Leadership Letter
 
January 1st, 2007

January-February 2007

Our mission is clear

Like most organizations today, CTDA has a mission statement around which we build our programs and shape initiatives. CTDA’s mission is to “provide educational and networking opportunities for distributors of ceramic tile and their suppliers to further the consumption of ceramic tile.” You don’t have to look far in the association to see how much we do to support that statement.

CTDA educational opportunities have multiplied in the last few years. For example: Online Education is just a click away at www.ctdahome.org/onlineedu. This self-directed study program available 24/7 conveniently puts training into the hands of anyone who needs it, including new employees and seasoned veterans. Now you—and your employees—no longer have a reason not to become fully versed on the Basics of Ceramic Tile and Sales Techniques to move your inventory.

Tile Training in a Box has been updated to include new materials on the growing stone category, allowing you to expand your training along with your product line. If you haven’t used tile Training in a Box to introduce a new employee to the industry or as a refresher for existing employees, you are missing a wonderful opportunity to tap the benefits of CTDA membership with this easy-to-implement training program. All the topics you need to cover really do come in easy-to-use materials in a box, including PowerPoint presentations. TileDealer magazine continues to deliver news about product introductions, installation and trends in every issue. Take a look at the following pages for inspiration about the latest color trends, new products, the marketplace in 2007 and more.

Get certified! Perhaps the most exciting news is that the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program has been successfully tested and is ready for implementation in 2007. This program was developed by ceramic tile sales professionals with the assistance of Southern Illinois University (SIU). Successful completion of the CCTS demonstrates industry knowledge and the necessary skills set to meet customers’ growing demands in the ceramic tile business. It is designed for ceramic tile sales professionals with a minimum of two years in the industry.

The launch of CCTS is yet another milestone in CTDA’s 27-year history of developing and maintaining a strong ceramic tile industry. Thanks to many tile professionals who took the time to take the test at Coverings and again at the Management Conference, we have enough results to verify our results. This is an important step in defining CCTS and in making it the industry-wide certification we believe it will become. CCTS testing will also be available at Coverings 2007. non-stop networking

If you are like most attendees at the CTDA Management Conference last November, you went back to your business ready to try a wealth of new ideas, from dealing with generation Y (Kelly McDonald) to improving your bottom line (Al Bates). I personally appreciated Tom Roland’s presentation on Homeland Security and its impact on imports and Paul Laudicina’s presentation on the factors that will be shaping our business in the near future. Of course, if you were at the Management Conference you also enjoyed the networking opportunities it presented, from informal coffee breaks to the Distributor Roundtables. This networking is the heart and soul of CTDA. If you were not an attendee I hope you will mark your calendar right now and plan to attend the 2007 event, November 7-11 at Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort, Dana Point, California.

Networking in CTDA doesn’t stop with the Management Conference or even with a trade mission to Turkey. It’s picking up the phone and calling another member to ask how he solved a problem or if she knows a vendor. If you aren’t leveraging that part of your membership, you are missing some terrific opportunities to learn more and grow your business.

Best wishes for a successful 2007!

 


From the Editor’s Desk: What’s so great about January?
 
January 1st, 2007

by Janet Arden, Editor

January-February 2007

Welcome to a new year, not just a new page on the calendar, but a whole new calendar. This is the season of fresh starts. New products and new programs. If—like me—you are a supporter of the glass-half-full-philosophy, there is no better time than now.

I also think of January as a new year for TileDealer. We have a new CTDA president, Doug Miles, writing the Leadership Letter. (Welcome, Doug.) And, starting with this issue, we also have a new series called Showroom Seminar. Showroom Seminar is designed to be a resource for our readers, tackling basic tile information for your customers: what tile can I install in bathrooms and what can I use in a foyer? What is large format? Will it work in my kitchen? How do I clean ceramic tile? Although we like to think every page of every issue is a resource for you, this page is designed to cover the basics in issue after issue to come. Tear it out and post it, copy it or file it in a notebook for your sales staff. But use it. And tell us what additional topics Showroom Seminar should cover in upcoming issues.

The rest of this issue of TileDealer is equally informative. Zoe Voigt’s look at the industry marketplace covers a lot of valuable territory. I hope you read it carefully. We’ve all read the statistics that say housing is in a real slump and we’ve seen the “For Sale” signs that seem to be permanent fixtures in some front yards. But the tile business continues to grow, especially in certain sectors. The Tile Council of North America expects year-end consumption to be 3.474 billion sq. ft. or 6.6% over 2005. And they aren’t alone in their outlook. Where, how and why is the marketplace? This is information you can and should use.

Have we seen the end of beige? Probably not, but tile is also taking on some richer, earthier tones. Deeper browns, golds and even greens are back as are a more flamboyant mix of reds, coppers, and blues. Texture is everywhere, giving any color more interest. How will you adapt this to your showroom and your product mix? Finally, we’ve been trying to get Michael Mariutto to sit down for a One-on-One for some time and he finally has. Like so many people in this industry, he comes from generations of tile professionals. But Michael has also put a new spin on how he does business, and we thought you would enjoy learning how and why he does it.

Looking ahead, we’ll be seeing many of you in person in the next few months, first at Surfaces and then at Coverings. Like you we’ll be looking for what’s new in the marketplace, for the tip or trend we can share with readers. We look forward to the hunt and to seeing you along the way.

Enjoy this issue of TileDealer!


Opposites Attract
 
January 1st, 2007

January-February 2007

By Barbara Schirmeister, ASID

In flooring, consumers are now open to more color and saturation—particularly when there is a complex interplay among color, hue, texture and sheen.

The saying, “opposites attract,” perfectly describes the personalities of the two main color directions for next year and beyond. For these hues not only attract, but complement one another, reflecting a balanced approach to the use of color in our environment. This is quite evident when we look at the 2007-2008 forecast for residential and commercial interiors from the Color Association of the United States, New York City (CAUS)—an organization which forecasts color trends for manufacturers of environmental and interior products.

The two main influences couldn’t be more opposite

On the one hand, we have Theatrics, which conjures up descriptive words such as fantasy, artificial, energetic, dramatic, exotic, mysterious, flamboyant and the desire for travel/escapism. Also, kinetic lighting, producing the exciting energy of color and light in motion, contributes to this direction.

Conversely, there is the Eco or Green Design Movement, which brings to mind all things natural, organic, real, relaxed, tranquil, simple, innocent, subtle and the trend to nesting. There is a fascination with animals in the wild, resulting in an upsurge in patterns and colors from the animal kingdom. This direction makes use of natural light to enhance the spectrum: Lots of glass or disappearing doors bring the outdoors in, affording views of nature; plus, full-spectrum lighting can replicate sunlight.

Looking at the new color palette, we see that candy-colored pastels, muddied hues and garish brights are declining. Overall, the warmth of the palette continues, reflecting the environmental influence and the shifting of interest to southern regions. Stark whites, for instance, are being replaced with colored off-whites and mid-tone neutrals. Brights are softer, rich yet subdued. Colors in general are more saturated, more weighted.

The darks, very absent since 9/11, are back. There are many saturated, luxurious deep hues, as well as the emerging blackened colors, such as bluish-charcoal, seaweed, rusted iron and Concord grape.

Texture and textural effects continue to add new dimensions to color—nothing is flat; depth of color can also be achieved through saturation, reflection, colored lighting and special effects. The new darks are enhanced with sheen and sparkle. Embroidery and crystals, riding on the popularity of glass, add shimmer. Colors appear crystallized. Many wall coverings have the effect of sparkling, beaded glass. Paint often has texture or a layered effect, with metallic and pearl finishes being used as a glaze over matte and eggshell finishes. In flooring, consumers are now open to more color and saturation—particularly when there is a complex interplay among color, hue, texture and sheen. Crossville’s new Buenos Aires Mood series of Porcelain Stone tile, for example, has three surface textures, subtle shading and saturated color that flows from tile to tile with great fluidity.

