CTDA Goals for 2008
 
March 2nd, 2008

March-April 2008

The Ceramic Tile Distrib-utors Asso-ciation has an exciting group of goals for 2008 including measurable objectives. Our 2007 president, Doug Miles of Miles Distributing, began this process last year with great success. His vision led to strategic planning and a serious analysis of CTDA’s role in the tile industry. That led to the identification of goals and metrics that we tracked and reported on regularly last year. These goals and metrics have given the organization direction. I’m proud to say that we are continuing in the same way this year, with the addition of some new programming goals as well.

Showroom Design
The CTDA marketing committee has formed a task force to research and develop ideas for “best practices” in showroom designs. The committee will share these best practices with the membership to help us in our businesses. The CTDA staff will also develop a program for members to employ mystery shoppers to push our quality higher.

China Trade Mission
Many of you have already indicated your intention of participating in the 2008 Trade Mission to China on June 18–29. Our Chinese hosts have planned an exciting itinerary that includes the grand opening of the new China Ceramics Industry Headquarters in Foshan, visits to ceramic tile and stone factories and meetings with leaders of those companies. We will also enjoy sightseeing in Shanghai and Beijing. I encourage you to visit the website at www.chinatiles.org/2008china.html for details.

CTDA’s goal for the trade mission is to have at least 75 participants. This trip is one of our major thrusts for 2008. Based on the initial response to the trade mission announcement, we will have lots of participation in this opportunity.

Webinars
As part of CTDA’s mission to provide “education and networking opportunities,” the Education Committee is putting together a series of webinar topics of value to tile distributors to broadcast throughout the year. These web-based seminars offer an appealing format since they do not require participants to travel or even leave their work place! Watch for information to come later this year, then tune in and take advantage of these worthwhile educational opportunities.

Additional Specific Metrics
The Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program continues to grow. By the end of 2008 we expect to have 300 participants who have passed the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson exam. This certification can become the benchmark for expertise in the tile business.

CTDA encourages active member companies. Active members are the key to long-term membership in any organization. CTDA has established a rating system to quantify active membership. The 2008 membership goal begins with a target number of qualified active members as well as a target total of distributor companies and branches. This is another of the benchmarks we’ll be following and reporting on this year.

Online Education is a great opportunity. Once a student is registered the self-paced, interactive course is available 24/7 for 14 days, allowing your employees to work on their own when it’s convenient for them! Understanding the Basics of Ceramic Tile covers the history, types and uses of ceramic tile, manufacturing, selection, installation and maintenance. The course also provides many sales techniques. Offered through the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone, online training is a great resource.


Everything old is new again
 
March 2nd, 2008

By Janet Arden, Editor

March-April 2008

This issue of TileDealer looks at one of the oldest ceramic tile traditions, Turkey, where the focus today is on new, modern, elegant, and sophisticated designs. Take a look at some of the latest offerings from these manufacturers. I’m sure you’ll be as “wowed” by their style as we are.

One of the newest trends around—cement tile—isn’t really new at all, but a return to a hand-crafted art form that’s more than a century old. Cement tile developed in France in the late 19th century as part of the evolving cement industry. The tiles were prized for their color, design and hand- crafting and found their way into public and private places in Europe and European colonies. And, because this material is so durable, many of these installations are still in place. Though cement tile fell out of favor as newer floor covering technologies caught the imagination of designers and manufacturers, they are enjoying a rebirth today as designers, specifiers and consumers are once again spellbound by their color and pattern. What’s new about it now? How can you find them? How can they be used? We offer some insight starting on page 22.

Dave Gobis is the industry’s go-to guy when something goes wrong. He has more than 30 years of experience as a tile retailer and installer. He’s seen every tile failure you can imagine (and probably some you have never thought of) and he’s back in TileDealer this month to talk about his current list of the five most common tile failures right now. Please note that Dave refers to this as the current list of failures. Yes, there are some themes that always return. Poor substrate preparation is still up there. But Dave points out that there are some newcomers to his list: larger format tile (newer on the marketplace) setting, which requires more exact leveling. Turn to the Installation Update for his complete review.

Speaking of new, how about a new revenue source? Don’t miss this issue’s Showroom Seminar. Kathy Furore takes a look at the design (and profit) opportunities for listellos and other trims. Perhaps today more than ever, the consumer wants a high-end look without paying a high-end price. They’ve watched all the design shows on TV and they’ve seen what’s out there. Here’s your chance to deliver. Listellos and trims in ceramic, porcelain, glass or even metal add a lot of punch for just a few tiles along the border of a shower or outlining a backsplash. They offer your customer the opportunity to select something a little pricier, a little more sophisticated and a lot more custom for not that much more cash. AND they offer you some great profit potential.

But—here’s the hard part—you have to stock them and show them off, let your customers know you have access to these accents and are willing to help them choose and use the right one. Why settle for cream 6 by 6 when you can accent it with a metallic medallion, or a white subway tub surround when you can top it with glass? The options are endless, but you’ll have to educate your public.

Speaking of accents, Roger Questel’s cast metal tiles have opened an exciting door by capitalizing on a remarkable product. To learn more, turn to a special One-on-Two this month with Roger Questel and Barry Culkin.

Finally, we’ve skirted the issue of a skittish economy long enough. In this issue Al Bates weighs in with some important advice for management about soft or even non-existent sales. As Al says, “Every firm must know the impact that sales declines are having now, while offsetting actions can be taken.”

Don’t forget Innovations, Industry Insights and our Tile Boutique. There’s more for you in every issue of TileDealer!


Innovations
 
March 2nd, 2008

March-April 2008

CROSSVILLE® PLEDGES PORTION OF NEW GLASS BLOX

Glass Blox tile by Crossville® brings light and life to a space as only glass can. From dazzling brights to subtly sensual neutrals, the Glass Blox palette of 44 tempting colors—designed by one of the industry’s most respected color forecasters, Barbara Schirmeister—are presented in groupings of three coordinating shades, as well as a selection of fashion- forward blends. And to provide ever greater mix-and-match options, the Glass Blox colors were not only chosen to complement one another, but also Crossville’s Porcelain Stone® and Accent Innovations™ products. “Glass allows brilliant, shimmering colors with a depth not attainable in other materials,” says Schirmeister, Crossville’s color and design consultant; “It’s like looking at color underwater. Glass is fresh, clean and clear—it’s a natural for wellness centers and spas, but it’s perfect for any project, be it residential, retail, restaurant, hospitality, healthcare, corporate or institutional.” All 44 Solid colors are available in 1″x1″ mosaics and 2″x4″ rectangles, both sizes mounted on 12″x12″ sheets. A 1⁄2″x6″ liner bar and 4″x4″ tile are also in all 44 colors. Mesh-mounted 1⁄2″x2″ liners come in seven of the neutral colors on 12″x12″ sheets. The Blends are available as 1″x1″ mosaics and 1⁄2″x2″ liners, both mounted on 12″x12″ sheets. Equally noteworthy, Glass Blox also represents a major milestone in the life of the company—the first time Crossville has pledged a portion of profits to a charitable cause. “Beginning in October 2007, a percentage of all profits from Glass Blox sales will be donated to The Common Thread for the Cure, a foundation that supports families of the furnishings industry in the battle against breast cancer through Helping Hands Grants,” states Frank Douglas, Crossville’s vice president of business development. “These confidential grants are provided to assist individuals with breast cancer and their families to meet financial obligations not covered by insurance during a time when medical bills are mounting and income is often lost. Grants have been used for transportation, household expenses, childcare, tuition, home repairs and for other quality of life uses. The foundation also supports research and educational programs.” For more information, please visit www.commonthread.info.

www.crossvilleinc.com.

