One-on-One with Bruce DePasquale
May 1st, 2004


By Cathy Szmurlo May-Jun 2004

After some 30 years in the ceramic tile industry, Bruce DePasquale has made a big move to the operations side of the business. Since October, he’s been brand manager for ceramic tile and natural stone for carpet manufacturer Shaw Industries.

DePasquale began as a licensed ceramic tile contractor in the state of California, where he was active for several years and then decided to sell retail. In the 1980s, he worked for the largest marble and stone importer in the country. He also became regional sales manager and then national sales and marketing manager for Villeroy and Boch, which, he says, was the largest manufacturer in the world at the time. A stint as vice president of sales and marketing for Laufen was followed by creation of his own consulting firm, where he worked with a Spanish tile manufacturer and a granite supplier in the U.S.

DePasquale says his recent appointment by Shaw has been met with a lot of positive feedback. “People view my addition by Shaw as a commitment to the ceramic tile industry.”

TileDealer recently spoke to DePasquale about Shaw’s expansion into tile markets. We wanted to learn his thoughts on the differences between manufacturers and distributors, as well as where he thinks the industry will be in the next five years.

TileDealer: You have been familiar with the ceramic tile industry for some time. What background knowledge do you bring to this new venture for Shaw?

DePasquale: My background has been primarily with the manufacturing sector selling to distributors. I believe that Shaw, while not being a manufacturer, should act and think as one in its approach to the market. I will bring that attitude, vision and thinking to the products that my team develops for them.

TileDealer: In your opinion, how does a manufacturer’s thinking differ from a distributor’s thinking?

DePasquale: The biggest difference is that as a distributor your options are really limitless as far as product style and design. You have available to you so many different levels of manufacturing – from the very simplistic to the very stylized. If you are a distributor, you can purchase any one of these, provided your customer base can handle it.

But if you are a manufacturer, you are limited to the capacity and the technology that your factory can accommodate.

TileDealer:: What makes this an ideal time for Shaw to expand into the tile industry?

DePasquale: Well, Shaw has been in the tile business for a while now, so the question is a little misstated. Generally speaking, it is no secret that tile is one of the flooring products that has had consistent growth over the last decade, and I can’t think of anyone that believes that growth is going to stop.

TileDealer: You have been involved with ceramic tile manufacturers, distributors and now Shaw. What are the major differences between the three?

DePasquale: What a great question, unfortunately it would take an entire magazine to answer it. Manufacturers tend to be pretty myopic, meaning that they are focused on keeping their kilns operating at full capacity – hopefully driven by demand, of course. That is the key to their success. Costs are critical to control, and quarter pennies mean something to them.

Distributors are different within their own group. Between the traditional tile distributor and the full service floorcovering distributor, there is a wide range of differences. The one thing they have in common is their need for inventory control, expense containment and turn and earn. Manufacturers motto: Loaded and Loyal… Distributors motto: Turn and Earn. Crash!

Shaw is both a manufacturer, albeit not ceramic tile, and a distributor. We have a unique situation in that we can deliver to our customer a complete house of flooring products. While it is impossible to be all things to everyone, we can come pretty close to that where flooring is concerned.

TileDealer: How will Shaw differentiate its long-standing carpet markets with the tile and stone markets? Do you anticipate tile and stone taking away some of your current market share?

DePasquale: Well, no one can ignore the growth of tile and stone in the market, so our long-standing carpet customers are seeing the value of these products. There is no need to differentiate – educate yes, differentiate, no.

Tile and stone take away from our current market share? We consider it gaining market share. As I stated earlier, no one can ignore this product segment’s growth and consumer acceptance. Shaw is not going to watch others service this important product group and not participate.

TileDealer: Carpet seems to have a broad market appeal when it comes to color and style. For instance, beige is equally popular in Tampa as it is in Seattle. But tile preferences seem to be more regional – what works in Phoenix may not work in Minneapolis. How does a national company like Shaw address this difference?

DePasquale: The only regional difference we see now with tile is color – the stone look is everywhere you go. Shaw has done extensive research on regional color preferences. We make sure that a color palette for a particular product crosses over the national scope of color selections. Sometimes a product can be done in only three colors – sometimes it takes more.

TileDealer: What do you think the company will gain or learn from involvement with the tile industry and CTDA?

DePasquale: I, personally, have been involved with the CTDA for a long time. Sometimes you are a member of an organization to support it, not just because you are looking at it as a supplier of valuable knowledge, although I will welcome all it can offer. I look forward to the management seminars where valuable industry information is shared and there is the opportunity to meet with other executives in the industry and exchange ideas.

TileDealer: In your opinion, what will the tile industry look like in 5 years?

DePasquale: I am not sure what we will have in the way of products. It seems we have been in the stone look stage for a long, long time, but I haven’t seen any real threats to it. I guess eventually we will run out of rocks to copy.

From a distribution standpoint, I see more consolidation or elimination of smaller distributors, except in the smallest of markets. The large distributors are growing and the Shaw’s of the world are getting stronger. I see the remaining distributors taking more control of their markets, either by starting contracting companies (directly or indirectly) or by expanding their services to offer more of a full service program for their customers, and of course, using Shaw as their source of supply.

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