Eco-colors and “green” products are growing in popularity in all markets, signaling increasing consumer awareness of environmental concerns, including global warming. For 2007-2008, the palette is anchored by colored neutrals and neutralized colors, used on their own or as a background to mid-tones. Within the neutral palette, an emphasis is on the brown family, by far the most important of the new neutrals; also watch for the soft greens, golds, off-whites, weathered grays and the metallics with silver, bronze, gold and copper tones.

The following color families will take center stage in 2007-2008

The brown family expands, forming an entire new palette with chromatic undercurrents—taupe, toast, chocolate, bronze, coffee bean, raisin, and the mid-tone caramels.

A family in itself, copper’s rich tones range from apricot to terracotta to deep rust. Not only a metal that can be burnished or polished, copper is a “color” found in natural leather, autumn leaves and clay. It is now appearing on many furnishings products, from paint to luxurious upholstery fabrics.

Saturated reds, playful pinks and exotic purples. While hues in the red family are not considered eco-colors, they can be theatrical colors, delivering warmth, excitement and punch.

Wonderful blues: In addition to the deep blues, there are more tranquil blues on the horizon, with new tones emerging.

Yellowed greens, the cleaner, olive tones and a multitude of complex new bronzes that can shift in color.

The golds remain extremely important. Watch for glowing gold tones such as rich camels, deep ambers and many burnished shades of both green and red gold.

Individualism is the key; there is something for everyone in this year’s color forecast. Whichever color direction consumers or specifiers take, their overriding goal will be to create a unique look—color combinations that are true and meaningful for their individual lifestyle or project. Yet, despite a growing consumer and specifier demand for more color choices, the experts agree that the mid-tones will dominate in popularity. These emerging mid-tones are pleasing to the eye, easy to work with and very livable.

Barbara Schirmeister, ASID, has been a longtime member of the Color Association of the United States (CAUS) Interiors Committee, helping to formulate the annual Environmental/ Interiors Forecast palette. She has served for many years as color consultant to a number of major companies, including Crossville, Inc.; American Standard; Unisys; Motorola; Pantone; Eastman Kodak and Hunter Douglas, among others.


Opposites Attract
 
January 1st, 2007

January-February 2007

By Barbara Schirmeister, ASID

In flooring, consumers are now open to more color and saturation—particularly when there is a complex interplay among color, hue, texture and sheen.

The saying, “opposites attract,” perfectly describes the personalities of the two main color directions for next year and beyond. For these hues not only attract, but complement one another, reflecting a balanced approach to the use of color in our environment. This is quite evident when we look at the 2007-2008 forecast for residential and commercial interiors from the Color Association of the United States, New York City (CAUS)—an organization which forecasts color trends for manufacturers of environmental and interior products.

The two main influences couldn’t be more opposite

On the one hand, we have Theatrics, which conjures up descriptive words such as fantasy, artificial, energetic, dramatic, exotic, mysterious, flamboyant and the desire for travel/escapism. Also, kinetic lighting, producing the exciting energy of color and light in motion, contributes to this direction.

Conversely, there is the Eco or Green Design Movement, which brings to mind all things natural, organic, real, relaxed, tranquil, simple, innocent, subtle and the trend to nesting. There is a fascination with animals in the wild, resulting in an upsurge in patterns and colors from the animal kingdom. This direction makes use of natural light to enhance the spectrum: Lots of glass or disappearing doors bring the outdoors in, affording views of nature; plus, full-spectrum lighting can replicate sunlight.

Looking at the new color palette, we see that candy-colored pastels, muddied hues and garish brights are declining. Overall, the warmth of the palette continues, reflecting the environmental influence and the shifting of interest to southern regions. Stark whites, for instance, are being replaced with colored off-whites and mid-tone neutrals. Brights are softer, rich yet subdued. Colors in general are more saturated, more weighted.

The darks, very absent since 9/11, are back. There are many saturated, luxurious deep hues, as well as the emerging blackened colors, such as bluish-charcoal, seaweed, rusted iron and Concord grape.

Texture and textural effects continue to add new dimensions to color—nothing is flat; depth of color can also be achieved through saturation, reflection, colored lighting and special effects. The new darks are enhanced with sheen and sparkle. Embroidery and crystals, riding on the popularity of glass, add shimmer. Colors appear crystallized. Many wall coverings have the effect of sparkling, beaded glass. Paint often has texture or a layered effect, with metallic and pearl finishes being used as a glaze over matte and eggshell finishes. In flooring, consumers are now open to more color and saturation—particularly when there is a complex interplay among color, hue, texture and sheen. Crossville’s new Buenos Aires Mood series of Porcelain Stone tile, for example, has three surface textures, subtle shading and saturated color that flows from tile to tile with great fluidity.

Eco-colors and “green” products are growing in popularity in all markets, signaling increasing consumer awareness of environmental concerns, including global warming. For 2007-2008, the palette is anchored by colored neutrals and neutralized colors, used on their own or as a background to mid-tones. Within the neutral palette, an emphasis is on the brown family, by far the most important of the new neutrals; also watch for the soft greens, golds, off-whites, weathered grays and the metallics with silver, bronze, gold and copper tones.

The following color families will take center stage in 2007-2008

The brown family expands, forming an entire new palette with chromatic undercurrents—taupe, toast, chocolate, bronze, coffee bean, raisin, and the mid-tone caramels.

A family in itself, copper’s rich tones range from apricot to terracotta to deep rust. Not only a metal that can be burnished or polished, copper is a “color” found in natural leather, autumn leaves and clay. It is now appearing on many furnishings products, from paint to luxurious upholstery fabrics.

Saturated reds, playful pinks and exotic purples. While hues in the red family are not considered eco-colors, they can be theatrical colors, delivering warmth, excitement and punch.

Wonderful blues: In addition to the deep blues, there are more tranquil blues on the horizon, with new tones emerging.

Yellowed greens, the cleaner, olive tones and a multitude of complex new bronzes that can shift in color.

The golds remain extremely important. Watch for glowing gold tones such as rich camels, deep ambers and many burnished shades of both green and red gold.

Individualism is the key; there is something for everyone in this year’s color forecast. Whichever color direction consumers or specifiers take, their overriding goal will be to create a unique look—color combinations that are true and meaningful for their individual lifestyle or project. Yet, despite a growing consumer and specifier demand for more color choices, the experts agree that the mid-tones will dominate in popularity. These emerging mid-tones are pleasing to the eye, easy to work with and very livable.

Barbara Schirmeister, ASID, has been a longtime member of the Color Association of the United States (CAUS) Interiors Committee, helping to formulate the annual Environmental/ Interiors Forecast palette. She has served for many years as color consultant to a number of major companies, including Crossville, Inc.; American Standard; Unisys; Motorola; Pantone; Eastman Kodak and Hunter Douglas, among others.


Industry Insights
 
January 1st, 2007

January-February 2007

Q.E.P. Promotes Clingan to Senior Vice President

Q.E.P. CO., INC. announced the promotion of Jamie Clingan to Senior Vice President of International Marketing. In her new role, Ms. Clingan will be responsible for the Company’s direct import programs to all large volume buyers and customers globally, direct selling within the China domestic market, expansion of existing product lines and strategic realignments of current and potential target markets served. Lewis Gould, Q.E.P.’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, stated: “Ms. Clingan has been with the company for over 12 years. She has traveled to all of our international subsidiaries and spent last month working in our China Buying Office, visiting vendors and contacting both international and domestic American retailers. Jamie has a unique knowledge of our business and is highly qualified for this position.”