BOSTIK DURABOND WEBCRETE® ULTRA FINISH

The Bostik Flooring Group unveiled DURABOND Webcrete® Ultra Finish—a premium, latex-fortified, portland cement-based patch specially formulated to deliver a creamy, lump-free, super-smooth consistency for unbeatable workability and end results. “In a series of head-to-head ‘blind’ tests by heavy users of cement patch products, Webcrete Ultra Finish was deemed ‘indistinguishable’ from the current market leader in both workability and smoothness of surface finish,” said Scott Banda, Product Manager with Bostik’s Flooring Group. Webcrete Ultra Finish sets the new gold standard in portland cement-based patches. “What makes this innovative cement patch Best In Class is that only Webcrete Ultra Finish can be used to skim coat or feather edge up to 1-inch-deep in a single application; the current market leader is limited to half an inch,” Banda adds. “Furthermore, Webcrete Ultra Finish does not require a primer to bond directly to DURABOND D-250TM Moisture Vapor Barrier Coating saving three to four hours per typical job plus related material costs.” Many contractors will opt to bond Webcrete Ultra Finish directly to D-250 to reduce moisture vapor emissions to less than or equal to 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet per 24 hours (14 pounds of protection with one coat of D-250; 25 pounds of protection with two coats). The new patch product also can be used as an embossing leveler when mixed with DURABOND D-L16 High Strength Additive (instead of water). Webcrete Ultra Finish contains Bostik’s BLOCKADE™ Antimicrobial Protection, which inhibits the growth of bacteria, mold or mildew on the surface of dried cement, and helps resist stains caused by mold. With fast setting Webcrete Ultra Finish, floor covering can be installed over concrete, wood, ceramic and quarry tile in as little as 15 to 20 minutes.

www.bostik-us.com

DUNIS TAKING MOSAICS TO A DIFFERENT LEVEL

Dunis Studios creates original and eclectic mosaics using their hand-painted Field Tile. Broken piece mosaics are hand-made collages, using Dunis Studios tiles combined with stones, shells, glass pieces or metal. Each border is individually made and differs slightly from piece to piece. This collection was designed to be used on floors and walls. Each mosaic design is assembled on concrete board and completely grouted. The borders are designed to be simple, yet artistically bold insets, and look great with stone, tile or glass field materials. Any mosaic design can be created in any tile color from a vast field tile collection (300 plus colors). Designs are available in custom sizes and as larger murals or medallions.

www.DunisStudios.com

HAND VACUUM SUCTION CUPS FOR INSTALLATION, PICK-AND-PLACE AND ASSEMBLY

A full line of industrial-duty hand vacuum suction cups for handling flooring, glass, countertops, stone tiles, steel plate and sheet, fiberglass, and other non-porous products in production applications and at job sites is available from Anver Corporation of Hudson, Massachusetts. Anver Hand Vacuum Cups and Suction Cups are offered in over 40 varieties for applications ranging from assembly to installation operations. Built for industrial use, they include air-operated suction cups, lever-actuated cups which provide pull-off holding power which exceeds OSHA limits, and pump-style vacuum cups that provide up to 125 lbs. of holding power. Featuring virtually instantaneous attach and release, Anver Compressed Air Powered Vacuum Hand Cups operate on 80 psi. Lever-actuated cups incorporate two 43⁄4″ dia. rubber suction cups, and the pump-style can also be equipped with a turn-buckle assembly for aligning and setting Corian®, marble, and granite countertops.

www.anver.com

NAC INTRODUCES COMPLETE WATERPROOFING SHOWER KIT

National Applied Construction Products (NAC) is introducing the BAS kit—a complete thin-bed membrane waterproofing system—as the latest addition to its family of crack isolation, waterproofing and sound abatement products. The BAS kit provides installers with everything needed to quickly and easily waterproof showers, shower bases and steam rooms in one convenient package and includes Strataflex self-adhering, sheet-applied waterproofing and crack isolation membrane (12″x12′ and 36″x10′ pieces); four pre-formed inner corners; four pre-formed curb corners; 10 oz. tube of SubSeal 10 liquid waterproofing membrane; one gallon SubSeal 50 liquid waterproofing membrane; roller cover, brush and utility knife. Strataflex installs easily over most substrates, including existing hard surface floors (concrete, wood, terrazzo, tile, etc.). It provides a waterproof/vapor barrier and is guaranteed to protect tile from cracking and delamination caused by up to 3⁄8″ lateral substrate movement. Self-adhesive installation provides a surface immediately ready to accept tile and allows for 24-hour water testing and tile installation.

www.NACproducts.com

ELIANE INTRODUCES CONTEMPORANEA

Eliane, a global leader in the manufacturing of porcelain and ceramic tile, introduces Contemporanea, a large format technical porcelain tile series inspired by the textures, colors, and architecture of a contemporary urban metropolis. Contemporanea comes in three neutral colors: Mocca (chocolate), Concreto (grey), and Off-White, as well as two bold colors: Ferrugem (green with touches of orange) and Petrol (navy with touches of red). Contemporanea’s three neutral colors are available in two distinct surface finishes, Natural and Lapado, offering architects, specifiers and designers a versatile collection for both residential and commercial applications. The two bold colors are available in the Lapado finish and also a metallic iron version that emits the sensation that the metal has suffered over time. Contemporanea, available in 12″x24″, 24″x24″ and 18″x36″ large format sizes, can be easily customized with colorful 1″x1″ inserts in a variety of stylistic options. Using special series components with highly varied designs, buyers are able to order ceramic, glass, resin or metallic inserts and borders with glossy or textured finishes. For an additional flair, insert patterns range from retro floral patterns to geometrical elements. Pearl inspired strands can also be mounted between the large format tiles to add an ornate touch. Contemporanea is manufactured using a technique that produces highly varied designs on each piece of tile. Because it is a technical porcelain series, the tile has a high resistance to traffic and wear in conditions of extremely high usage, such as shopping centers, restaurants, hotels and malls.

www.elianeusa.com

IMAGINE TILE ANNOUNCES INTRODUCTIONS

Flower Power by Rebecca Cole for Imagine Tile is a modern organic line of ceramic tiles featuring photo realistic buds and original graphic designs from the renowned trend setter. Rebecca’s unique combination of interior and exterior design expertise allows her to understand the usage of tiles throughout all living spaces. “I wanted to design a modern way to truly bring the garden in,” says Cole, “as well as keep the outside ‘ever-blooming.’” Christian McAuley, Imagine Tile president states, “We are very excited about partnering with Rebecca Cole on this new collection. Flower Power combines Cole’s leading edge design and Imagine Tile’s leading edge technology for exceptional ceramic tiles for indoor or out. Flower Power will be available in a variety of sizes and color palettes with the focal flower changing from line to line. Cole says, “Imagine Tile allows me to combine my two favorite things, flowers and color, to create bold beautiful, and inspiring designs on tiles that can live indoors and out…and all without needing water!”

www.imaginetile.com

LATICRETE® PermaColor™ Grout

LATICRETE has launched PermaColor™ Grout, offering the maximum performance available in a cement-based grout, with unmatched color consistency and resistance to stain causing mold and mildew with antimicrobial protection from Microban®. GREENGUARD Certified for better indoor air quality, LATICRETE PermaColor Grout contributes to LEED Certification with low VOC content. In addition, LATICRETE PermaColor Grout is Kevlar® reinforced for superior strength and flexibility, making it ideal for both interior and exterior floors and walls in both residential and commercial applications. LATICRETE PermaColor Grout requires no additive and is mixed with water and ready to be installed. Backed by the LATICRETE Lifetime Residential Warranty* and the LATICRETE 10 Year Systems Warranty*, PermaColor Grout offers peace of mind for the permanent, problem-free installation of ceramic tile and stone. Available in 40 different lifestyle colors, LATICRETE PermaColor Grout resists efflorescence and blotchiness.

www.laticrete.com

BREZZA GLASS MOSAICS

Brezza glass mosaics combine aesthetics and simplicity into an art of ornament. Glass. Symbol of purity, nature, clarity, and neatness. Brezza is formed by colorful mosaics. They all love team play. You should see them when they come together and stay. They all are four-angled. Suitable for every surface and place. Brezza, on the walls, around the frames, step by step along the corridors, in the bathrooms, and even around the mirrors, projects the characteristics of glass.

info@brezzamosaic.com

SAHARA

Marazzi’s SAHARA brings a line of sight that’s out of sight. Clean, crisp linear expressions direct the eye and accentuate architectural elements for floor and wall installations inside and out. All colors and sizes are offered in both cushioned-edge and rectified versions. The rectified option allows installation with minimal grout lines, further showcasing the bold beauty of the tile itself. Varied surface treatments in the tile, mesh-mounted mosaics and listelli decos bring a full toolbox of options for urban or suburban design adventures. Rugged, strong and good looking, Sahara is built to perform, indoors and out, to withstand heavy foot traffic, nature’s elements, the dual tests of time and fashion. Hewn as well as ridged stone surface textures in 24″x24″ and modular 12″x24″ sizes and 12″x24″ Mosaic (mesh-mounted) in four natural colors bring to mind the shifting sands, driving winds and extreme elements of its namesake desert. The thick, frost-resistant color body porcelain stoneware body and ADA-compliant slip resistance literally open doors for usage in exterior applications, whether residential or commercial, vertical or horizontal. For residential, medium commercial and light institutional floor and wall applications.

