Tile, the Economy, and CTDA
 
May 2nd, 2008

May-June 2008

We hear a lot about the economy these days and not all of the news is good. The housing slowdown has certainly hit the tile industry. Many distributors and dealers have suffered painful drops in sales. Some distributors in the tile and flooring business have filed bankruptcy or even shut down operations. While there is no doubt that many have been hurt in recent months, there are still many bright spots in the economic picture for those selling ceramic tile and stone.

Word from the northwest and Canada is that much of the tile business is holding up well. Tile sales in the southeast (other than Florida) and northeast seem to be largely hanging in there. Despite big drops in residential construction, commercial continues to keep many tile sellers busy. Although tract homebuilders have dramatically reduced their tile consumption nationwide, showroom-driven business, including remodeling, has kept lots of tile businesses going. The very high end of the market tends to resist economic downturns and now seems to be no exception. Many of us find that tile sales these days are—at best—an unpredictable rollercoaster ride.

These are the days that make CTDA membership especially valuable:

  • First, the many educational and training opportunities available to CTDA members are accessible and affordable. Online education and self-study programs like Tile Training in a Box save time and travel costs while ensuring that my employees have the most current knowledge. This benefits my business and my customers.
  • The new Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson designation gives me another opportunity to distinguish my employees and my company from the competition.
  • Networking at the Management Conference and at CTDA-sponsored events like Coverings gives me invaluable opportunities to meet and mingle with industry leaders whose experience and insight help me run my business. They also allow my voice to be heard.
  • Unique CTDA opportunities like the Turkish Trade Mission in 2006 and the 2008 Trade Mission to China introduce me to new products and markets I would not easily meet on my own.
  • As a member of CTDA, I can take advantage of discounts on shipping, insurance programs, client collection services, telephone charges, auto rentals, and more.
  • CTDA’s annual business surveys and reports help me evaluate my company in terms of profit improvement, employee compensation, distribution and company performance. Participation is free with my CTDA membership!

The bottom line here is that the cost of my CTDA membership is a small price to pay for the industry opportunities the association offers. At a time of uncertain economic challenge, the benefits of association membership really add up to help me run my business. When the economy is good, I continue to leverage these benefits to make the most of every growth opportunity.

As I talk to people around the country, I see plenty of cause for optimism in our exciting industry. My approach is to work smart, sell hard, prepare for a bright future ahead, and continue to leverage the many benefits of my CTDA membership.


What We’re Talking About Now
 
May 2nd, 2008

By Janet Arden, Editor

May-June 2008

This issue of TileDealer takes on a pair of headline grabbers—greenbuilding and the economy. They may seem inescapable in the media, but in the tile industry, they could actually be good for business.

When we first started publishing TileDealer in 2003, greenbuilding was a fairly new concept working its way into the commercial and municipal building market and to a much lesser extent into the homebuilding market. We wrote our first feature about it in the July/August 2004 issue.

Today, greenbuilding is mainstream. Consumers are searching out green products whether they are building or remodeling, and when it comes to tile—they’re asking you for information. But, determining which products are (or are not) green requires considering a variety of factors like sustainability, life cycle impact, indoor air quality, emissions, soil erosion, efficient use of water, transportation, and of course, use of recycled materials. It’s a complicated mix, but tile meets a lot of the green criteria.

So, with this issue of TileDealer we begin an occasional series taking a closer look at what you need to know about greenbuilding with tile. We’ve already learned a lot—just turn to page 22—and we’re just getting started!

What the numbers say

Every year at Coverings, the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) presents a valuable, statistical look at the tile industry, including domestic production, imports and exports. This year, TileDealer is extremely pleased to publish this important market report. And as always, the numbers reveal interesting trends. Not surprisingly, the tile market declined for the first time since 1994-95. This comes on the heels of record growth in the industry in which consumption increased 32% in the last ten years!

Other numbers point to the changes in percent share of imports from the five largest exporting countries (Italy, Mexico, Spain, China and Brazil) and detail the dramatic rise in China’s share of tile exports to the U.S.—from 0.2% in 1997 to 16.1% in 2007! The complete report begins on page 35.