MARMO MACHINERY USA APPOINTMENTS

Marmo Machinery USA announced the appointments of Keton Sompura as CNC specialist to handle the increased demand for CNC machinery and Eric Fitzgerald and Mike Johnson as service technicians. Sompura is responsible for installation, service and training for the company’s extensive line of CNC machines and software, including the CTEC-2, CTEC-3 and the new CTEC-3A machines. For the last six years he has been a skilled machinist working exclusively on CNC machines at the company’s Southfield, Michigan headquarters. Fitzgerald brings several years of machine knowledge to his new position. He is responsible for installing and servicing CNC machines, bridge saws, and edge polishing machines. Johnson also has an extensive background in the machine industry. His responsibilities include installing and servicing CNC machines, bridge saws, and edge profilers. Johnson & Fitzgerald will spend most of their time traveling to shops around the country.

LATICRETE UNIVERSITY SHOLARSHIPS

LATICRETE International founder and chairman emeritus, Dr. Henry M. Rothberg, has made a major financial contribution to fund 20 scholarships annually for students to pursue a degree in chemical engineering at his alma mater, the University of South Carolina’s School of Chemical Engineering. Today the Henry M. Rothberg Bicentennial Scholarships are a powerful recruiting tool used by the School of Chemical Engineering at USC. “Rothberg Scholars” represent the top 5 percent of their graduating high school class and have SAT scores that average 100 points higher than other students enrolled in chemical engineering at the university. In order to qualify, applicants must be a U.S. citizen and maintain a B average or higher. With the enrollment numbers for chemical engineering on the decline at universities across the country, the Rothberg Scholarship program has helped USC maintain a stable level of enrollment. Dr. Rothberg, a graduate of the University of South Carolina’s School of Chemical Engineering, founded LATICRETE International in 1956. His dedication to the science of chemical engineering not only fueled the success of LATICRETE International; it is now offering students at the University of South Carolina the opportunity to pursue their own success within that profession. Tile and stone industry members and their families are encouraged to apply for these Rothberg– LATICRETE scholarships by contacting the admissions department at the University of South Carolina.

NTCA unveils new logo

In honor of its upcoming 60th anniversary, the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) has commissioned a new logo. The new design was developed by the Brazilian firm Opera Designs, with the assistance of Davis Leichsenring, owner of Holland Tile, a Rockville, Md., tile contractor. The image symbolizes that the association has its base in tile. The original logo was a trefoil design of stylized mosaics, stone and terrazzo—all materials important to the tile contractor. The new logo is part of NTCA’s goal of raising its visibility, starting in its 60th year. “The NTCA board of directors and staff felt that an increased dedication to public relations, marketing and awareness of our products and services to the trade was essential to our growth,” said Bart Bettiga, NTCA executive director. “A new logo indicates a new approach to the industry. This logo reassures our members and the industry that NTCA staff and board of directors are building awareness about the benefits our products and services bring to various segments of the industry: builders, architects, general contractors and consumers. The logo emphasizes that companies supporting this association —as well as association members—are serious about maintaining highly professional and ethical standards in their business approaches, and are committed to staying informed about all technical matters relating to proper tile installation.” Beginning in January, NTCA will feature the new logo prominently on all materials, literature, advertising, websites, and promotional items.

ILVA TEAMS UP WITH D&B TILE DISTRIBUTORS

Ilva S.A., leading Argentinean producer of porcelain tile, recently teamed up with Harold Yarborough to make Ilva’s industry leading products available at D&B Tile Distributors, one of the largest tile distributors in the United States. With nine locations in Central and Southern Florida, D&B Tile Distributors now offers Ilva’s Oxide, Pietre Traventine, Crema Marfil and Pietra Patagonica tile series to buyers in yet another convenient location. Ilva’s high quality products created with advanced and unique technology make Ilva a leading competitor in the international market. “Ilva has some exciting new products,” said Harold Yarborough, vice president/general manager of D&B Tile. “But they have exciting products that have become classics, too. One of the best things about Ilva is that its tile always has perfect coloration. It’s partly due to the manufacturing process but also because of the unique designs. We feel Ilva’s products appeal to a wide variety of clients, from residential remodelers to commercial clients, as well as our architectural and design orientated client base. There is just a lot of potential there.”

MARBLE & GRANITE GALLERY APPOINTMENTS

The Marble & Granite Gallery announces the appointments of Julie Gilbert as design consultant and Bobby Goetzke as outside sales representative. Gilbert brings several years of design experience to her new position. Her responsibilities include working with fabricators and individuals to select stone materials and make thematic and design choices. She is also responsible for administrative tasks such as generating quotes and pricing lists, and completing and processing orders. Goetzke has an extensive background in the marble and granite industry. He will spend part of his time in the showroom educating customers on various stone materials, as well as helping them select among a wide variety of colors and styles. The remainder of his time will be spent outside the Gallery generating new contacts and meeting with customers and designers.

ASCER, ASSOPIASTRELLE, NTCA, AND TCNA SUPPORT CTEF EDUCATION

The Association of Ceramic Tile Manufacturers of Spain (ASCER), The Association of Italian Ceramic Tile & Refractory Manufacturers (Assopiastrelle), and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) join the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and other industry supporters in addressing the growing need for trained tile installers in America. According to Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) Executive Director, Dave Gobis, these organizations are committed to helping CTEF expand and provide more installation training nationwide. In addition to financial donations, TCNA and NTCA will be providing two instructors to CTEF, Stephanie Samulski and Gerald Sloan, to teach courses and workshops that deliver hands-on techniques and the latest information on standards. The board of CTEF is well-represented and committed to expanding installation education in our industry, said Mr. Svend Hovmand, Chairman of Crossville and President of the Board of Directors of CTEF. Distributors, contractors, domestic manufacturers, and foreign manufacturers are all represented with the recent additions of Mr. Harold Yarborough of D & B Tile, Ms. Patti Fasan of Professional Attention to Tile Installation, representing ASCER, and Mr. Donato Grosser of D. Grosser and Associates, representing Assopiastrelle. Other board members are Jim Isaminger with DMI Tile and Marble, Eric Astrachan with TCNA, Bart Bettiga with NTCA, Steve Rausch with Georgia-Pacific Dens-Shield, and Peter Nielsen of Schluter Systems. “Over the past ten years, the number of tile installers has not kept pace with large increases in the amount of tile manufactured abroad and sold in the U.S. Clearly, this shortage will impact the future growth of our market. We are excited by the participation of our European colleagues in the continued growth of CTEF and the positive impact this will have on quality installation education,” said Eric Astrachan, Executive Director of TCNA. “CTEF’s objective is to expand our curriculum and course availability on an even greater national scope with this infusion of resources and financial support,” remarked Mr. Gobis. “We have grown due to the generous support of manufacturers and the Tile Council, but this new surge of industry support will take us to the next level.”

Richard Anderson Joins Esquire

Richard Anderson has joined the Esquire brand sales team as Sales Manager for the East Coast. He is based in Rhode Island. Anderson, a 20-year tile industry veteran, comes directly to Esquire from a five-year tenure with American Marazzi, where he served as Northeast Sales Manager. Previously, he worked for fifteen years with an East Coast tile distributor. “Anderson’s background in both sales and distribution brings real strength to the Esquire team,” states Clyde Black, Vice President of Distributor Sales for Florim USA. “He has a great understanding of his customers’ needs because he has been there himself.” Anderson’s knowledge of the East Coast territory is also a solid advantage.