www.marazzitile.com

Mirart Granite and Stone Switch Plates

Mirart Inc., a Florida based company that has been manufacturing switch plates for the past 32 years for the glass and mirror industry, has introduced a line of Stone switch plates. The company currently manufactures these electrical outlet plates in travertine, granite, marble, quartz, slate, and other natural stones. Customers can send stone into the factory and Mirart will fabricate switch plates from their own material. “We can even use the sink cut out drop from your job to make switch plates to match their job exactly. According to Jeff Oster, Vice president. The company also offers Granique® cover plates. Granique® is a photographic image of granite embedded onto an acrylic plate that looks very much like real stone. It is currently available in 32 standard colors and the company has made over 150 custom colors to date. For Travertine and tumbled stone backsplashes the company produces a simulated travertine product called Stonique®. This line is currently available in 12 colors. These plates are made from crushed stone and resin so they don’t need to be sealed. All of these plates have relief built into the back of the plate for easy installation, and come with color-matched screws. “It’s the small finishing touches that can make the difference on the job, and it will set your company apart from the rest,” stated Oster.

www.graniteplates.com

ProSpec® Revamps Thin Set Mortars

ProSpec has reorganized its line of thin set mortars for tile and stone installation, updating product names and organizing the line into three categories making it easier to distinguish among products. ProSpec’s entire line of thin set mortars is suitable for commercial or residential projects as well as interior or exterior applications. It includes three Polymer-modified high-performance mortars. Superior PermaFlex 600, ProSpec’s premium thin set mortar, provides outstanding bond strength, great flexibility and high impact strength. It also isolates cracks up to 1⁄8 inch. PermaFlex 500 is specifically designed for bonding ceramic tile and natural stone to difficult-to-bond substrates. PermaFlex 400 has been renamed from Superior PermaSet 400. The name change reflects its fit with the PermaFlex line of polymer modified mortars. It offers excellent workability and open time. ProSpec also offers three Polymer-modified high-performance specialty mortars: Stayflex 590 has outstanding bond strength and is a non-sag formula, making it ideal for setting large format tiles; Quick PermaFlex 570 provides high compressive strength and superior bond in a rapid setting mortar; and Medium Bed PermaFlex 550 is designed to help overcome irregularities in the substrate or in tile thickness. It is designed for setting large format tile. ProSpec also manufactures two nonpolymer-modified mortars: PermaSet 300 offers great open time, good workability and excellent grab on vertical surfaces; and PermaSet 200 has been renamed from PermaFloor 200. It offers excellent workability and is an economical option for setting tile on concrete substrates.

www.prospec.com


Industry Insights
 
March 2nd, 2008

March-April 2008

EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS FOR DISTRIBUTORS & RETAILERS at COVERINGS 2008
Tile and stone distributors and retailers will have their choice of 18 educational seminars during Coverings 2008, Tuesday, April 29 through Friday, May 2, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. The conference component of the premier tile and stone trade show and expo has always rated highly, due, in large part to the exceptional caliber of experts who are recruited to speak. And, with nearly 15% more sessions being offered—a total of 80-plus seminars are planned—Coverings 2008 is headed to be a record-breaker. All of the seminars are free of charge and offer CEU credits from AIA, ASID or NKBA. The track developed especially for Distributors & Retailers will include a variety of options, such as “Negotiating Skills for Buyers, Sellers and Everyone,” a keynote presented by James Dion, one of North America’s leading retail authorities. He also headlines a session, “30 Things to Do When Business Is Tough to Get.” Other presentations of interest: “How To Work With A Designer & Increase Profits,” “The Secrets of Closing The Sale,” “Show Me the $$$$$ Through Branding,” and “Remodeling Update: Where Customers Are Investing Their Money.” Additionally, industry consultant Donato Grosser returns to Coverings with “Forecasting the U.S. Ceramic Tile Market,” a look at consumption, manufacturing, imports and distribution that has always yielded vital information on the state of the industry. The curriculum is designed to help sharpen marketing and business operations skills, with a clear focus on bottom-line business. “Making the best even better is a challenge, but Coverings clearly is striving to attain this goal,” said Glenn Feder, president of client events for National Trade Productions, which manages and produces Coverings. “We keep raising the bar on ourselves, and I think attendees will find that the 2008 edition, with such an unprecedented offering of educational programs, is not-to-be-missed. From show floor to conference room, the opportunities for professional enrichment are tremendous.” According to Feder, because so much of the programming touches on topics of universal interest about improving business practices and state of the industry progress, attendees are unrestricted in their choice of sessions. “An architect is more than welcome to attend a Stone track program, or a retailer may find a Contractor & Installer offering of interest. And, most importantly, we’ve ramped up the offering of Green Building sessions, with 12 presentations on the bill. So, we strongly encourage anyone who wants to cross over to do so,” he said.

NEVASLIP™ ANTI-SLIP FLOOR SERVICE COMPLETES NATIONWIDE EXPANSION
NevaSlip™ anti-slip floor service, which helps architects, builders, and owners of large commercial properties prevent the dangers and liability involved in slip-and-fall accidents, has expanded its service nationwide. With the recent additions of trained technicians in Oregon, Washington, Alabama, and Georgia, NevaSlip is now available to make floors slip-resistant and safe in all 50 states. An industry leader for over 18 years, NevaSlip™ applies the most advanced anti-slip formula available on tile, marble, granite, terrazzo, and concrete floors—indoors or out—to give them a Static Coefficient of Friction (SCOF) reading that meets or exceeds requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for at least 8 years. “Around 25,000 falls occur every day. But our NevaSlip™ service makes it easier than ever for a company anywhere in the country to protect employees and customers from falls while also protecting its bottom line,” said Owner and President Stan Handman.
www.nevaslip.com

LATICRETE EXPANDS TO MEET TEXAS-SIZED DEMAND
LATICRETE, a world leader in the manufacturing of innovative systems for the installation of ceramic tile and stone, recently celebrated the completion of an $8-million, 50,000-square-foot expansion to its Grand Prairie, Texas, manufacturing and warehousing facility in Dallas County. The new expansion more than doubles the size of the existing operation, resulting in a 90,000 square foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing and fully-automated warehousing facility, necessary to meet increased demand for LATICRETE system materials in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. LATICRETE co-owner and senior vice president, Henry B. Rothberg, cut the ceremonial ribbon to officially commemorate the expansion and modernization of the environmentally-friendly Grand Prairie, Texas, facility, which was realized without any interruption to LATICRETE customers and valued partners in the Dallas-Forth Worth Metroplex. In addition to Henry B. Rothberg, top LATICRETE officials from world headquarters in Bethany, Connecticut, were on hand for the opening ceremonies and Texas style barbecue that took place on the grounds of the facility. James “J.B.” Bouldin, LATICRETE vice president, operations, Ed Metcalf, LATICRETE president, North America, and Dr. Will Martinez, LATICRETE president, international & executive vice president, traveled to Texas for the grand opening. LATICRETE was the first ceramic tile and stone installation materials manufacturer to obtain GREENGUARD Certification for an entire product range, and the LATICRETE System can contribute points towards LEED certification for projects within 500 miles of the Grand Prairie, Texas, facility.
www.laticrete.com

POLYCOR OFFERS FREE CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR ARCHITECTS
Further your knowledge on the characteristics of certain natural stone products which make them more or less suited for specific applications, rate the performance of natural stone using ASTM Standard Test Methods, learn which LEED credits are applicable to using natural stone in your project, all from the comfort of your home or office—at no cost! After this one hour course/presentation, participants will be able to state the features and benefits of natural stone products, analyze the stone quarrying and stone fabrication processes, list the applications of natural stone in a variety of market segments, rate the performance of natural stone using ASTM Standard Test Methods, and identify the characteristics of certain natural stone products which make them more or less suited for specific applications.
403.389.9918

KINCAID PROMOTED AT LOUISVILLE TILE
Louisville Tile Distributors announced the promotion of Don Kincaid to National Sales Manager, a newly created position within the company. In this new role, Kincaid will oversee all sales of tile and related products for the company and will supervise consolidated account/customer service functions for the distributorship. Kincaid has been with Louisville Tile Distributors since 1983 and most recently served as Manager of Dealer Sales.
www.louisville-tile.com

GRANITIFIANDRE PROMOTES KLEIN
Italian stone and tile manufacturer GranitiFiandre has announced the promotion of Joy Klein to the position of Director of National Accounts effective January 1, 2008. Klein is charged with oversight of all aspects of the company’s National Account Program for the US Market. “Joy has shown outstanding leadership and initiative during her tenure with us, and we are excited to promote her to this important role within our operations,” said Jeanne Nichols, vice president for TransCeramica, the sales and marketing arm of GranitiFiandre for the United States. Klein has been associated with GranitiFiandre since 1998 and was quickly promoted to various management positions, including hospitality division manager and national accounts manager. “I am very excited to oversee all aspects of our national accounts, which are such an important part of our business plan. During the past ten years, I have been involved in the development of our national account programs and have cultivated a vision of how to take our programs to the next level,” said Klein. “With our Italian and US produced product offerings and US distribution centers, I see no limit to our growth potential, and more importantly, to our ability to meet our customer needs. This new role will allow me to continue to manage and develop the details that make our programs so successful,” she adds. Klein holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business, Finance and Italian Language from Florida State University and an MBA in Leadership, Marketing and International Business from the University of South Florida.
www.granitifiandreusa.com