Is it possible the economy isn’t all bad?

Those are the findings in the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s Kitchen/Bath Industry Outlook (K/BIO) which says “The kitchen and bath industry is likely to remain in relatively good shape in 2008 compared to other segments of the construction industry, if some conditions hold true.”

The report allows that remodeling is still strong and could remain so for a number of reasons, including the trend to remodel kitchens & baths to attract buyers in a slow market and/or to improve the lifestyles of homeowners who are postponing moves due to market conditions. It refers to the baby boomers who are in their remodeling “prime” and the echo boomers who are just establishing families. The cocooning phenomenon that keeps us retreating to our homes is continuing, jumpstarting the desire to improve those spaces. And don’t underestimate the media hype about newer, better (even greener) kitchen and bath products.

Remodeling alone probably can’t save the economy (even KBIS offers two economic scenarios—one hard, the other soft), but it can offer a bright spot. Think about who might remodel and how you can leverage that marketplace. Do you reach out to newcomers in the community? To the remodeling contractors who are actually working? Do you offer—and advertise—free seminars for homeowners looking for solutions to dated spaces?

These are challenging times, and they call for innovative solutions.


Innovations
 
May 2nd, 2008

May-June 2008

Modono Glass Tile Collection
Color Mirage™ will launch The Modono Glass Tile Collection at Coverings booth #3540, a collection of glass tiles with textures and patterns that respond to varying colors and wavelengths, created by nationally recognized designer Carrie Fazio. Four distinct series make up the Modono Collection: Opulence, Vintage, Extreme and Organic. Opulence, considered the designer series, is a luxurious metallic line with three subtle layers of dynamic textures. Glass tiles in the Vintage, Extreme and Organic series portray an iridescent sheen designed to transmit or reflect specific wave lengths (colors) and will appear to change color as the viewer’s perspective to the product changes or the light sources relative to the product change in direction or intensity. Vintage colors and patterns were selected with a Victorian sensibility and 1950s flair, using rich blues, reds and purples for an overall classic feel. Extreme offers a less-subtle color palette, utilizing screaming colors for an active installation, in which the colors move and change based on the lighting even after the product is installed. For the Organic series, Fazio selected natural and organic textures and patterns that are seen in the environment, including bamboo and tree branches. Fazio has created this collection that utilizes varying textures and sizes that bring a radically new design element to both interior and exterior spaces.
APomeroy@appliedcoatingsgroup.com

Bigger & Faster Carbide Glass and Tile Bits
Drilling in glass and tile requires exacting precision to prevent cracking and shattering. Bosch Power Tools and Accessories has engineered its new Glass and Tile Bits with a unique geometry to drill faster and last longer than the competition. Starting at 1⁄8" up to 1" in diameter, the industry’s largest bit size, they are equipped with a 3-flat shank to reduce slippage that leads to more accurate cutting. These tungsten carbide bits are diamond ground to a precision point that eliminates walking and its reinforced head prevents the carbide from cracking. The new Glass and Tile bits are best suited for working with glass, ceramic walls, and ceramic floors making it the best solution for cutting glass, bathroom installations, drilling and fastening mirrors or even setting screws in glass furniture. “The Bosch Glass and Tile Bits are a perfect solution for professionals or DIYers who need to drill into multiple materials,” states Ed Pchola, Group Product Manager, Bosch Power Tools and Accessories. “The bits deliver a great balance between cost and performance by cutting faster and lasting longer than other carbide bits.”
www.boschtools.com

Motawi Introduces Montana De Oro
Art tile makers Karim and Nawal Motawi extol the creative imagery of celebrated block print artist Yoshiko Yamamoto in their most recent introduction, Montana de Oro. Kayakers, surfers and camp-ers will know that Montana de Oro is a beautiful state park where trails and cliffs meet the Pacific Ocean on the California coast. Yoshiko captured the uncommon allure of one of the park’s natural vistas in October 2006 when she created her bold yet delicate block print. Now Motawi Tileworks has adapted her art work, making a stunning art tile that will last a lifetime. Montana de Oro is part of Motawi Tilework’s annual art tile collection launch.
www.motawi.com