SICIS UNVEILS NEW SHOWROOM

Sicis, the world-renowned producer of Italian mosaics recently unveiled its 13,000 square foot showroom at 470 Broome Street—a landmark building in the heart of SoHo’s cast-iron district. The U.S. flagship showroom opened on Monday, July 24th. The opening of Sicis in New York City will centralize distribution in the U.S. market. Sicis believes in providing an extremely efficient distribution system in addition to offering exceptional product. In addition, the showroom will support the marketing of Sicis Collections for authorized Sicis Dealers and Distributors nationwide. Known as “The Art Factory” for its quality, creativity and innovation, Sicis designed this showroom with the objective of showcasing the infinite possibilities of mosaic. Over 25,000 square feet of mosaics were imported from Ravenna, Italy to decorate the three floors of the building. The first level has a glass floor which has been covered in mosaic and illuminated from beneath, creating an evocative futuristic setting. Twenty-eight colorful panels introduce Sicis’ newest mosaic collection, Flower Power. The beauty of the Flower Power Collection is emphasized by the brilliancy, transparency and dynamism provided by the mosaics. The floor of the lower level was lowered an additional 3 feet to allow maximum showcase space. The floor masterfully combines 43 patterns of classic white on white marble and glass mosaic, highlighted with a dazzling assortment of Sicis’ famous mosaic rug patterns.

COLWELL INDUSTRIES ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENTS

Colwell Industries, Inc. announces the promotion of Donovan Freeland to President, Indiana Operations, and Robert Cook to Executive Vice President of their Kendallville, Indiana, facility, and the addition of Phillip Fourie to its Toronto, Canada sales and marketing team. Freeland will oversee all aspects of Colwell’s Indiana manufacturing facilities and will continue to head up domestic sales efforts. Freeland joined Colwell in 1978 and has held various management positions in manufacturing and sales of coated and non-coated products. Cook will oversee all aspects of production including matching and coating, printing, finishing, engineering, logistics and Lean Manufacturing. Fourie will be responsible for developing new markets for Colwell’s direct color deposit business and supporting existing accounts. He comes to Colwell with an extensive background in advertising, marketing and publishing.

MIA ANNOUNCES UPDATE OF DESIGN MANUAL

The Marble Institute of America (MIA) has announced that an update of its acclaimed Dimension Stone Design Manual (Version VII) will be published in January 2007. The manual is the most authoritative technical resource in the industry, used by thousands of natural stone contractors, design professionals, and construction specifiers. “There is a great deal of new and modified information in Version VII,” said Charles J. Muehlbauer, technical director for the Marble Institute of America, the world’s leading resource for information on dimension stone and its applications. “Among the many updates, the highlight is the modernization of the drawing details,” he added. Among major additions are information on the “Green” movement as it relates to stone, modified details on using stone in wet areas, clarification of the information on tile setting methods, 75 new terms in the glossary, and incorporation of the most current countertop specifications. Version VII also includes modification of the vertical surfaces anchorage descriptions, modified cleaning and maintenance methodologies, a new chapter on soapstone and much more. www.marble-institute.com

Siri North America

Siri North America was formed in August 2006 by Ron Rongholt and David Jost. It is located at 7635 W. Oklahoma Ave., Suite 208—Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53219. All products are stored and shipped directly out of Boca Raton, Florida. Ron and David have over 30 years of combined experience in the contractor’s supply business. They have spent the last six years importing and selling high-end Italian machines and equipment through distribution for the tile and stone industry. Siri manufactures professional tile and stone installation tools and is located in Modena, Italy. They are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. The guiding principle of Siri North America’s company is “Success through Distributorship.” The company is first and foremost concerned with the success of distributors and uses all of its combined assets to ensure that distributors achieve success in selling its products.

MIA: STONE NEWS CHANNEL & PINNACLE AWARDS

The Stone News Channel, a powerful new quarterly video and Internet-based communications vehicle featuring news about the natural stone industry around the world will be launched in mid-February by the Marble Institute of America (MIA). The SNC, approved by MIA’s board of directors at StonExpo in Las Vegas, will be featured on the association’s popular website, distributed to all of MIA’s nearly 1800 members via DVD, and made available via the Internet to thousands of others in the industry. The Stone News Channel is being produced by MIA’s marketing firm, Levy Media Group of Cleveland, which has vast experience in developing video and marketing programs for use by the natural stone industry. Sponsorship for the 20-minute quarterly program will be provided by a limited number of suppliers to the industry, said Gary Distelhorst, executive vice president of MIA. “By using video and the Internet, sponsors will be able to dramatically demonstrate how their machinery, tools and other stone industry products really work in real time,” said Distelhorst. “This concept really breaks the mold of traditional media communications and provides sponsors an opportunity to separate their companies from others in the marketplace. The first program will be available for viewing in mid-February, providing sponsors an outstanding opportunity to preview what they will be showing at the new StonExpo East in Atlanta in late March and/or at Coverings in Chicago in mid-April. To view a pilot of SNC, visit www.stonenewschannel.com

In other news, MIA announced the winners of its prestigious 2006 Pinnacle Awards competition, honor projects that demonstrate exceptional beauty, creativity, ingenuity, and craftsmanship in the use of granite, marble, travertine, limestone, and other natural stones. The competition is open to MIA members around the world. The 2006 Pinnacle Awards winners are: Commercial Interior Award of Excellence to Dan J. Sheehan Company of Savannah, Georgia, for Telfair Museum’s Center for the Arts. The Dan J. Sheehan Company also received an Award of Merit for the exterior of the project. Commercial Exterior Award of Excellence to Carnevale and Lohr of Bell Gardens, California, for the new construction of the Getty Villa, in Malibu, California. Restoration Award of Excellence to Rugo Stone of Lorton, Virginia, for Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church in Potomac Falls, Virginia. Rugo Stone also won two Awards of Merit. The firm was honored in the Commercial Interior category for its stone work on the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center, a new Jewish chapel at the U.S. Naval Academy, and in the Commercial Exterior category for the Divinity School addition at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Two Awards of Merit were presented in the category of kitchens and baths. Millennium Marble and Tile of Pembroke, Florida, was selected for their work on a kitchen in a Boca Raton, Florida, home. Walker Zanger received an award for a unique bathroom application of natural stone in a show house in New York City, which highlights the best in interior design as a fund-raising initiative for the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club.

Ceramic Tiles of Italy Call For Entries 2007

Ceramic Tiles of Italy is now accepting entries for their 14th annual Design Competition. The award honors design excellence in projects that feature Italian ceramic tile. North American architects and interior designers are invited to submit residential, commercial and institutional projects completed between January 2002 and January 2007. Entries may be submitted for domestic and international new construction and renovation projects. A panel of design professionals will judge the projects on overall design of the project, innovative use of tile, tile design, quality of installation and degree that tile enhanced the setting. Winners in each category will receive a cash prize of $5,000 and a trip to Coverings, which will be held in Chicago, Illinois, from April 17-20, 2007. Winners will also be treated to a 5-day trip to Cersaie 2007, the world’s largest exhibition for ceramic tile and bathroom furnishings, and join a delegation of leading design media journalists. The organization will once again offer an additional $1,000 to be shared by the winning contractor/distributor team. Sponsored by Ceramic Tiles of Italy and The Italian Trade Commission. Deadline for entries is February 9, 2007. For information contact Novità Communications, info@novitapr.com/718.857.4806.


Mold: The Problem or the Symptom?
 
January 1st, 2007

January-February 2007

By Donato Pompo

At Coverings 2006, Donato Pompo of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, LLC facilitated a CTDA–sponsored panel of experts who shared their information and experience on mold. The experts were Greg Mowat of Forensic Tile Consultants, a forensic tile investigator; Will Spates, president of Indoor Environmental Technologies, Inc., an indoor air quality professional and scientist; Dave Gobis, executive director of the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation and a TCNA national installation trainer; Richard Kahanowich, a senior partner with the law firm Zimmerman & Kahanowitch of Los Angeles, with legal expertise from both plaintiff and defense perspectives.

This is the first article of a three-part series that will share some of the insight provided by that panel on the growing concerns about mold. This article will provide an overview of mold and how it is affecting the ceramic tile and stone industry. Future articles will review the science and legal aspects of mold that affect the industry, highlight common installation failures that lead to mold, and review industry recommendations and guidelines that will help avoid water intrusion problems that result in mold.