CUSTOM ANNOUNCES PASSING OF FOUNDER THOMAS R. PECK, SR.
Custom® Building Products announces the death of company co-founder Thomas R. Peck, Sr. on January 3, 2008. He was 91. Born October 29, 1916 in upstate New York, Tom moved to southern California with his family in 1919. After graduating from Bell High School, he served his country in the U.S. Army, stationed in the South Pacific during WWII. Upon his return, Tom joined his aunt in a small paint business and thus began a life-long career marked by success and the admiration and respect his colleagues, customers, employees and peers in the building and construction industry. Over the next decade he worked tirelessly as sole owner and operator of his fledgling business. During this time he demonstrated his remarkable ability to see and create opportunity without compromising ethics. Tom’s rare combination of genuine warmth and keen business vision made him admired and loved by everyone he met. In 1964 Tom and the late Mike Bilek, Sr. established Custom Building Products with little more than an idea and the determination and willingness to make it happen. The dream eventually grew to be the leading tile installation product supplier in North America, with over 1,500 employees in 15 locations. He was so devoted to his work and his employees that he continued to go to work until he was hospitalized in November 2007. “It is difficult to overestimate Tom Peck’s influence on Custom Building Products. His almost daily presence at our corporate office served as an example of what is important to us in business: focus on our customers, employees and vendors, and treat each of them with respect and fairness,” said Tom Peck, Jr., president of Custom. “My father lived to that standard and he became a wonderful example of how to successfully grow a business. ­­His legacy and that of his late partner and co-founder, Mike Bilek, will continue to guide us in the future.” Tom is survived by his wife, Ruth, four children and 10 grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family would graciously accept a donation to the American Diabetes Association Thomas R. Peck memorial fund at https://diabetes.org/secure/donation/Donate.do?action=Memory


One-on-Two…with Barry Culkin & Roger Questel
 
March 2nd, 2008

“I knew this material was an important innovation in the world of interior decoration.”

March-April 2008

By Jeffrey Steele

As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of decorative tile, Rutland, Vermont-based Questech Corporation has carved out an enviable place in the tile industry. The firm’s fascinating success story is chiefly the result of efforts by two men: company founder, chairman and creative director Roger Questel, and president/CEO Barry Culkin.

Roger Questel launched his career as a sculptor in the late 1980s, carving works of art out of wood and later metal in a New York City studio. Finding solid metal too heavy and expensive, he set out to find an alternative material that met his needs.

Not long after, he developed a revolutionary process for casting beautiful metal objects at a fraction of the weight and cost of solid metal. That set the stage for Questech Corporation, and the tile industry’s first mass-produced cast metal tiles.

Barry Culkin, who had been president of Boston Whaler and head of Reebok’s U.S. operations, was recruited more than a decade ago to serve as president and CEO, help find a way to manage the company’s increasingly complex operations and lead Questech Corporation into new markets. Culkin has shepherded the company to a fivefold increase in sales, and into a 70,000-square-foot state-of-the-art headquarters facility where 100 employees produce cast metal, cast stone and natural stone tiles.

Questel and Culkin recently granted a unique “One-on-Two” interview with TileDealer to discuss how Questech metal was invented, the way in which the company embraced tile making, the secrets of its successful distribution and new product development and what’s ahead for Questech Corporation in the coming years.

TileDealer: For those who may not be familiar with Questech, please give us an introduction to the company.

Culkin: Questech is a company that prides itself on providing innovative new ideas and superior design to the tile industry—or as we call it “Artistry and Imagination.” Our company was the first to bring premium, lightweight cast metal tiles to the market on a national scale. And with the help of our customers, we created the category. Today, we are very much the leader in the decorative tile market, not just with metal tiles, but also with decorative cast stone and accessories that are beautifully designed, easy to care for, and domestically produced, which allows us to deliver superior levels of delivery and service.

We’ve evidently done a good job in a relatively short period of time, because it’s hard to go in to a tile store today and not find a Questech product.

TileDealer: It must have been difficult for a small metal tile company to establish wide-spread distribution so quickly. How did you do it?

Questel: From the moment we started, we always had the best customers. Before we were in the tile business, Questech was a visual merchandising company. We created beautiful premium metal signs and merchandising for the top brands in the world—like Harley Davidson, Absolut Vodka, and Timberland.

These companies were attracted to our product because we provided them with brand identity signage in a material that reflected and reinforced their image. When we became a tile company, it was also the best brands that recognized that we could provide beautiful metal tile that would complement their lines.

TileDealer: How did you make the transition to tile?

Questel: When I invented Questech metal, I realized that it presented a great tile design opportunity. Never before had premium metals like bronze and pewter been as easy to design with, work with or care for as it had now. And the medium of metal seemed to be a perfect decorative complement to the kitchen and bath—a fact that is evident today with the popularity of metal hardware, appliances and faucets and fixtures. But Barry was the one to recognize and understand that the tile business could drive the economic engine for the company.

Essentially, he saw visual merchandising for what it was—a custom products business. He knew that we needed to make products that could be sold day in and day out, so that we could expand our sales to a much greater degree, and be more consistently profitable.

TileDealer: You said that you invented Questech metal. How did that happen?

Questel: I ran into the same issue that, for centuries, artists and sculptors have had to face—that casting premium metal is an expensive and difficult medium to work in. I started my career as a wood sculptor in New York City, and eventually was being commissioned to sculpt works of art for clients like Orson Welles, the Gettys and Ralph Lauren. But I was also determined to design sculpture that could be sold in the best galleries in the city. I had created a series of large sculpted wooden bowls with fascinating design features that I thought would be perfect to cast in bronze for the art galleries. I quickly discovered that a bronze casting would be prohibitively expensive and much too heavy as a tabletop piece. My frustration led me on a journey that ultimately brought me to invent Questech—a patented process to cast premium metal that was a fraction of the weight and cost of traditional metal casting.

TileDealer: What led you to bring Barry in?

Questel: From the beginning, Questech was exciting and successful. My invention garnered a lot of attention—it received recognition in the book The Rolex Award for Innovation, in important newspaper articles, and from the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt Museum, into which Questech metal was inducted.

My very first Questech customer was Radio City Music Hall, for which I created tile and trim. I knew this material was an important innovation in the world of interior decoration and I was also aware of the potential it had as a business.

In order for Questech to reach its potential, I knew that I needed a counterpart with the experience and skills to grow the company into a successful enterprise. Barry was a successful executive who had been president of Boston Whaler and a senior vice-president for Reebok. Barry and I were introduced on a snowy day in December and immediately experienced the kind of chemistry necessary to establish a long term partnership—as well as forge a real friendship.

TileDealer: Barry, what did you see in Questech to make you leave big business for what essentially was a start-up company?

Culkin: I recognized immediately that Questech metal was a “change the competitive landscape” technology. In other words, I saw a beautiful material that had the potential to provide a dramatic difference in the marketplace. I didn’t know yet which market was the right one, but I was determined to move us from a custom shop to a branded company that produced and distributed standard product lines. We looked at a lot of different businesses to enter, but it turns out that Roger’s first Questech job—tile for Radio City Music Hall—was not going to be the last.

TileDealer: What changes did you make?

Culkin: A great product can’t manufacture and sell itself—it needs great people to do that. So from my first day on the job, I began to build a first class organization. Together we determined that tile was where we could best leverage our technology and superior design capability.

Simultaneously, we made significant upgrades to manufacturing, moving from a labor-intensive operation, to what today is a highly sophisticated, fully-automated manufacturing process that ensures high levels of product quality and service. We also began the important work of building a brand identity, and developing our distribution channels. Both of these objectives require us to be vigilant about ensuring that our product lines provide real revenue growth for our customers. We do that through great products that make a real difference, supported by superior marketing and service.

TileDealer: What’s New and Exciting?

Culkin: We recently introduced our next “landscape-changing” technology. It’s called Q-Seal, which is the world’s first permanent natural stone sealer.

This product is exciting because it has the potential to forever change the way stone is sold. Q-Seal is baked on in the factory, not painted on like ordinary sealers, and we guarantee that it never needs to be resealed. It’s also superior to ordinary sealers because it has an ingredient called Ultra-Fresh that fights odor and stain-causing mold, and it’s chemical resistant, so you can use ordinary household cleaners.

Customers who buy our tumbled marble never have to worry about water, stains, resealing or buying special stone cleaners.