Crossville® Introduces Retro Active
Retro Active by Cross-ville® is a fashion-forward tile collection of updated retro colors in today’s most in-demand shapes and sizes. Sleek, clean and contemporary, Retro Active is Porcelain Stone® “tile that looks like tile.” On its own, Retro Active is ideal for minimalist design schemes in commercial and residential spaces. Or, it can be dressed up with glass and metal Accent Innovations™ by Crossville®. The Retro Active series is available in two finishes, UPS and polished, and eight colors: Pure White (UPS finish only), Empress White, Featherstone, Maple Sugar, Seabreeze, Seal Taupe, Antico Taupe and Ebony. The series includes multiple sizes and shapes, including the popular plank, to offer maximum design versatility along with trims including Bullnose, Cove Base, and Inside and Outside Corners. Offered as part of Crossville’s extensive custom cutting program, Retro Active offers the appeal of custom tile without the industry’s customary long lead times; it is made to order and delivered within three to four weeks. Laurie Lyza, Crossville’s Director or Marketing, sees “Retro Active’s minimalist look working well in all commercial and institutional venues, as well as upscale residential spaces such as urban, loft-type dwellings and luxury multi-family projects. It has a high coefficient-of-friction value and is recommended for interior floors, walls and countertops, and exterior walls in both commercial and residential environments.” Selected and grouped to make creating that perfect retro look a breeze, the colors in the Retro Active series come from Crossville’s legendary commercial line, Cross-Colors®, designed by noted color consultant, Barbara Schirmeister.
www.crossvilleinc.com

Sleek, Stylish and Square Profile
The Schluter-QUADEC square tile profile is an ideal choice for designers and installers looking for sleek design, durability, and value for their tile installation project. To protect any tile installation it should include profiles installed at the outside edges, corners, and transitions of the tiled surfaces. This prevents damage from mechanical stress and daily wear and tear. These square profiles are not only functional; they add a whole new design element of interesting contrasts and contemporary finishes. In addition to edging tile, QUADEC can also be used as a decorative accent within tiled areas. Combining QUADEC with other profiles, such as the QUADEC-FS feature strip profile and the DESIGNLINE border profile, provides homeowners with even more design options. Convenient to use and easy to install, QUADEC is secured in the mortar bond coat beneath the tile. All that shows on the tiled surface is a smooth, lustrous band that sets off the tile while protecting its unfinished edges. A universal connector piece is used for inside and outside corners as well as end caps. Manufactured from wear-resistant stainless steel and anodized aluminum, QUADEC is available in several finishes including stainless steel, brushed, satin, satin nickel and an exclusive new color: antique bronze.
www.schluter.com

Tile Redi® Barrier-Free Shower Pans
Tile Redi has brought to market a line of “barrier-free” products which not only make entering the shower an easier procedure, they also minimize potential accidents. “It’s tough enough for anyone to step over a bathtub wall when getting into the shower,” stated Farrell Gerber, Tile Redi Executive VP, Sales. “Imagine how difficult it is for a disabled person to do that? And, accidents can even happen with people walking into a non-bathtub shower, and tripping over the raised entryway “lip,” which is positioned to keep water from leaving the shower’s base and wafting over onto the bathroom floor” Tile Redi’s barrier-free shower pans are produced so that there is no raised “wall” as one enters the shower. Rather, the one-piece unit is slightly pitched so that all water, upon hitting the shower’s floor, instantly runs downward to the drain. This eliminates water running over onto the bathroom floor, minimizes ponding in the shower and ultimately, cuts down on users slipping and hence experiencing potential injury. Additionally, Tile-Redi barrier-free shower pans allow for those who must enter the shower on a wheelchair the freedom to simply wheel into the shower without any kind of raised area that could inhibit their entrance. Tile Redi patented and UL-listed shower pans are manufactured as pre-formed, one-piece molded shower modules. Complete with fully integrated drains, curbs and splash walls, each leak-proof unit is pre-pitched for easy drainage. By solving water intrusion problems, Tile Redi shower pans inhibit the growth of mold and mildew.
www.tileredi.com