A lot of misinformation has been circulating about mold. The goal of this series of articles is to state the facts about mold and to show how it is affecting the ceramic tile and stone industry.

Mold has been around since the beginning of time. Today, however, the construction methods that are being used often lead to moisture problems. Mold is not the problem itself, but it is the symptom of a moisture problem. If moisture isn’t present, then mold can’t exist.

The difficulty is that many showers and other wet areas are not installed correctly, per industry standards, and this leads to moisture intrusion problems. Mold needs food in order to grow, and a wet environment within wall cavities is just the right situation to enable mold to propagate. Gypsum water resistant green-board is no longer recommended for shower areas because gypsum and the organic mastic that’s typically used to adhere the tile to the board are substantial food sources that perpetuate the growth of mold. On the other hand, cementitious mortar beds and other backings are highly alkaline, and therefore not a good source of food or a friendly environment for mold.

Mold needs to be controlled. According to scientist Will Spates, mold is not a great health risk, but people that are hyper-sensitive to various products and that have allergies can be adversely affected by mold. More to the point—water needs to be managed to avoid intrusion problems and the resulting damage, including mold.

Slight surface instances of mold can be cleaned off of finishes such as ceramic tile and stone, but when there is water intrusion into wall cavities, mold can be very severe. Special remediation may be required with isolation tents, HVAC ventilation systems to control the air flow, and containment and removal of the infected areas. These cases get very expensive and require the employment of Indoor Air Quality Professionals.

You may have heard that “Mold is Gold” for attorneys and for those who investigate and remediate mold issues—and for good reason! Reports indicate that in 2001 mold claims cost homeowner insurance companies more than $1 billion in claims; 5 times more than the previous year. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that $3 billion in mold claims were paid out in 2002, and more than $5 billion in 2003. There have been some well published lawsuits which resulted in claims as high as $32 million. The average homeowner’s claim cost runs between $15,000 to $50,000. Insurers have paid out nearly $15.5 billion in homeowners insurance claims to Katrina hurricane victims in Louisiana and Mississippi, and you can be sure that a good percentage of that went toward mold claims.

How legitimate are the mold claims and the solutions? Attorney Richard Kahanowich reports that insurance companies are now excluding mold coverage, and laws have been created that limit claims by plaintiffs who must show cause and the resultant damage to have a valid claim. Kahanowich also points out that installers are in a precarious position if mold is discovered while performing remodeling work. In the past, installers would largely ignore these mold conditions when replacing faulty tile installations, but today they put themselves at risk if they don’t disclose it. Now they should insist on having mold remediation experts evaluate these types of findings.

Lately there has been a proliferation of new and improved installation products on the market that contain anti-microbial ingredients. These “ingredients” are added to the products, at negligible cost, during the manufacturing process. The installation manufacturers that offer these upgraded products do so with limited warranties.

Do anti-microbial ingredients prevent or substantially restrict the growth of mold while adding protection from water intrusion? Ceramic Tile Education Foundation executive director Dave Gobis suggests that if installers follow industry standards and perform the installation properly, then there won’t be water intrusion problems or mold. So is there some value in having anti-microbial laced products? The manufacturers of these installation products say, in general, if their installation recommendations and industry standards are not followed, they will not warrant your tile installation if mold develops.

Normally the mold problem does not exist as much within the installation products as it does in adjacent wall cavities where there is an abundant source of food for the mold. Forensic investigator Gregory Mowat says that almost every tiled shower mold case he has seen could have been avoided if the tile installation and its underlying substrate had been installed correctly per industry standards. So the question is, will these anti-microbial laced installation products substantially prevent or restrict the growth of mold?

The manufacturer’s position has repeatedly been no.

Some tile manufacturers and industry associations are reluctant to take a stand on endorsing anti-microbial installation products for several reasons:

  • 1. They don’t want to give the impression that tile can be installed incorrectly using anti-microbial products and would therefore have some degree of substantial protection;
  • 2. They don’t want to make the tile installation more expensive by about $2+ per sf, making it less affordable to the consumer; and
  • 3. They don’t want to scare the consumers away from tile use because of the potential of mold.

Instead, tile manufacturers and industry associations believe that the promotion of proper installation methods for ceramic tile and stone is the correct approach and that this will ultimately prevent water intrusion and mold issues.

On the other hand, I believe that these anti-microbial product installation systems are adding some value in providing the installers with a system approach and requiring the installer to follow industry standards. For that reason, I always specify using single source product installation systems that provide a minimum 10-Year Labor and Material Warranty.

This is not no-fault insurance, and the product rarely fails in itself; usually failures are the result of design or installer error. Rather, these system warranty products provide guaranteed compatibility, higher product performance, and require the installer to follow industry standards, which help compensate for job site conditions and a labor force that is at times not perfect.

For more information there are organizations such as the Responsible Solutions to Mold Coalition (RSMC) that are trying to provide factual information for the construction industry and its consumers on their website at www.responsiblemoldsolutions.org.

Donato Pompo is principal of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, LLC. CTaSC a professional company of expert consultants comprised of accomplished ceramic tile and stone installers, construction scientists, and other industry specialists located throughout North America that specializes in ceramic tile and stone consulting in North America. Email: Donato@CTaSC.com; Website: www.CTaSC.com

CTaSC provides Forensic Failure Investigations (Expert Witness), Quality Control Services for Product and Installation Methods, Training Programs (for Sales and Installation, online and live), Market Research and Outsourcing Services, and Business Planning Consulting to the Ceramic Tile and Stone Industry. Founded and operated by Donato Pompo CTC CSI CDT MBA.


Balancing Act – The Marketplace in 2007
 
January 1st, 2007

January-February 2007

By Zoe Voight

To succeed in the 2007 marketplace, tile dealers will need to balance a slump in home sales with stronger commercial and remodeling opportunities.

With the U.S. economy slowing down, particularly in housing, many in the tile and stone industry might be justifiably concerned. After all, housing starts, new building permits and new home sales figures are all down. Existing home sales are down, as are new home prices. Yet, despite all the bad news in the housing market, most in the tile and stone industry are cautiously optimistic.

Donato Pompo of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, says, “Yes, the distributors and some installers are saying business has slowed down, particularly as it relates to new housing, but sales are still healthy, demand is relatively high overall, and there are still great opportunities now and in the future for the ceramic tile and stone industries.”

Mixed numbers

With figures dropping across all sectors of the housing market it seems counter-intuitive that tile and stone sales figures would be positive. Yet, there is good news coming from many consultants and industry leaders. It’s possible that less-than stellar numbers can still be good.

According to the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), for the past ten years, tile consumption has outpaced the US economy. In April 2006, TCNA expected that tile consumption for 2005 would be 7% higher than 2004. Eric Astrachan, the Council’s Executive Director, recently reported that the total consumption for 2005 was 3,266,900,000 (3.267 billion) square feet. “This was only a 3.5% increase over 2004 consumption.” Even though 2005 did not meet expectations, Astrachan says, “So far 2006 is looking good with year-end consumption (based on 1st half data) projected to be 3.474 billion sq. ft. or 6.6% over 2005.”

How is growth possible in a housing slowdown? Astrachan points out that many TCNA members don’t sell to the new home market. “For example, Daltile sells across the board to the residential, commercial and renovation markets. Crossville is high-end and sells more commercial and remodeling. The smaller companies sell more to the remodeling market. Everyone is concerned, but many of our members say that they are just not that affected by new home sales.”

Donato Grosser, president of D. Grosser and Associates, an industry consulting company, says, “The market for tile is up right now, but we don’t know exactly how long it will last. The housing slow-down may yet have an impact.” Grosser says that when housing starts decline it takes a while for that to show up in the tile industry since tile is a finishing surface. As a result, he’s adjusting expectations to be happy with four to five percent growth.