TileDealer: What do you see happening in next 5 years?

Questel: We have many more ideas in various stages of product and technical development. This approach gives us great results because all of the innovations compete against each other, allowing the best ideas, like Q-Seal, to rise to the top. In other words, we don’t launch a so-so product idea just because it’s what we have; instead, we get to choose the idea that has the best chance to provide significant revenue for our company and our customers.

I guess the short answer is that I see a lot of growth for Questech and our customers over the next five years, and the next and the next.

Sources:

Roger Questel, Chairman and Creative Director

Barry Culkin, President/CEO

Questech Corporation, Rutland, VT

802-773-1228


Tile Tour 2008
 
March 2nd, 2008

Turkish Tile Builds on Tradition
Past centuries pave the way for 21st century trends

March-April 2008

The Turkish tile tradition is centuries old, but one look at the design trends offered today demonstrates the Turkish quest for unmistakable style and quality supported by the most modern manufacturing capabilities. Colorful, textured designs are featured on through-body porcelain materials available in large format rectified tiles suited to the most modern installations. Listellos and decoratives personalize large format materials. Popular stone looks capitalize on nature and the increasingly green benefits of ceramic. Turkish designers have tapped trendier looks with wallpaper and animal prints, pop art and metallics, and capitalized on their manufacturing expertise by offering the largest formats in the industry.

Here are just a few of the latest offerings

Kutahya Seramik offers unique, new rectangular sizes, colorful pop art designs and natural stone looks. Metallic looks show off in Jazz Club, 20×20″, 10×20″ and 10×10″ in shades of cement, white, khaki and oxide. Companion decos and listellos come in 5×20″ and 10×20″ featuring the metallic look and a great relief.

Kutahya also offers a whimsical pop art design in Fantasia, bringing color and imagination to living spaces, from the living rooms, to bedrooms, to kitchens and bathrooms.

The Wool City series features textile and metal touches in one line. The series is available in 20×20 sizes in green, ivory, anthracite, scarlet, brown, light grey and beige.

New from Kutahya Seramik, Cosmos is a 10×30″ rectangular, the first series in this size produced in Turkey. Cosmos matches classical with modern touches to living spaces. Rectified tiles are available in beige and maroon with companion 7×30″ decos.

Madera porcelain tiles with natural stone looks feature the high breaking strength, low water absorption, resistance to chemicals and to frost that make today’s living spaces better. Inspired by nature, and detailed with the rustic reliefs, Madera comes in beige, ivory, scarlet, noce and grey and is 13×26″.

Urban Life by Vitra

From Vitra, the new collection Urban Life combines elegance without compromising durability. Colorbody tiles are made of porcelain, which is a sustainable renewable resource. This collection offers a wide range of colors including Vizon, mocha, beige, ivory, grey, dark grey, black, antrasit, cream, super white, super black, tobacco, beige-grey, blue-grey, maple, oak, wenge and cherry. The colors are enhanced by a selection of textures such as matte, lappato, hammered, relief leather, wood and grip. This collection gives every space a tranquil atmosphere to balance the fast pace of city life. It is easy to maintain and is slip resistant. Urban Life is suitable for commercial places such as airports, restaurants, shopping malls and offices as well as residential spaces. Sizes range from 6×12″, 12×12″, 18×18″, 24×24″ and 24×48″ emphasizing that VitrA’s Urban Life Collection does not just cover space. It defines it.

KALE’S ENIGMA and rainbow plus

One of the newest series from Canakkale Seramik and Kalebodur is Enigma, the full-bodied porcelain ceramic tile fit for the connoisseur. This tile range is a close reflection of volcanic stone colors and is available with wall tiles in rectified 30×60 cm and 60×60 cm sizes, fully harmonized with 30×60 cm full decors and 15×60 borders. The entire Enigma series can be completed with elegant additional pieces of natural-looking platinum and gold imprinted borders.

Kale’s Rainbow Plus offers a rich world of colors. It derives its color codes from the RAL-Design System. Canakkale Seramik and Kalebodur is the sole manufacturer supplying such an extensive range of color preferences, with 71 different color options. Rainbow Plus also offers a rich range of sizes, and since all sizes are modular, transitions and combinations between different colors and schemes are made possible. Rainbow Plus System is the only application system that can provide perfect solutions for customized decoration where there is no space for error or inefficiency. These perfect solutions also provide for a rich product line, including special modules such as those for corners and edges, allowing the overall design to perfectly match the nature of the space. The Rainbow Plus System has anti-bacterial and easy clean attributes as options. Easy clean is a modern application that is administered to wet surface tiles enabling water to flow off the surface more easily. The antibacterial option allows surfaces to sustain high levels of hygiene, where health is a consideration. The Rainbow Plus System has matte, shiny and anti-slip surface alternatives and is suitable for outdoor flooring.


Taking a new look at Cement Tile: One of the newest tile trends is one of the industry’s oldest products
 
March 2nd, 2008

March-April 2008

By Zoe Voigt

If you have walked the show floor at Coverings or Surfaces in the last few years, you have no doubt noticed the growing number of cement tile manufacturers and options. Their broad color spectrum and traditional design seem at once familiar (as in, where have I seen that before?) and new. The cement material lends a unique texture and chunkiness, much different from the glass, stone and large format porcelains that have been grabbing the tile headlines. Colors can be bold or muted and the designs are often traditional and even geometric.

Interestingly, depending on the manufacturer, the origin of cement tile is explained differently. One thing is certain—the tiles were first manufactured sometime shortly after Portland cement was invented in the mid-nineteenth century. They were created and installed all around the world, accounting at least in part for their “Old world” appeal today.

Once introduced, cement tiles grew in popularity. Around the turn of the twentieth century, they were very popular in the United States. They lost popularity in the U.S. sometime between the 1920s and ’30s and only started making a comeback in the 1980s and ’90s. According to Wilhem Stevens, sales manager at Original Mission Tile in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, “For a while, cement tiles went out of style. In the 1970s, cement tile in Mexico was used in government housing projects and they were very cheap. Only a cloud pattern was made and the quality wasn’t always very good.”

Today thanks to a resurgence in the antique patterns and an interest in new designs and a newer color palette from some manufacturers that works well with the growing popularity of all kinds of tile, cement tile floors are enjoying a renaissance.

Despite this long history, misinformation—especially in the U.S.—abounds, perhaps because cement is such a humble material. For those who haven’t seen installed cement tile floors, it must seem inconceivable that a material used in road construction can also be manufactured into a floor that is sophisticated and elegant.

Tile importer Nina Long of Wholesale Tile in Tampa, Florida, has been importing cement tiles for 25 years. She’s heard all kinds of misconceptions. “People think they are painted, people call them encaustics, and when they aren’t polished, people say they are honed. Of course, they aren’t painted or honed at all. Technically, they aren’t encaustics either, as true encaustics are made of clay.”

“I think that sometimes dealers see some of the colors and patterns, like the wild pinks and greens, and they think, ‘I can’t sell this!’” says Long. “It can be hard to visualize, but cement tile offers a whole creative process. You can have any color or design that you can imagine. That is the most exciting quality of cement tile. People aren’t used to that with floors.”

Long has seen the floors on trips to China, Russia, Europe, Mexico, and all throughout the Caribbean. Cuban immigrants installed the tiles throughout Southern Florida, where there are still cement tile floors between 70 and 100 years old.

Melanie Stephens, marketing director at Granada Tile, has seen the tiles throughout Nicaragua, Turkey and France. “The more people have traveled, the more they are familiar with cement tiles. If they don’t travel and they haven’t seen it, it can be hard to understand,” she says. “This is a fascinating product, the way the tiles are made and the options that are available.”

Karen Witynski and Joe P. Carr’s series of eight books on Mexican design and architecture includes four titles that highlight cement tiles, most notably, Casa Yucatan and Hacienda Style. Many images prominently feature cement tile floors in appealing patterns and colors. Witynski says, “You can’t get away from cement tiles in the Yucatan—they are an important part of the design aesthetic.”

“In Mexico, there is a lot of humidity and with the warm climate, wood and carpets would not have held up well. The walls are very sparsely decorated, so tiles became the design solution to add color and interest to the rooms.”

How cement tiles are made

The process for creating cement tile is at once simple and elaborate. Simple because there are few ingredients and little equipment needed. The tiles are not fired or glazed; they air cure. Elaborate because the tiles feature intricate designs that require significant training to produce.

First a mold is created, which, depending on the pattern, could be simple or very intricate. Preexisting molds are antique or modern. The customer can also create a custom design.