Travertine Inspired Glazed Porcelain Tiles
Mediterranea has re-created the natural look of travertine stone in a sophisticated glazed porcelain tile series with the recent launch of “Bella,” a large format collection of glazed porcelain tiles inspired by one of the world’s oldest and most distinguished natural stones. Bella, produced in the USA and readily available for timely distribution, meets all ADA requirements for slip resistance and is ideal for commercial and residential installations. The natural travertine-look of the Bella series from Mediterranea is available in 18" x 18" and 13" x 13" large format sizes, and is complete with bullnose accessories and mesh-backed mosaics on 13" x 13" sheets. The Bella collection of fully-rectified glazed porcelain tile is offered in four colors: Terracotta, Gold, Beige and Noce.
www.mediterranea-usa.com

GranitiFiandre Expands Luminar Collection
Italian stone and tile manufacturer GranitiFiandre has expanded its patented Luminar collection with two additional color offerings—OptoWhite and OptoBlack to join the initial color offerings of OptoGold, OptoSilver, and OptoBronze. “Luminar’s patented porcelain technology delivers a design marvel of texture, depth, and dimension in five lustrous shades,” said Jeanne Nichols, vice president—sales and marketing for GranitiFiandre in the United States. Created with an interactive porcelain material that reflects and generates light, Luminar materials release a continuous stream of tactile and visual experiences on most surfaces. Luminar’s visual impact comes from the unique optical effect of its surface design—a continuous series of concentric circular engravings created in part through a special treatment applied to the porcelain tile. Luminar is created with advanced porcelain technologies that ensure superior values of hardness, non-absorbency, and resistance to fire, frost, wear, and chemical attack.
www.granitefiandre.com

Novoplan® Easy
MAPEI has rounded out its line of reduced surface-preparation products with the addition of Novoplan® Easy, an easy-preparation, self-leveling underlayment for leveling, smoothing and repairing interior floors before the installation of floor coverings. “MAPEI is growing its line of Concrete Restoration Systems, and Novoplan Easy meets the requirements of contractors who need to level a floor up to one inch [2.5 cm] and who want to save time,” said Todd Miller, MAPEI’s CRS Business Manager. “When Novoplan Easy is used over a properly primed, sound and stable substrate, surface profiling is not required, making this product a valuable complement to our premium Ultraplan® Easy self-leveling underlayment.” Novoplan Easy can be used over ceramic tile, VCT, cement terrazzo and small amounts of old cutback adhesive residue. Once the surface has been cleaned of dirt, oil, grease, etc., and primed with a MAPEI primer such as Mapeprime™ 1K, Novoplan Easy can be poured or pumped in depths from 1⁄8" to 1" (3 mm to 2.5 cm). Tile and natural stone can be installed after 12 hours. This unique leveler can be combined with MAPEI compounds to provide a total system. Novoplan Easy gives contractors another green product that contributes toward valuable LEED-certification points.
www.mapei.com

Kidszone™ My Space My Tiles
The Winchester Tile Company is delighted to announce the arrival of their very first range of decorative tiles especially designed for babies, toddlers and children. The Kidszone™ range has something for every age and phase of a child’s life, to add color and charm to many areas within the home—including the nursery, bedroom, playroom and bathroom. Colorful and fun, our tiles are also an extremely practical solution for decorating spaces where children spend time playing, learning and sleeping. There are 21 different designs in the Kidszone™ family: Educational Nursery Rhymes, Toy Cupboard, All Aboard, Counting with Teddy, ABC, Animals Jack’s Farm, Pony Paddock, Fantasy Hocus Pocus, Pirate Treasure, Mermaids, Open Road, Beside the Sea, Groovy Girl, and In the Zone. The Kidszone™ designs are perfectly complimented by a large selection of co-ordinating colored field tiles and mouldings from the Winchester Classic range which are available in matching 41⁄8", 5" or 5"x21⁄2" border sizes. This collection is designed to a superior specification, on premium quality biscuit, aimed at the top-end market where homeowners have 3+ bathrooms and are looking for something individual and special for their loved ones.
www.winchestertiles.com