Pompo, who is a coauthor of the Catalina Research Floor Coverings Industry Quarterly Update, agrees that despite some declining numbers, tile is strong. “Ceramic tile continues to be one of the floor covering industry’s strongest growing product sectors, as square foot sales increased by 5.3% in the first half of 2006, with the sales stronger in the second quarter.”

Others agree. Noah Chitty, Technical Services Director at StonePeak Ceramics, says, “From the manufacturing perspective, we haven’t seen a dip in sales. This is probably fueled by the remodeling trend. Even though we haven’t seen a downturn, we are paying attention.” He says, “Contractors will see it before manufacturers do because they are on the front line, directly scheduling jobs for the next year.”

Jim Dougherty of Florim USA says he expects the next year to be a positive one for the company. “With the slow down of the economy, it might not be as great as in the past. As a company, we will make adjustments with what we do to move forward.”

Commercial & Remodeling to the Rescue?

One place to make those adjustments is in the commercial marketplace. Dougherty calls commercial growth “robust.” Astrachan says, “People tell me that the commercial market has remained strong. This is definitely relevant to those who sell to commercial market. We continue to see good demand.”

Rob Henry, president of Henry Tile in Alabama, agrees that one market seems to balance another. “What we have found is that we don’t see a lot going on with residential sales right now. But we’re finding that commercial has taken up the slack so that we are not losing sales in tile. We’re seeing a strong growth in the commercial tile market.”

Dougherty says that a traditional way of looking at a housing market decline is to expect residential remodeling to pick up. Astrachan backs this up with numbers from NAHB: “Residential remodeling from 1995 to 2008 is projected by NAHB to increase. The first reason for that is that as the baby boom group continues to age, they are investing in their current home. The second reason is the expectation of when people remodel. Before the big drop-off in new home sales, there were many people buying new homes. All of those people who bought new homes a few years ago are now starting to remodel. Perhaps they decide to tile a backsplash after a year. Or replace a vinyl floor with tile after living in their home one to three years after moving in.”

Remodeling is a theme repeated by many in the industry. “There is a trend of people not traveling so much right now. They are spending more money on their homes and remodeling their kitchens and baths. These are big investments and so homeowners normally are going to put in tile and stone,” says Pompo.

Stone market growth

Jim Hieb of the Marble Institute of America (MIA) says that many stone industry professionals are looking to the remodeling segment of the industry to balance any slow downs in their region. “Of course, some areas of the country aren’t having a slow down at all. National trends may not have an effect in a niche market.”

According to the Catalina report, “Natural stone accounted for 5.7% of the U.S. floor coverings market on a dollar basis in 2005, and 32.5% of the combined stone and ceramic tile market category. Stone’s share of the total flooring market on a square foot basis was closer to 1.0%, which reflects the higher costs and profitability of stone for distributors and installers.”

“Natural stone is still growing in demand and at a much higher rate than ceramic tile,” says Pompo. “There is much more profit opportunity with natural stone as compared to ceramic tile, but there is more risk in that natural stone is not manufactured to a specification, but rather selected to meet quality requirements. The problem is that it is still very difficult for the consumer or the importer to determine quality of stone without performing ASTM testing which can be expensive. So with the great demand for stone there is a glut of product and the quality varies.”

Thomas J. Kotel of Mid-America Tile in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, agrees. “Natural stone is getting a lot of attention,” says Kotel. “There is the minimalist look which is more popular on the commercial side. For residences, a timeless, Tuscan, or Mediterranean look is popular either in stone or in stone-look porcelain or ceramic.”

Imports and U.S. consumption

Astrachan says, “Interestingly, imports are down slightly in the first half, dropping from 80.9% to 79.7% reflecting the trend of lower import sales to new home construction while domestic sales are up. Builders of spec and starter homes often use imported tile. But the slowdown has affected [TCNA] members less.”

The Catalina Report states that, “Import prices are edging up on average from $0.86 to $0.88 per square foot in the first half of 2006. Foreign-sourced ceramic tile represented 80.7% of total square footage of ceramic tile sales in the second quarter of 2006, which is down from 85.9% in the second quarter of 2005.

“The percentage of imported tile shrunk slightly, while prices rose slightly, suggesting that U.S. manufacturers have cut average prices despite rising material costs resulting in lower margins as they maneuver to gain market share by increasing their emphasis on lower priced goods.”

Pompo says that one reason for optimism is the potential for growth. In the United States, the per capita consumption of ceramic tile is 10.92 square feet. In Italy, that number is 35.2 square feet. In Spain, 80 sq ft. and in China it is 15.3 square feet, (with 1.3 billion population.) So there is still room for growth in the U.S. market.

If Americans begin to sell their homes less often, they will be more likely to invest in tile and stone since those products last longer than carpet. “There is room for growth in the US tile market. One way would be technology. That always results in a big increase in sales. Also, remodeling is still strong,” says Grosser. “Of course, we don’t know what will happen in the future. Remodeling won’t compensate if the housing market goes down too much. What we need is new technology.”

New Trends in tile

Quality is a marketable factor. Pompo points out that years ago, people would just put in a very functional tile floor. Now, that same job might include wainscoting, decorative liners, a baseboard, custom trim pieces plus wainscoting. Some of these tiles cost $25 a linear foot. People want custom, something that is unique and are willing to spend more for signature pieces. This is one reason for the increase in tile and stone sales. “Tile and stone is seen as prestigious and as an investment, so people will pay more for it,” says Pompo.

“There are many new tiles coming on the market,” says Grosser. Glass, metal and large format tiles are still growing in popularity. He adds, “Now there are wood and leather tiles coming on the market as importers try to satisfy the consumers’ insatiable desire for nouveau products. We are seeing the domestic tile manufacturer’s increasing market share and becoming more innovative in their product offerings.”

Christine Abbate of Novita Communications describes some of the current trends. “Italians always present a broad range of styles and trends at Cersaie each year.” She says that fabric patterns, animal prints, floral motifs, metallic and three-dimensional tiles were all garnering attention at the show. “Tiles that have slight surface-relief, large rectangular tiles, and Asian styles were also popular,” she says.

Abbate continues, “I have noticed that as the consumption expands for ceramic tile in the U.S. market, Americans are becoming more bold and experimental with their use of tiles. While solid, neutral colors remain favorites for the American market, the Italians have noted an increased demand and interest in decorative tiles that make more of a design statement.” Adds Abbate, “Also popular are mosaics and even mini mosaics – as tiles get both larger and smaller.” She has seen the interest in large format tile increase in both the residential and commercial applications.

With buyers and consumers still intrigued by all the new products and the commercial, and residential remodeling markets still strong, industry professionals have a generally optimistic outlook for 2007, and that’s good news for tile dealers everywhere.

SOURCES:

Christine Abbate

President

Novita Communications.

Eric Astrachan

Executive Director

Tile Council of North America

www.tileusa.com

Noah Chitty

Technical Services Director

StonePeak Ceramics

Jim Dougherty

VP Marketing

Florim USA

Donato Grosser

D. Grosser and Associates Consulting

grosserconsulting.com

Rob Henry

President

Henry Tile Co.

Jim Hieb

Special Projects Director

Marble Institute of America

www.marble-institute.com

Thomas J. Kotel

President Mid-America Tile

Donato Pompo

Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, LLC www.CTaSC.com


One – on – One…with Michael Mariutto
 
January 1st, 2007

“We concentrate on giving impeccable service, along with a focus on product design.”

By Jeffrey Steele

January-February 2007

It can be said with conviction that Michael Mariutto was born to the tile business. As a member of the fourth generation of his family to work in the industry, he started his education in tile at an early age. That headstart served him well in a career that has taken him from a manufacturers’ representative to world-renowned tile designer and founder of Mediterranea, his own multi-national tile production and design firm.

