective immediately, we have changed our name to the Tile Council of North America. With NAFTA allowing for free trade between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, we see ourselves functioning as more of a coordinated industry. Although the Canadian tile industry is not very large, Mexico has five large ceramic producers. We will now be working together to promote tile, education, standards and environmental issues like factory air quality and water discharge quality. This name change shows that the council represents not only U.S. producers but also all North American manufacturers.

TileDealer: How will recent economic trends affect the tile industry?

Daniels: The U.S. economy has grown in the last two quarters of 2003, with unemployment decreasing and the gross domestic product making a jump. However, this period has been a jobless growth period, since employers are hesitant to add people, automation has increased and labor-intensive manufacturing has declined.

Despite this, I think recent tax cuts will have a positive effect on the economy. These cuts will mean most taxpayers will increase their take-home pay and the extra cash is either spent on consumer goods or invested. Either way, there is a trickle-down effect.

In terms of trends that can effect tile sales, with interest rates remaining low, home sales are increasing. With the dollar declining in value, a negative for the industry is that imported tile prices have risen. The U.S. is the largest importer of ceramic tile in the world, with about 78 percent of ceramic tile imported into the U.S.

But the demand for ceramic tile is still strong, with the strongest segment of the market coming from home remodeling. Total tile sales have increased by over 8 percent in the first half of 2003 over the same period in 2002. Sales have doubled in the past seven years and we expect 2003 to end on a strong note.

TileDealer: Why do you think tile sales are stronger right now? Daniels: There seems to be an inherent demand for ceramic tile. Tile has penetrated the market of other products and it is taking market share away from those products. For example, carpet has stayed at a certain percentage of the market while ceramic tile has increased its percentage. Tile is popular now because of:

• Better availability of tile. It is now sold in more retail floor covering stores, making it available to more consumers.

• Prices are good. Tile pricing has become more affordable for the middle class.

• More people are exposed to ceramic tile and its uses than ever before. As people travel around the world, they see what can be done with tile.

• Houses are bigger, and so are the rooms that typically use tile, like kitchens and baths.

TileDealer: What societal trends are helping to increase the popularity of tile?

Daniels: The U.S. consumer is demanding new tile styles and sizes. The use of interior designers is moving into the middle class and many are designing with tile. Baby Boomers are demanding high fashion in their homes and tile allows people to express themselves. Unlike sheet vinyl, you can do so much with it. In addition to using tile in bathrooms, I’m hearing a lot about home steam rooms. Tile is an excellent product for wet areas. Also, tile that mimics natural stone products is very popular.

TileDealer: What are some of the challenges the industry, and dealers in particular, can expect to face?

Daniels: There is clearly a lack of trained installers and personnel in the distribution and sales areas. I think young people today do not see the construction trades as desirable occupations. Many that install tile are woefully under trained.

To improve that, people have to realize there are classes available. For instance, the CTDA has Tile Training in a Box. Other organizations offer classes. At the retail level it is harder to get people motivated to go to school. Smaller shops just don’t have the time. Some train one or two key personnel to act as the lead person in that organization. But it’s just not easy to motivate them.

A lot of retail floor covering stores that now sell tile are used to selling sheet vinyl and carpet. They have to realize they can’t put tile anywhere and they have to understand the subtleties of the product. Carpet can go over everything; tile is not flexible.

New building materials and faster construction adds to the challenge of proper usage and installation of tile.

Environmental concerns including air and water quality plus the demand for recyclable materials are being studied. While tile is long lasting, it is not easy to dispose of after tear out. Ways to use industrial and municipal waste when producing tile are being studied also.

TileDealer: What positive changes can you predict for the ceramic tile industry?

Daniels: I can make several predictions about the industry.

• Tile sales will continue to increase in the U.S. and consumption will double in the next 10 to 15 years.

• Better training institutions are being developed already. For instance, the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation is teaching more tile installers in 2004 than ever before.

• Technology in home construction and tile installation products will improve. Newer tools will make the work easier.

• Tile production itself is continuously improving and there will be more productive capacity added to U.S. factories. Highly automated factories will take the place of low volume facilities. By working to educate the consumer, installer, salesperson and everyone in the ceramic tile chain, we can reach our highest goals.