Industry Insights
 
May 2nd, 2008

May-June 2008

Tile Images Has A New Name:“Bath and Tile Images”
“With increasing demand for my hand painted sinks and water closets, I have changed the name and launched a new website: www.bathandtileimages.com,” stated Molly Hammond of Bath and Tile Images. Painting on ceramic and porcelain results in permanent pieces of art that will last forever. China and porcelain painting is an ancient art that involves multiple layers of special glaze that is applied to a previously glazed piece. After each layer it is kiln fired making a permanent glaze. All tile, sinks, and water closets are created the same way. Hammonds’s work is hand painted, custom designed, and signed. No decals are used and no two pieces will ever be the same. The piece of art that is created will be around for generations, outliving the artist that created it, adding immeasurable personal value to her client’s home. All of my pieces are created to be used and enjoyed,” said Hammond. “Making the move to encompass her best selling hand painted sinks and water closets along with her hand painted tiles reflects the increasing demand for her art. Molly is truly an inspirational artist, she works intimately with her clients to meet their project parameters. Molly uses the ancient art of porcelain painting to custom design and hand paint sinks, tiles, and water closets,” stated her publicist.
www.bathandtileimages.com

Johnson Promoted at Q.E.P.
Q.E.P. Co., Inc. announced the promotion of Brian Johnson to Vice President Retail Marketing. Johnson, of Jupiter, FL, has been with Q.E.P. for over four years and had over ten years experience in home improvement marketing prior to joining Q.E.P. In this new capacity Johnson will now oversee the marketing efforts and presentations to the company’s largest customers, as well as its communication and brand message to the Retail Division’s ultimate end-users. Commenting on the promotion, Senior Vice President Len Gould offered, “Brian has made a tremendous impact on Q.E.P. and helped establish our leading position in the flooring industry. With this promotion, we look forward to Brian’s strategic input as we continue to grow the Q.E.P. and Roberts brands throughout the retail marketplace.”
www.qep.com

LATICRETE Names Jones
LATICRETE has appointed Gary Jones as Technical Sales Representative for the Central Pennsylvania territory. Jones will work to educate architects, distributors and contractors on the benefits and proper usage of LATICRETE system materials, primarily in Greater Harrisburg, Reading and Lancaster. Jones will provide demonstrations and technical answers to architects during the specification process, while concurrently servicing existing distribution relationships and building the LATICRETE base of MVP distributors and MVP contractors in Central Pennsylvania. Jones comes to LATICRETE with over 20 years of professional experience in the building industry, including outside sales and top-level management positions. His in-depth knowledge of the building industry and his expertise in Pennsylvania state and local building codes, made Jones the ideal candidate to promote the benefits of installing ceramic tile and natural stone with LATICRETE system materials.
www.laticrete.com

ParexLahabra Promotes Marc Brown
ParexLahabra, the parent company of leading building material brands Parex, La Habra Stucco, El Rey, Teifs, Surewall, Mer-Krete and Mer-Ko, today announced the promotion of Marc Brown to Plant Manager of ParexLahabra’s Riverside, California, location. He will have the primary responsibility of overseeing the operations of the manufacturing facility. “Marc has proven to be an asset to our company and we are thrilled to promote him to this key position.” said Julien Latrille, Director of Operations for ParexLahabra, Inc. “I am confident that Marc’s leadership will contribute to future successes.” Brown joined ParexLahabra in 2004 as a Quality Control Manager and quickly rose to the position of Assistant Plant Manager.
www.parexlahabra.com

Louisville Tile
The Louisville Tile Nashville branch is pleased to announce that Patti Smith-Connelly is now Regional Sales Manager, and Dale Womack is named Customer Service/
Operations Manager. As Regional Sales Manager, Patti is now responsible for all outside sales for the Nashville branch, a natural extension of her experience and success with the A&D market. In his important new role, Dale oversees the Nashville branch’s inside sales and the branch’s operations, leading our team to ever-increasing excellence in customer service.

