One-on-One with Enzo Mularoni
September 1st, 2004


By Janet Arden September-October 2004

TileDealer recently talked with Enzo Mularoni, CEO of the Del Conca-Faetano-Pastorelli Group, Vice President of Assopiastrelle, and Tiles of Italy representative on the Coverings Board of Directors, about what attendees can expect from the upcoming Cersaie 2004 exhibition, as well as Coverings 2005. Read on for his insight on the tile industry and the role he sees for the Italian manufacturing/American distribution partnership.

TileDealer: Tell us about your companies.

Mularoni: My father and I founded Ceramica del Conca 25 years ago. After taking over a small, existing company and laying down the basis for future expansion, we then took over Faetana, a company in San Marino. [Faetana] has now become the holding company for the group, followed by Ceramiche Pastorelli in January 2003. Today the Del Conca-Faetano-Pastorelli group employs over 500 people and has a year-end expected gross of $150 million, primarily thanks to exports, which-in the United States alone- will reach $40 million.

TileDealer: To what do you credit this success?

Mularoni: The willingness-from the outset-to embrace technical innovations has been essential to the continued growth of our company. From the beginning, for example, we were among the first to use a roller kiln, the use of which garnered the “Eta Award” for our plant. In the early 90s, we had faith in the development of glazed porcelain stoneware as the best solution for consumers wanting a product that was attractive but also reliable. In 2000, from the point of view of service to the distributors, we invested heavily in finding the most efficient way to ship small consignments safely.

TileDealer: How big is the marketplace for Italian tile?

Mularoni: During 2003 the Italian tile industry produced over 600 million square meters, with an equivalent value of $6.2 billion. These figures have essentially remained stable since 2002. Our industry has an outstanding appetite for exporting. Last year we exported 72-percent of our product, which is not only an industry record, but also an indication of just how highly the world values Ceramic Tiles of Italy. From the more than 180 countries with which we maintain commercial relationships, the three most significant are the United States, France and Germany. The first two [countries] order approximately 70 million square meters and the third approximately 56 million square meters.

TileDealer: What do you expect to see in terms of product at Cersaie 2004? What new materials, finishes or processes will be shown for the first time?

Mularoni: Cersaie is very much like the largest, most comprehensive international shop window for ceramic tiles and bathroom furnishings. More than 1,000 exhibitors-some 500 who are from the tile industry-traditionally take advantage of this occasion to present their new offerings. I think this year, as usual, we will see new directions in aesthetics as well as functionality, but specifically in the areas of porcelain stoneware; single-firing, clinker and double-firing tiles; surface effects; and size. I think that this year, more than ever we can expect to see truly new innovations.

TileDealer: What new design directions do you anticipate?

Mularoni: If up until a few years ago the main trends have been either minimalist or had a rustic look, then today we are moving toward the chromatic and the figurative. That said, I don’t think we will see one single trend emerging for this year for the simple reason that as demand for ceramic tiles grows throughout the world, we need to accommodate diverse aesthetics.

TileDealer: What should North American visitors to Cersaie look for?

Mularoni: Innovation is always a driving force at Cersaie. At Cersaie everything is avant-garde. From the newest designs to the latest in technology and applications, Cersaie is the place to exhibit the industry’s most progressive offerings. That and the breadth of representation at the show are why at least 25,000 visitors come to Bologna from all over the world. The presence of the best exhibitors from 33 countries makes it possible to get to know what’s state-of-the-art around the world, just by visiting Cersaie.

TileDealer: From a business standpoint, do you expect this market to be bigger, smaller, or the same as the 2003 event and why?

Mularoni: At an international level we are seeing an economic recovery, which should stimulate the demand for ceramic tiles even more. During this time it will be very important to understand where we can develop a stronger presence. It is evident that even the non-residential sector of the building industry could see some positive developments stemming from porcelain stoneware. We predict an overall growth with total sales of +1.9-percent this year and of +2.3-percent in 2005, mainly as a result of an increase in exportation.

TileDealer: We know the Chinese marketplace is significant. Where and how does it compete with Italian tile? Where and how much Italian tile is being sold in China?

Mularoni: Roughly two billion square meters of tile are being produced in China mainly for internal consumption. We estimate that approximately 150 million square meters of that are being exported, mostly to neighboring areas in the Far East, although some is beginning to appear on both the Atlantic coast of the United States and in Europe. The Italian tile industry and the Chinese tile industry have very different business strategies. While we place an importance on specialization and on a superior level of service, China is more concerned with low prices and standardization. Considering that until not long ago China was practically closed to the importation of luxury products made in Italy, I have to admit that today there is a significant appreciation for our tiles there. In fact, some Italian ceramics companies have even made agreements with local distributors to open single vendor sales outlets, and are looking forward to putting down deep roots there.

TileDealer: How much has the weak dollar (versus the Euro) impacted sales in this country?

Mularoni: The weak dollar has seriously reduced the margins on our sales in the United States, but the Italian tile industry is resolute in maintaining a solid trading relationship. I have been happy to notice that the distribution network has been very understanding about this difficulty in general and has accepted price increases to offset, at least partially, the exchange losses. This is an important point, because it confirms that the nature of the relationship between the Italian tile industry and American tile distribution is truly one of partnership.

TileDealer: Please tell me about your role at Coverings. What are your goals for Coverings 2005?

Mularoni: Already Coverings brings in about 30,000 visitors and is considered by many an event not to be missed, but our goals are to continue to enhance the significance of this exhibition, to expand the scope of international representation among the exhibitors, and to increase the number of visitors to what is the primary point of contact with the American market.

TileDealer: TileDealer goes to more than 10,000 dealers and distributors. What else would you like them to know about your company and the Italian tile industry?

Mularoni: For more than 30 years, the Italian tile industry and the distribution network in the United States has enjoyed a trade relationship than can only be described as the best of partnerships. In a time of rapid change, this strong foundation will serve us all well as we face these new challenges together.

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