Not long ago, Mariutto sat down with TileDealer for a lengthy interview, in which he talked about his lifelong fascination with the tile industry. In this One-on-One, he discusses the uniqueness of his company’s business model, identifies the important emerging countries in tile design and production, and reveals how Mediterranea strives to meet the distinctive needs of American dealers and distributors of tile.

TileDealer: How did you get started in the business?

Mariutto: The tile business runs deep in my family’s heritage, spanning four generations in the industry. My great-grandfather came to the U.S. from Italy as a mosaic and terrazzo craftsman in 1912. During the span of five decades, Mariutto and Sons became recognized as one of the most prominent tile contracting corporations in Florida. Needless to say, I was introduced to the tile business from early on, setting tile in the summers and learning about the overall business, and was hooked.

I went to school at the University of Miami, and received my business degree in 1986, with my dream to make a career in the tile business. After graduation, I went to Italy in June of 1986 and worked for the tile manufacturer, Impronta. While working at Impronta I studied all facets of the tile industry, focusing my attention on manufacturing and exports to the U.S. market. I also studied the Italian language and became fluent.

In 1987 I returned to the U.S. and founded Architectural Imports Inc., a manufacturers’ representative firm representing two Italian tile manufacturers for the Florida market. I started with very little and it was a rough beginning, but I really worked hard at it and as time went on I was able to pick up additional factories with products geared toward the American market. By 1995, the business had taken solid ground and was doing quite well. At that point I began designing tile, everything from size to color, surface texture, glazing techniques and glazing styles. I followed all the different realms of design of the product. That’s when my business evolved and changed, and I became more of a designer than an agent.

As I began designing the products for the manufacturers I was representing, the tiles I designed became highly successful throughout the U.S. Over the next five years we took it to the next level. In 2000, we launched the Mediterranea brand, a high-end brand I conceived with product dedicated solely to the American market.

Architectural Imports now represents our products nationally, not just in Florida, and we’re producing tiles under the Mediterranea brand in six countries for the U.S. and Canadian markets.

TileDealer: What makes your business model different—and how did you come up with that idea and develop it?

Mariutto: As an agent, it was my duty to bring and sell a product to a distributor regardless of whether it was right for the U.S. market or not. Under the Mediterranea concept, I am bringing designs I am confident in for the U.S. market, and am able to choose from the best factories in each country to deliver the right combination to succeed here.

I am not limited by one or two factories’ capabilities or price points, but have virtually limitless options and possibilities. For example, we are currently producing tiles in six different countries under the Mediterranea brand. [Those countries are] the U.S., Italy, Spain, Argentina, Brazil and Turkey.

What makes us very unique is that we’re the only company that has formed strategic alliances with manufacturers on a global scale with the sole purpose of bringing the right products to the U.S. market. We’re able to pool different technologies from different countries and factories, each having unique technology and methods. Therefore we offer our customers a lot of diversification in the product line.

What’s also unique is that all of the products we’re pulling together are offered under one brand. There’s not one single factory anywhere in the world that could pull together so many diverse technologies and product lines, in terms of the sizes, equipment used and pricing structures. We have products that range from middle to very high end. The strategic alliances with a variety of factories worldwide that we’ve put together under one brand is really the key to our uniqueness and strength.

TileDealer: Why is the U.S. so hot right now in production, and why is it the best country to have production in?

Mariutto: First, the level of the design and sophistication of the look of U.S. based products has come a long way. The investments made in technology in many of the U.S. production facilities in the past five years have been remarkable, and that has given them the ability to make incredible products that rival many of the top Italian producers.

Second, U.S. distributors are always in the dilemma of how to maximize their space and inventory dollars. When they import products they have to bring in enough to cover the possible sales for the next few months, as lag times from the overseas factories to their doors can be significant. This causes them to have to tie up more inventory dollars and warehouse space. If they can get a great-looking product from a U.S.-based production facility at a competitive price, they can keep much tighter inventories and get a lot more turns per year.

Lastly, right now in Europe, the energy costs are extremely high, and the low U.S. dollar has made imports from there more challenging for the U.S. market.

That has opened the door for the U.S. manufacturers. They’ve been able to increase their sales dramatically during this period due to those factors.

TileDealer: How does working in six different countries give you a unique perspective?

Mariutto: I get the chance to see the different technologies, business cultures and approaches to the market on 4 continents! It enables me to see trends forming more easily and be ahead of the curve as things are changing.

For example, you might have a strong dollar in Turkey, but a weak dollar in Brazil. Shifting focus to keep up with the ever-changing currency value fluctuations, allows us—and our customers—to be covered in all areas.

Another factor with regard to this diversification of countries is technology. We’re able to focus in on the strengths of our partner factories, zeroing in on the unique capabilities each one has. In a sense, we showcase the talents of each of our partner factories, matching the right product with the right manufacturer.

That’s key to Mediterranea. We design a product we know will be hot for the U.S., but we have to find the right factory with the right technology in the right country to make this product the best it can be.

TileDealer: What do you see as the emerging countries for tile design and production?

Mariutto: What I’ve been seeing is that Brazil and Turkey especially have invested a lot in technology and are catching up with Europe. Most of the technology in the tile industry comes out of Italy, as does most of the innovation and new equipment. But there has been a lot of investment lately from Brazil and Turkey, as well as the U.S.

They’ve been investing heavily in the newer technologies: glazing equipment, presses, double-pressed technology and dry glaze applications. They are also increasing capacity as their demand is growing. As they understand better how to put those technologies to work for them to create the right product for the U.S. market, they are becoming a force to be reckoned with for Europe.

TileDealer: What do you see happening technologically in tile around the world?

Mariutto: What I could say is right now, the technology in the tile industry around the world has been fairly flat. There have not been a lot of new, earth-shattering innovations, such as the milestones of the past when they moved from double-fired tiles to single-fired tiles or from the single-fired red-bodied tiles to the white-body tiles and in more recent years to the very popular porcelain-body tiles.

The porcelain tiles over the last five years have dominated the American market, and the growth curve on these has increased immensely with the final end users of tile today asking for porcelain tile. This stagnation in major innovation has allowed time for the emerging countries to catch up technologically. What I am seeing is a move nationally to larger-format tile and more modular tiles as well as rectangular tile.

TileDealer: How would you characterize your company’s experience in Turkey as part of CTDA’s trade mission?

Mariutto: Most of my organization attended the trade mission but I was unable to attend myself. They thought the mission was incredible and love participating in all CTDA events.

As we already do business with Turkish manufacturers, we were very happy to see so many U.S. distributors get a first-hand experience of the quality available from there. We learn a lot through our participation in CTDA and believe it is a great asset to the U.S. distributor. It is one of the better tools to keep a pulse on what is happening in the U.S. market.

TileDealer: What do you look for in designing a product specifically for the U.S. market?

Mariutto: The first thing I look for is something that will be unique to the market, but at the same time possesses certain characteristics common with successful products in the U.S. I like to start with a unique concept, but tweak the idea to be made successful in the U.S. Matching the look with the right size format, determining what type of edge, the number and types of colors, type of body (through body porcelain, double pressed, glazed, etc.) are some of the considerations necessary.

To give an example, normally successful products in the U.S. have some degree of shading and contrast within the tiles. It’s also very critical that you pinpoint the color palette very carefully and work the colors until they are 100% perfected for the U.S. market.

TileDealer: What do you see as important to the American tile distributors and dealers?

Mariutto: Great design targeted specifically for this market is something we have already talked about. Additionally, proper marketing to bring that product to market and the service they receive, not only from the factories, but also from a local customer service staff [is imperative].

It is important in today’s market to have a U.S.-based office and staff that is multi-lingual and understands the American distributor’s needs. We concentrate on giving impeccable service, along with our focus on the product design.