To make a tile mold, an artist draws the individual design that will be created, keeping in mind the overall pattern. From that drawing, an artisan metalworker produces a single tin or copper mold. It depends on how elaborate the design, but according to tile manufacturer Jorge Aguayo, vice president of Aguayo Tiles in the Dominican Republic, “A design with a medium degree of difficulty usually takes about three weeks to make.”

Once the mold is ready, natural mineral pigments are poured into the compartments. Dry cement is sprinkled onto the color surface, then a mixture of damp sand and cement is dumped on top. Intense pressure compacts the layers and makes the tile strong. The drying and curing process takes 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the humidity and other factors.

According to Original Mission Tile’s Stevens, “To make good quality tiles, you must have well trained workers who love what they do.”

Usually, the workers who manufacture cement tile learn the skills as apprentices and pass the craft to subsequent generations. According to Aguayo, “Our tile factory has been making cement floor tile for three generations. The artisans are very proud of their work and this shows in the finished product.”

Handmade cement tiles are each unique and are expected to have slight imperfections, which give them character and depth. “It is interesting how everyone’s tiles are different,” says Granada Tile’s Stephens. “Each manufacturer makes choices. Everyone’s color palette is different. They use different formulas and pigments. The aggregates and other variables result in differences in the finished tile.”

Who uses cement tile

There is a bit of exotic flavor to many of the cement tile floors, especially in some of the antique patterns in bold colors. While this can be appealing to some customers, manufacturers sense that the American marketplace has been slow to adopt these tiles because of the preference for a more subdued look.

Simpler designs and mellow colors are becoming popular. Also, field tile can be used to unify designs throughout the house. Because the tile can be made in virtually any color and pattern, the tile appeals to creative types who can design their own floors.

Kelli Naramore of Triangle Tile and Stone says, “The tile is gorgeous and timeless. It definitely has an old-world look. It could be used throughout a house much more than any other type of tile because it has a very warm feel.”

“A new floor will patina with age, so it looks like it has been a part of the environment for years,” adds Long. “If maintained properly, they get increasingly beautiful.”

Original Mission Tile’s Stevens explains the versatility of cement tiles. “We are seeing people [who] are looking to have their own personality in the spaces. They don’t want to have the same floor as their neighbor. Architects and designers prefer cement tile because they can do whatever they want with the color and designs. There are no limitations with what you can do with cement tile.”

“Perhaps the versatility of cement tile is one reason that the tile isn’t used as much as it could be,” says Michael Dowd, owner of Paramount Tile in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. “Because if people don’t understand cement tile, they might not understand the creative process. Sometimes it takes a professional, like an architect or designer to guide the end-user to the tile’s creative potential.”

According to Dowd, there isn’t one type of design that customers choose more often. “I find that the use is evenly spread between patterning with all-over coverage as well as area rugs and lots of solid colors. In South Florida, neutrals, creams, beiges and whites are always very popular. Also, pops of color in the patterning.”

Who makes cement tile

Cement tile is made throughout the world, generally in small workshops that sell to the local community. The tiles are heavy, as are the materials to produce the tiles, so transportation is a significant percentage of the cost of the tiles. Long says, “Dealers should always make sure that they are quoted the price of tile landed in the U.S. Otherwise the shipping could be astronomical, especially if it is coming from China or somewhere else far away.”

Many tile fabricators have been in the business for decades, some for multiple generations. Large or small, one common thread seems to be that the factories are family businesses.

At the Original Mission Tile’s factory, Stevens’ family has been turning out cement tiles for four generations since 1900. Stevens’ great-grandfather, who was German and Italian, started the company. At the time, it was only the second cement tile factory to open in all of Mexico. He had to bring all the raw materials, the molds, and the machinery from Europe.

The Aguayo factory makes cement tile as well as pavers and blocks. “The tile factory is turning 60 this year,” says Aguayo, whose grandfather started the company. “I’m really passionate about the tile. I’m happy when I get to be creative, inventing new things.”

Granada Tiles started five years ago, although President Marcos Cajina has been making the tiles practically his whole life. “The company is a family business,” says marketing director Melanie Stephens. “We were inspired on a trip to Nicaragua, where we saw the most incredibly beautiful installations in big public spaces. I said to Marcos, ‘I would love to know how these tiles are made.’ And he said he knew, that he had made them as a teenager.”

Another small family-owned business is Sahara Designs. They import the tiles from their factory in Morocco. “Our designs and machinery came from France,” says co-owner Elizabeth Marsamane.

Quality issues

The fact that cement tile is made extensively throughout the world in both large factories and small workshops results in vastly different quality. “If the tiles aren’t cured properly, you are going to run into problems,” says Long, who has imported the tiles from many different companies. “I look at the factory very carefully. The facilities, machinery, skill and number of workers, how they make and cure the pieces of tile are all indicators of the quality. This is not visible in the finished tile, but the differences are there.”

Aguayo says, “The biggest difference between cement tile manufacturers is the mix of colors, and the amount of pressure used to manufacture the tiles. If the pressure is not always constant, it can cause problems later. Customers need to be aware about this.”

“Also, make sure that the colors are made with only mineral pigments. If other pigments are used, you’ll have a problem with fading colors,” says Aguayo. “The thickness of the color layer is important, so that the tile wears beautifully. If workshops try to save money, they won’t use as much pigment in the color layer and it will reduce the life of the tile. There should always be at least 3-4 mm of color on the tile.”

According to Original Mission Tile’s Stevens, “Small workshops are cheaper, but they can have lots of quality control problems. Of course, there will be slight variations, like with stone, but that is one of the qualities that make the tiles beautiful. So it can be hard to tell if there are quality issues from looking at a tile. We use a hydraulic press. Smaller workshops use a hand press and the quality is low.”

Installing, sealing and cleaning cement tile

“For installation, I’d rather see a stonemason install these tiles than a general tile contractor, because the installation method is much more like setting stone,” says Aguayo. “Butt joints and be careful sealing because the tiles are porous like stone. I would tend to think that a stonemason would do a better job, unless the tile installer had a lot of experience specifically with cement tile.”

Dowd agrees, “Stone setters understand cement tiles because they are very similar to stone. You have to allow for natural variation of the depth of the tile, use a mud setting, and the sealing processes are similar. Also, the tight grout joint is crucial.”

Stevens from Original Mission Tile says, “The tiles should be installed on a level and stable cured concrete surface. Water cut the tiles and use 100% coverage of thinset. The grout joint recommended is 1⁄16″ to 1⁄8.”

According to Suzette Dávila, a distributor in Puerto Rico, cement tile is very easy to clean. “You just clean with water and occasionally with a neutral detergent, and that is all.” Most people prefer this natural look but she suggests occasionally sealing and waxing for those who want a light shine.

Future of cement tile

“I’ve been amazed at the evolution of these tiles. People are coming up with really creative ways to express themselves using the tiles,” says Witynski. “In a renovation, they may honor the building’s past by salvaging what they can of the tiles and creating a rug pattern in the middle of the floor, then surrounding it with poured concrete.”

Stephens of Granada Tile says, “I don’t know of another floor tile that has as much pattern variety and depth, or has the longevity. Mass-produced tile is just not comparable at all.”

“We have found that the average order of tile in Nicaragua is larger than here in the U.S. Americans tend to use the tiles more daintily. This has to do with the way the tiles are used. In Central America, they will put the floor throughout the whole house. Here in the U.S., it may just be a bathroom or backsplash.”

“Architects and designers who’ve been stymied in the past by lack of choices in flooring love this product,” says Stephens.

Cement tiles are gaining a following in the US as well, however. Jorge Aguayo says, “We are starting to see large commercial projects in US, such as restaurants and hotels. People will see tile in public places and over time, awareness will increase.”

Concrete tile

Pavers are made differently than cement tile. For pavers, the cement is not hydraulically pressed; it is poured into molds and vibrated. These tiles are described as environmentally-friendly products because they aren’t quarried, glazed, or fired, and the materials used are natural.

Bill Smith, president at Smith-Laredo, explains, “Our concrete tiles are individually molded and handmade in the San Diego area. The tiles have full-body color all the way through.” The company manufactures two lines of concrete tile, Casa Monterey and Minimalist. These large format tiles can be used indoors and out.

One type of cement paver, Girstone, looks exactly like granite cobblestones. These are for outdoor use, and are cheaper and easier to install than stone. Although they were invented in France and are used extensively throughout Europe, they are manufactured by Aguayo and imported into the U.S. through the Dominican Republic.