“On-Hold” Time An Often-Overlooked Marketing Opportunity
 
January 1st, 2004

By Wendy Brown, Director of Public Relations, AMTC
Jan-Feb 2004

Right now the construction industry is booming. That means all types of companies are extremely busy right now, including the tile industry. But often, owners and managers overlook the first opportunity they have to create a good impression: the time telephone callers spend “on hold” before speaking with a member of staff. “Hold” time is a fact of life for every business; it is simply not possible to staff efficiently and eliminate hold time completely. If the average “hold” time is 30 seconds, a business that receives 100 calls a day, 260 business days a year, has callers on hold 200 hours a year! Many callers left in “dead air” simply hang up, and they may not call back.

Some companies play the radio on hold. However, under copyright law this requires the payment of hefty annual fees to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, the organizations that collect music royalties. Even worse, your callers could hear a radio commercial for a competing company! Playing music tapes or CDs requires the same royalties as radio. “Elevator” music is expensive and provides no marketing benefit. The best solution is a mix of music and messages about your business. It’s inexpensive, and makes otherwise dead “on hold” time productive.

There are three types of messages on-hold systems; a CD player made specifically for messages on-hold, a digital player and telephone download systems.

CDs themselves are great, but using “off the shelf ” consumer-grade CD players to play “on hold” messages doesn’t work. They’re not designed to be played continuously and will burn out quickly. The tremendous storage capacity of CDs allows for up to 99 messages totaling up to 75 minutes playing time. The CD’s never wear out and the audio clarity is excellent. Messages can be programmed into a playlist. The installation is simple; the player is plugged into the “music onhold” jack of the phone system. This system costs under $500.

A lower cost option for businesses not needing the large message capacity and programmability of CD is players using digital memory chips (about $250). The newest ones utilize removable “memory cards” like those used in digital cameras. There are no moving parts to wear out or break, so the systems provide years of trouble- and maintenance-free performance.

Another option is the “telephone download” digital player (about $300). These allow the message provider to download message updates remotely by telephone, so no staff involvement is required. Installation requires a telecom technician, but it shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes. Because downloads take only a few minutes and can be programmed to take place after-hours, the player can share an existing fax or phone line. This option is generally selected only by businesses that need to update their messages very frequently (more than four times per year).

Choose your message production vendor carefully. Avoid any vendor that insists on a contract for ongoing monthly or annual fees. Vendors that insist on a service contract are hoping you’ll forget to use the service, resulting in a “money for nothing” windfall for them. If a vendor does a good job initially, you’ll likely return for updates when you need them. Anyone that tries to lock you into a service contract obviously isn’t confident that his quality of service will make you want to return. A quality vendor will gladly sell you a player with an initial message production, and then sell you updates when you need them. “Pay as you go” means no risk.

Don’t even consider leasing. Back when on-hold players cost over $1000, leasing was a way to make them affordable for smaller businesses. The price of “on-hold” players is now so low that you can easily afford to buy one outright. Leasing an “on hold” package poses great risk. Here’s why: the message-on-hold vendor technically sells to the leasing company a package that includes a player and a number of message updates. The leasing company pays the messageon-hold vendor for the whole package in advance (including the future updates), and then turns around and leases the package to you, typically for three years. The leasing company contract specifically states that they have no responsibility for services the message-on-hold vendor is supposed to provide. If the message-on-hold vendor can’t (or won’t) perform, you’re still “on the hook” for the lease payments. Message-on-hold vendors go out of business all the time. There is simply no reason to expose yourself to this risk.

Message topics are limited only by your imagination. Promote your company’s products, detail new techniques and introduce incentives. Low-key information, not a hard sales pitch, is the key. The caller should never think you put them on hold just to “pitch” them. Frequently thank the caller for holding. Don’t be afraid to be creative and entertaining. Callers will really enjoy the messages, and you’ll turn them into satisfied clients.

 

Wendy Brown is Director of Public Relations for Applied Media Technologies Corporation, (AMTC) a Florida-based electronics manufacturing company. AMTC is the market leader in “on hold” messaging systems and pioneered the use of CD and removable memory card technology in “on-hold” player equipment. It serves over 12,000 clients worldwide, including Adecco, Bally Total Fitness, Continental Airlines and Morgan Stanley. www.amtc.com

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