Also, being able to offer the distributors and importers diversification of products they need—a sort of one-stop shopping mode—[is essential]. They need to know that the investment that they make in bringing a product to market will pay off for them. Through Mediterranea, they can accomplish a lot of their needs working with one brand.

Another important factor is having material available to ship, whether it is domestic or import. We consider the importance of having material in stock, and ready to deliver on time and quickly to customers.

TileDealer: What’s ahead for tile over the next five years? Ten years?

Mariutto: First of all, looking at that question for the U.S. market, I definitely see strong and continued growth from large manufacturing groups developing production within the United States. I believe there will be a strong trend of larger manufacturing groups from Europe—Italy and Spain particularly—that will be either acquiring production or distribution within the United States, but more likely constructing manufacturing facilities here in the U.S. I believe that will continue to go forward.

The only thing I could add is that I would expect over the next five years prices of imported ceramic tile will continue to increase in the U.S. market, due to the higher energy and transportation costs involved.

SOURCE:

Reach Michael Mariutto through Paul Young

Architectural Imports

305-718-5091


CTDA Management Conference a “Swinging Success”
 
January 1st, 2007

January-February 2007

CTDA’s 2006 Management Conference convened November 8–12, 2006 at Marriott’s Harbor Beach Resort and Spa with an action-packed agenda of speakers, presentations and association programs designed to deliver the educational and networking opportunities CTDA events are known for.

Highlights included the keynote presentation by Paul Laudicina, author of World Out of Balance, on the five factors or “drivers” which will shape tomorrow’s business environment.

Al Bates makes a point. A number of educational seminars, led by the industry experts, offered information and motivation.

Outgoing president Mark Carlson “passes the gavel” to incoming president Doug Miles.

Newest CTDA Hall of Fame Inductees

CTDA recognized two long-time members for their association and industry leadership by welcoming them into the CTDA Hall of Fame at the association’s 2006 Management Conference. Raph Marra, President, Classic Ceramic Tiles, Inc. and Henry M. Rothberg, Chairman Emeritus/Founder, Laticrete International, Inc. were both honored for their numerous contributions.

Previous recipients include: Fred Blackwood, Clarence Dowdy, Jack Vogel, Mike Miles, Manuel Magallanes, Svend Hovmand, Phil Stalcup, David Yarborough, Ted Clear, Jack Knies, Frank L. Garcia, Mary Yocum, Sam Widener, S. M. Van Kirk, Gail Schovan, and Bill Ives.

Members of the CTDA Hall of Fame are nominated by association members and selected by a vote of the Past Presidents and Board of Directors. Eligibility requirements for Hall of Fame members indicate these individuals must be or have been a member of CTDA; must attend or have attended CTDA events; must be or have been actively involved in CTDA; and must demonstrate or have demonstrated a leadership role within the industry that reflects the CTDA mission statement.

CTDA 2006 president Mark Carlson with Henry R. Rothberg, Hall of Fame inductee Henry M. Rothberg, and David Rothberg.

Former CTDA president and 2005 Hall of Fame inductee Gail Schovan introduces 2006 inductee Ralph Marra.

The dance floor was “the place to be” Saturday night.

Saturday night’s sockhop was attended by a number of 50’s characters, including “Elvis” and Marilyn.”

Ralph Marra looks right at home in his 50s garb.


Sales & Marketing: To Get the Most Out of Surfaces, Start with the Tote Bag
 
January 1st, 2007

By A. Craig Stimmel


January-February 2007

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure—what you get out of Surfaces, Coverings or any other trade shows you attend depends on what you actually do with all of that information you collect to bring home!

We’ve all welcomed the free tote bags at Surfaces or Coverings. (In fact, the canvas bags from TileDealer are especially coveted.) We’ve walked around, visited the booths and attended the classes with anticipation. In our head we’re saying, “this showroom idea is great—I can’t wait to get into it” or “the vendors that I met at that last booth are really going to help me improve my bottom line” and even “that training that told me how to make it easier for me to have my staff sell was awesome.”

You filled your bag up with all sorts of great things: brochures on all of the latest products, the new vendors’ business cards that you’re going to call and even those handouts that the trainers gave to you on ways to make it easier for you to run/improve your business. You filled it up because that’s what you always do and that’s what everyone else does right? Why would you ever want to act on contacting all of those vendors and/or begin to actually use the training ideas that you learned (smile).

Here’s a rough outline of what probably happened:

  • 1. Paid for tickets and flew to the trade show.
  • 2. Paid for the show as well as a room.
  • 3. Walked around and visited all of those great exhibitors.
  • 4. If you exhibited, paid to do so and you put out that wonderful “fish bowl”.
  • 5. Stepped up to the plate at that video baseball machine—that was cool!
  • 6. Went out after the show with some friends to see the sights/have some cocktails.
  • 7. Flew home with your precious tote bag in tow.
  • 8. Got back to your office and put that bag under/beside your desk.
  • 9. Said last week that you should get to it—but “you’re just so busy”.

Now, I know that there are a few of you that actually took some of the info and called the vendors and/or thought about implementing the training ideas. For those of you who haven’t done anything here’s a game plan for starting to take some action on the next trade show.

What To Do When You Return To Your Hotel

Towards the end of the show, the night before you leave to go home, spread out all the collected collaterals and product samples on the bed or on the floor and put them into product categories: 1) traditional products; 2) new/innovative products 3) consumables; 4) business ideas; etc.

Spend enough time, as you “review what you’ve collected,” to choose the information that looks promising. Anything other than promising information/samples/training material should be disposed of immediately. Remember, PAPER WEIGHS A LOT and you have to carry it home. Why carry something that has little, if any, value? Keep the stacks separate—put a rubber band around each stack and label it with a post-it-note (or equal). Put all the business cards into a special 9×12 envelope and mark it business cards for follow-up. Any business card, which you recognize as being of NO interest, should be thrown away now rather than taken back to the office to be thrown away there (smile).

If you’re really “trade show savvy,” you’ve probably brought a separate suitcase or sports bag that you can use to bring these materials home (sorted). If not, replace the information in the “tote bag”—sealing it as well as you can and put it into your suitcase or carry it with you home.

You’re Back At Your Office—Now What?

As you return to your office, recognize that you’re not likely to be able to avoid dealing with “time sensitive” issues such as voicemails, emails, and customers who want/need you to get back to them, etc.

So schedule time, an early morning time is best before normal business hours, where you can go back through the materials you’ve already “qualified” and determine which products/ideas/concepts are worthy of further time/energies or efforts. This shouldn’t take you more than one hour at the most. Determine what needs to be done to “evaluate” the information, who will do the evaluation, how it will be done and how they will report back to you with the results. Make assignments to your staff and/or yourself to follow up on these leads and contacts.

Next, schedule a meeting for 2-4 weeks away with each person who has been assigned the responsibilities for reviewing the material and make them aware of the timeline and what they are expected to deliver at that meeting.

The designated individuals who have been assigned the responsibility for evaluating the collaterals/product samples/training information you’ve brought back need to report back to you on this scheduled date. Prepare a detailed agenda for the meeting—calling on each individual. Allow yourself a minimum of 30 minutes for each presentation and take copious notes.

Making Decisions & Getting Results

Upon completion of the meeting, return to your office and re-review the information presented. Make decisions based on what you have heard and your own “intuition”—based on your years of experience and knowledge of the marketplace. An action plan should come from this step. It should assign responsibility for doing what’s necessary to take advantage of the knowledge, product selling opportunity, new “selling approach,” etc. Give your people the opportunity to succeed and don’t be overly critical. But hold them accountable for doing the job.

Converting these new information/product ideas into meaningful revenue is the goal—this technique will help you get there.

SOURCE:

A. Craig Stimmel

Planned Growth Business Development Solutions LLC

cstimmel@plannedgrowthllc.com

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