Fazio introduces Color Mirage™ and Modono
Color Mirage™, a decorative glass product line recently introduced to the market by the Applied Coatings Group (ACG), has been designed by Carrie Fazio, the principle and lead designer of revamp, a New York design firm. Fazio was selected after an exhaustive national search. As an independent interior designer for Color Mirage, Fazio designed the 2008 glass tile collection, Modono, to be introduced at Coverings in April of this year and will continue to design the 2009 collection which is expected to contain even more exciting, elegant and colorful glass. The Modono Glass Tile collection utilizes the firm’s optical thin-film technology at its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Rochester, New York. Fazio combines her work experiences in advertising and interior design to bring a unique skill set that sets her work apart in the design community. Fazio has been the lead designer for projects in New York, North Carolina and California Her portfolio includes the New York Wine & Culinary Center, a Renaissance boutique hotel, numerous commercial properties, a chain of upscale and trendy cosmetic centers and high end residential properties. “Carrie’s eye for color and texture, which is what we ultimately sell, convinced us that she was the best suited to help us. We have every expectation that the marketplace will acknowledge the quality of our designer selection by embracing this new, colorful and elegant glass tile collection,” said Andy Pomeroy, president and CEO of ACG. “Not only has she shown us that she is a great designer, she has exhibited great passion and excitement in the process that has inspired our entire team which, by the way, consists mostly of engineers. It’s been a real pleasure watching our staff engage with Carrie and develop an understanding of design objectives and the design process. Our organization is much better equipped to manage the evolution of the Modono line as a result.”
APomeroy@appliedcoatingsgroup.com

Crossville Promotes Laurie Lyza to Director of Marketing
Crossville, Inc. has promoted Laurie Lyza to Director of Marketing. Since joining Crossville in 2005 as Marketing Manager, Lyza’s responsibilities for the company’s marketing efforts have continued to grow. In her new role, she will have primary responsibility for all marketing initiatives as she works with Crossville’s marketing team to develop and coordinate new product launches and special events, as well as to oversee marketing communications nationwide. “Crossville’s image and visibility in the marketplace, and in the design journals and the flooring trade press have never been better,­ says Crossville President John Smith. “Much of this is due to the quality and sophistication of the marketing program that Laurie Lyza and her team have developed. She has established a new level of cooperation and professionalism in the Marketing Department that is recognized and appreciated by the entire Crossville family.”
www.crossvilleinc.com


One-on-One…with Andrew Whitmire
 
May 2nd, 2008

What do the numbers say about the U.S. Tile Industry in 2007?

May-June 2008

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) presents a statistical look at the U.S. tile market annually at Coverings. Their review includes domestic production, imports and exports. As such it is a valuable look at the industry here and abroad. In the last decade, consumption has increased 32%!

This year, TileDealer is pleased to be previewing this report. Despite a significant downturn in some numbers, TCNA’s Andrew Whitmire points out that the report reveals some interesting trends in the industry.

TileDealer: How long has the Tile Council been doing this study of the marketplace? Why? How has the breadth of the study evolved since it was first done?

Whitmire: This is the third year I’ve been tracking tile data. Before I started working with the data in-house, an outside firm compiled the tile data. The outside firm did not include housing or other economic data, which have been added. We track the data to keep up-to-date with the marketplace and as a benefit to our members.

TileDealer: Can you offer a little background on how you gather the numbers. What sources do they come from? How much analysis do you have to add to achieve the review you presented here?

Whitmire: All the tile data comes from the U.S. Commerce Dept. Housing information also comes from government sources, which are listed at the bottom of each graph (e.g. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Freddie Mac, and U.S. Census). For my analysis, I review the data, the trends they reveal, and report on them. I also read articles from several industry publications to help keep current.

TileDealer: What are the conclusions TCNA is drawing from the report?

Whitmire: Drawing off the housing data presented on the last page of my article, we don’t expect a bounce back in the industry this year, given the state of the housing market.

TileDealer: How did the tile market perform in 2007?

Whitmire: The U.S. ceramic tile market had a major downturn last year, following the trend of the declining housing market. Total tile consumption was at 2.67 billion sq. ft. This is down 19.5% from 2006 and the lowest consumption has been since 2002. It is also the first time since 1994-95 that total consumption has decreased from one year to the next.