Contact Information

Manufacturers:

Aguayo Tiles

Jorge Aguayo, Vice President

Industrias Aguayo de Constructcion

Av. Independencia No. 1813

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Granada Tile

Melanie Stephens, Marketing Director

1109 W. Kensington Road

Los Angeles, CA 90026

Tel: 213-482-8070

Fax: 213-482-4123

213-925-7974

Original Mission Tile By Mosaicos de Diseno

Wilhem Stevens, Sales Manager

Ave. Salvador Nava Martinez #3253

San Luis Potosi, SLP 78290 Mexico

Tel: (52) (444) 817 3929

Fax: (52) (444) 841 5946

www.originalmissiontile.com

Sahara Designs

Moorish Tile & Architecture

4215 Park Blvd.

San Diego, CA 92103

619.295.3500

www.saharadesigns.com

Smith-Laredo

Bill Smith, President

5256 S. Mission Road

Suite 703-09

Bonsall, CA 92003

866.581.5748

www.Smith-Laredo.com

Importers and Distributors:

Karen Witynski Carr, Author/Designer

3267 Bee Caves Road #107-181

Austin, Texas 78746

www.mexicanstyle.com

512-370-9663

Suzette Dávila, Importer and Distributor

Antonio Lopez #2

Esq. Font Martelo

Humacao, Puerto Rico 00791

787-852-0220

Michael Dowd

Paramount Tile

490 Griffin Rd

Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312

954-989-7669

Nina Long, Owner

Wholesale Tile and Accessories

1902 Flagler Street

Tampa, Florida 33605

813-248-0455

www.wholesaletile.biz

Kelli Naramore, Co-owner

Triangle Tile and Stone of NC

6601 Hillsoborough Street, Suite 101

Raleigh, NC 27606

919-859-5860

www.triangletile.com

Lundy Wilder, Developer

Villa Lagoon Tile

15342 Fort Morgan Road

Gulf Shores, AL 36542

251-978-2876

www.villalagoontile.com


Now What?
 
March 2nd, 2008

March-April 2008

By Dr. Albert D. Bates

Currently, almost every firm faces a somewhat uncertain future; a few even face a frightening one. Depending upon the sector of the economy, sales range from soft to non-existent. Regardless of the exact size of the sales challenge, management faces the same issue. Namely, what actions need to be taken to ensure the success of the firm in the face of unknown future sales.

What management decidedly should not do is simply “ride out the storm” given that in uncertain times there are no clear choices for action. Such inaction is wonderfully stoic, but threatens the long-term success of the firm.

This report will attempt to provide some guidance on the issue of what to do now. It will do so by exploring three fundamental issues:

  • Volume Sensitivity—Measuring with precision the impact that sales has on the firm’s financial performance.
  • Sales Offsets—Identifying the changes in expenses and margins that are required to offset a decline in sales.
  • Action Guidelines—Some specific suggestions for ensuring the continued financial health of the firm.

Volume Sensitivity
The very first requirement is for management to fully understand its degree of volume sensitivity. Every firm knows intuitively that if sales fall, then profits also fall. What is not so precisely understood is the rate at which profits fall in relationship to sales.
It is essential to understand this relationship as most firms track sales in a real-time basis. Profitability measures, even in firms with excellent accounting systems, often trail sales reporting by weeks or even months. Every firm must know the impact that sales declines are having now, while offsetting actions can be taken.

Understanding volume sensitivity is a straight-forward process. However, it does require knowing two ratios, both of which can be estimated:

  • Gross Margin Percentage—This is simply the gross margin dollars produced as a percent of sales.
  • Variable Expense Percentage—These are the expenses, such as commissions, bad debts, overtime and interest on short-term debt that tend to vary with sales volume levels. This ratio is expressed as a percent of sales, even though some variable expenses—such as commission—may be based upon gross margin.

The result of netting these two ratios, the volume sensitivity ratio, measures the impact of every lost sales dollar on profits. In formula terms:

Volume Sensitivity % =
Gross Margin % –
Variable Expense %

A ratio of 25% would mean that every dollar of lost sales results in twenty-five cents of lost profit. Exhibit 1 uses this ratio to measure the impact of a ten percent decline in sales for the typical CTDA member. As can be seen, given the size of the volume sensitivity ratio, even such a modest decline in sales decimates profits.

At the risk of being redundant, it is essential that this relationship be clearly understood by management. In most instances, management can maintain grace under fire as long as the firm is not losing money. It is only when sales have fallen precipitously enough to eliminate profits that management begins to consider more decisive action.

The short-run challenge is that many firms are experiencing sales levels that put them well below break even. In such instances, firms are actively exploring the avenues that will offset the more significant sales declines.

Sales Offsets
Luckily, the firm’s profitability is also relatively sensitive to changes in other factors in the business. In particular, the firm is highly sensitive to changes in the fixed expense load and in the gross margin percentage. These two areas must be the prime focal point of any offset management program. Exhibit 2 (page 20) examines how much of change is required to offset a ten percent sales decline.

Expense reductions are the most natural response to a sales decline. For most CTDA members they are also probably the most effective in the short run. The challenges lie in knowing how much to cut and where.

The first column of numbers in Exhibit 2 merely repeats the results of a ten percent sales decline for the typical CTDA member. The second column traces what the firm would have to do in terms of a fixed expense reduction to return to its original profit level.

As Exhibit 2 indicates, the reduction required in fixed expenses is slightly larger than the reduction in sales that drove the firm down to break even in the first place. In every business, regardless of profit level, it is always true that fixed expenses have to be reduced slightly more than sales in order to maintain the existing profit level. The problem is that fixed expenses are largely intractable. As always, saying they have to be reduced is much easier than actually reducing them.

Most managers, especially in smaller firms, would prefer not to have to make reductions in the payroll area. The reality, however, is that payroll and fringe benefits represent by far the largest single expense category for virtually every firm. Some fairly spectacular expense reductions will have to be made if payroll is going to be off limits.

The final line in the second column indicates the percentage reduction required in non-payroll expenses alone to move the firm back to its original profit level. As can be seen, the required reduction is well beyond the ability of most firms. This means the firms cannot make the reductions required without examining payroll.

Firms must make the conscious decision to either maintain profit levels today or maintain existing staffing levels in hopes of a better tomorrow. It is not an easy decision. What managers should not delude themselves into thinking is that they can avoid payroll reductions and still keep profit levels up.

The final column in Exhibit 2 looks at the change in gross margin percentage that would be required to also move the firm back to its current profit level. The last two items show the current gross margin percentage and the required gross margin on the reduced sales level. For most firms the required change is daunting, especially when there is a downward pressure on gross margin.

Exhibit 2 does nothing to make life any easier for managers of CTDA companies. What it does do, however, is identify the size of the challenge they are facing. Mangers must then decide if they want to attack expenses, gross margin or both. They also need to focus on the areas that will improve these two factors.

Action Guidelines
It is important to understand the volume sensitivity of the firm in order to know when to worry and how much to worry. It is also important to understand the sales offset options to provide a sense of direction on holding profit levels. However, it is most important to have some ideas regarding how to make the offsets work. In that regard, there are five critical actions for management:

  • Conservative Planning—Given the uncertainty of the economic situation, firms must develop their financial plan around an extremely conservative sales forecast. If expense needs and margin opportunities are based on a conservative plan, the firm should be successful.
  • Contingency Planning—If sales fall five percent, one set of actions are required. If they fall ten percent, then a second set is required. Firms should plan which expenses will be cut and by how much before sales problems develop. In this way the emotionalism of the moment can be avoided when it is time to make the actual cuts.
  • Avoiding the Classic Mistakes—In an era of declining sales, one of the first things many firms think about doing is reducing their inventory and accounts receivable to raise cash. The results are almost always disastrous. The inventory reduction inevitably leads to out of stock situations and lost sales. The accounts receivable reduction also tends to antagonize customers who are anticipating actually paying slower. Any action that drives sales down even further must be avoided.
  • Emphasizing Inside Gross Margin—Suppliers are also under pressure in a down economy. Extensive inbound margin improvement opportunities exist. If the firm has a strong cash position, it should even consider advance purchasing of key items. It is also a great time to ensure that proper controls are in place to control markdowns, shrinkage and other gross margin traps.
  • Getting Back to Basics—The firm needs to get everybody focused on the customer. There is no such thing as too much service. Expense control and gross margin management can solve some problems as shown in Exhibit 2. Maintaining sales growth can keep the problems from arising in the first place.

Moving Forward
There is wide-spread disagreement as to the severity and length of the recession. If firms take the proper actions now, they will be in a strong financial position, regardless of the economic realities. If not, they have little choice but to try to “ride out the storm.” It may not be a pleasant experience.

Dr. Albert D. Bates is founder and president of Profit Planning Group, a distribution research firm headquartered in Boulder, Colorado.

©2001 Profit Planning Group.


Showroom Seminar: On the Border: Enter Decorative Tile Territory to Capture New Customers
 
March 2nd, 2008

March-April 2008

By Kathleen Furore

Remember the days when most customers wanted white-tiled shower stalls and unadorned backsplashes?

Not anymore! Glass starfish tiles accent modern bathrooms, hand-painted stone and bronze listellos frame still life kitchen wall murals, and ceramic floor medallions create interest in entrance halls.

Today’s homeowners prefer products that add a custom look—a touch of personality—to kitchens, baths and other areas of their homes. Consequently, dealers who want to capture a larger market share are adding listellos, borders and decorative accent tiles to attract design-savvy customers.

“Homeowners are looking for unique, out-of-the-ordinary accents to incorporate into their projects in order to customize their homes and ‘notch up’ the level of design,” reports Jay Gibson, president of Metaphor Bronze, the company that introduced the art of bronze tile to the American market in 1997. “Accent and trim tiles can elevate a simple design into an extraordinary one.”

With the housing market’s demise, more and more owners are opting to “elevate” existing homes—a fact that is boosting interest in decorative tiles. “With the slow-down in home sales recently, there has been a resurgence of remodeling. Instead of buying a new home, owners are redoing bathrooms and kitchens to refresh their surroundings,” notes Dan Traynor, owner of Scottsdale-based Arizona Hot Dots, whose company designs and produces hand-made accent tiles and design elements in pewter, bronze, glass, and stone.

Adding Accents Adds Profits
Because customers want more options than ever before, offering a broad inventory of glass, metal, ceramic and stone decorative pieces gives dealers a competitive edge in a very competitive market. After all, why would customers who want to enhance a new shower with blue bubble glass or a backsplash with pewter inserts buy the main tile from you if they have to order the accent tiles from another shop?

“Decorative items like these are a very important component of the sale. Dealers can use them to draw all project materials together in a design for the customer in a more effective way than the competition,” says Oliver Motschmann, division president of Largo, Florida-based StudioTiles LLC, a distributor and manufacturer of listellos and other decorative tiles including floor medallions and hand-painted borders. “Price is always a factor. But in the end, design and material selection and the composition of the two are the primary reasons customers buy from one retailer over another. Listellos are a big component in this equation.”

They are also a big component in the equation that adds up to increased profits. “Virtually every tile installation is an opportunity for tile dealers to include specialty accents and add to their bottom-line profit,” Traynor says. “Typically we see a markup of double the wholesale price. For example, our two-inch pewter accents wholesale at $9.95 and retail at $18.00 to $22.00.”

Adds Gibson: “Offering borders and accents to complement field tile exponentially increases design possibilities and adds value to the customer’s order. The mark-up on art tile is the same, but since the base price is greater, profits per piece are greater. Most importantly, a tile showroom that displays high-end accent tiles attracts a higher-end customer who is likely to place a larger order.”

Tracking Trends
With so many materials to choose from, how can you select the types of accent tiles to inventory—the glass, metal or stone offerings that will be most popular with your customers and add value to their orders? The answer depends, at least in part, on your location and the types of installations in which the tile will be used, industry experts say.

While demand for specific tile materials fluctuates from year to year, Motschmann sees stone declining slightly after being strong for many years. “Demand for stone is by no means dead or dying, but the demand for glass, metal, and even ceramic materials is on the rise,” he says. “Metal is increasingly in demand for both the residential and commercial markets.”

Barbara Briskin, national sales manager at Emenee—a Bronx, New York-based decorative hardware and tile manufacturer that offers glass mosaic, metal and even leather tiles—also reports an upswing in the desire for metal accents. But she says interest varies from region to region. “The metropolitan markets understand metal and have used it for years. In secondary markets, the demand for metals is just now starting to spike,” she notes.

Traynor finds that metal is used more regularly in kitchen backsplashes, while glass is favored in bathroom installations. “Stone and ceramic continue to be the standard because of wide selection and versatility,” he says.

Yet as popular as these decorative tiles have become, the cost of tiling an entire surface in pewter, bronze, glass or high-end stone can be an expensive proposition many homeowners simply can’t afford. That fact is driving demand for incorporating creative listellos and accent tiles with other tiles—an approach that adds personality and pizzazz without breaking a customer’s budget.

It’s a trend known as mixed media installation—using two or more materials together in a space—and it’s one of today’s hottest trends. “Using listellos is certainly one of the most effective and least expensive ways for customers to personalize a mixed media installation,” Motschmann explains. “They are usually the smallest and therefore least profitable overall component of the tile project, and are sometimes not the primary focus of retail. But the demand from customers to incorporate a level of personalization in their space is certainly consistent if not on the rise, and listellos are one of the ways they can reach some manner of personalization.”

All types of art tiles “may be used sparingly to notch up the design of a project with a limited budget,” Gibson concurs. “Some customers will tile a whole backsplash with bronze, others will add a few accent pieces for interest.”

Economical art tiles do exist, Briskin notes. But she admits that tiling an entire backsplash or wall exclusively in metal, for example, becomes costly. “It’s also an aesthetic issue,” she notes. “Metal just looks better as an accent or a trim. You can add a real richness to your installation using metals. It’s an element that brings extra added style, texture and warmth to any installation.”

Merchandising Matters
Whatever lineup of listellos, decorative and accents tiles you choose, it will take more than pulling specialty tile catalogs from behind the counter to guarantee your success in selling these add-on items. The experts interviewed had the same advice: Show actual product and offer design ideas to up-sell customers.

“There is no substitute for having samples in the showroom to put in front of customers,” Traynor of Arizona Hot Dots stresses. “People will buy what they see, and being able to physically touch a sample creates a connection between the customer and the product.”

“Always show complete designs of the various materials and listellos you want to sell together on a concept board to help customers visualize the installation. It makes the end sale much easier,” StudioTiles’ Motschmann says.

“Show a customer how they can add a ‘finishing touch’ to their installation and a light bulb goes off!” Customers want someone to hold their hands through the process and give them great design ideas, too,” Emenee’s Briskin concludes.


Putting Knowledge to the Test with Certification
 
March 2nd, 2008

March-April 2008

How much do you and your employees know about ceramic tile? That’s the challenge CTDA posed last year when it launched its Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program. The CCTS program offers individuals and their employers throughout the industry the opportunity to quantify and demonstrate their know ledge of ceramic tile products and installation. To date, more than 130 industry professionals have been certified, with more waiting in the wings to take the test.

Because consumers wouldn’t take their car to a mechanic who had no idea how the vehicle worked, or buy a house from a builder who didn’t bother with permits or inspections, the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) designed the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program to deliver knowledgeable, professional service to the customer, to quantify the considerable expertise of the salesperson/dealer, and to promote quality manufactured materials. Certification distinguishes the professional and documents his or her expertise.

Because CCTS is comprehensive in its approach to both design and technical issues, the program is appropriate for those in both sales and technical areas. Members of the industry’s manufacturing community, who are already technically adept, say the CCTS program forced them to look at tile through the eyes of their distributor customers. They were challenged by questions of pattern, layout and estimating just as those from the distribution chain were challenged by installation issues.

How does someone become a CCTS?
Becoming a CCTS is no easy task. Candidates must have been employed in the ceramic tile industry for at least two years and pass a three-hour certification exam testing their knowledge and ability to locate knowledge on many different aspects of tile, tile installation materials and methods, applications and standards.

Once a candidate has registered for the CCTS exam, he or she receives two binders that comprise the CCTS Study Guide. The Study Guide Reference Binder contains tile industry references from which the test was written (such as Tile Council of North America (TCNA) Handbook for Ceramic Tile Installation; American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Specifications for the Installation of Ceramic Tile) and CD-ROMs with pretests and a study guide. A second binder contains CTDA’s complete Tile Training in a Box with DVDs. Additional areas of knowledge covered by the CCTS program include CTDA Reference Guide and Installation of Tile and Stone for the Beginner; Basics of Ceramic Tile Test; CTDA’s How to Handle Customer Complaints Guideline; and more.

Pre-tests included in the Guide allow candidates to identify their strengths and weaknesses and measure readiness to pass the exam. Candidates work through the pre-tests, mastering both the materials and the available resources to successfully pass the final certification test. The passing score on the exam is 70%, so candidates must score higher than that on the pre-tests.

The personal commitment required to take and pass the exam alone is substantial. In many companies—including dealers, distributors and manufacturers—individuals have chosen to study for and take the certification exam as a group. These candidates typically credit the shared knowledge of group study as a real benefit in individually passing the test. However, individual testing is just as successful.

The “bottom line” for an increasing number of companies is to have their staffs earn the CCTS designation, whether they do so as a group or as individuals. Industry knowledge is a valuable commodity in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace. It distinguishes the company and its staff and also, ultimately, results in better sales and more satisfied customers. To learn more about CTDA’s CCTS program, please visit the association’s website at www.ctdahome.org or contact the association at (630) 545-9415.

Foster and Clark Real Estate
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