The main decrease in consumption came from imports, which were down 20.3% from 2.73 billion sq. ft. in 2006 to 2.18 billion sq. ft. in 2007. Domestic shipments were not down as much (14.4%), and exports actually increased 5.3% over 2006 figures (see table 1).

This decrease comes on the heels of record growth in the industry (see chart 1). In the last ten years, we have seen consumption increase 32%!

TileDealer: What about imports? From which countries does the U.S. get the most imports? What are the trends there?

Whitmire: Imports continue to make up a large segment of the market. In 2007, 81.6% of tiles consumed in the U.S. were imported, compared to 64.2% ten years ago and 51.9% twenty years ago. However, imports’ percent share of the U.S. market (in sq. ft.) did fall slightly from 2006, in which import penetration was 82.4%.

Ten years ago, three countries—Italy, Spain, and Mexico, dominated U.S. tile imports, making up 78.3% of total tile imports (in sq. ft.). Today, Brazil and China have joined them as the top exporters of tile to the U.S. In fact, tile from these five countries now constitute 84% of U.S. tile imports.

In recent years, consumption has shifted away from the more expensive European imports towards tile from countries such as China, Brazil, and Mexico, which have lower labor costs. Many Italian companies have invested in building factories in the U.S. such as StonePeak, Florim, American Marazzi and Panariagroup. Mexico benefits from lower tariffs, shipping costs, and lead time in getting their products to the U.S. market. With the rising cost of fuel, shorter distances lower transportation costs and can make a big difference in the price eventually paid by the consumer. The weakening dollar also contributes to the increasing cost of European tile.

In 2007, 2,178,258,074 sq. ft. (202,366,797 sq. m) of ceramic tile arrived in the U.S. This is a decrease of 20.3% from 2006, in which 2,732,199,108 sq. ft. (253,829,603 sq. m) of ceramic tile were imported into the U.S. This is also a 17.4% decrease from 2005 (2,638,336,636 sq. ft. vs. 2007 total of 2,178,258,074).

China was the only one of the top five countries (from which the U.S. imported tile) that made gains in 2007—up 1.4% in sq. ft. and 4.6% in dollar value. Also of note, China passed Brazil for third place behind Italy and Mexico in tile exports (in sq. ft.) to the U.S. China also passed Brazil in dollar value in 2007 and is now fourth behind Italy, Mexico, and Spain.

Chart 2 illustrates the changes in percent share of imports from the five largest exporting countries. Note the dramatic rise China’s share of tile exports to the U.S.—from 0.2% in 1997 to 16.1% in 2007!

TileDealer: What are the key economic drivers for the industry showing?

Whitmire: GDP: Real GDP increased at an annual rate of 0.6 % in 4Q 2007 (advance estimate). Real GDP increased 4.9 % in 3Q 2007. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)

Housing Starts: New home starts were down 25.8% from 2006 to 2007. New home starts for Jan. 2008 were at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1,012,000 units. This is a 0.8 % increase from Dec. 2007 and a 27.9% decrease from Jan. 2007. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

New Home Sales: For the year 2007, new home sales (773,000) were down 26.3% from 2006 (1,049,000). New home sales for Jan. 2008 were at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 588,000 units. This is a 2.8 % decrease from Dec. 2007 and a 33.9% decrease from Jan. 2007. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

TileDealer: Where do you think the market will be in 2008?

Whitmire: According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the housing market is expected to bottom out around mid-year and to be down a total of 22% in 2008, on top of the 26% drop in 2007.1 The National Association of Realtors (NAR) projects new home sales to be down 13.5% in 2008 and then to rebound in 2009, rising 9.1%.2

Additionally, due to credit problems, foreclosures and the sub-prime mortgage predicament, consumers are expected to spend 14% less this year in remodeling projects.3

With new home sales, housing starts, and remodeling all down, and with 1.25 million foreclosures last year and that number expected to grow in 2008, we expect to still see downward pressure in 2008 in the tile market, which is closely linked to the success of the housing industry.

1 BUILDER Online News Service; February 13, 2008

2 BUILDER Online News Service; January 8, 2008

3 KBB Online; Industry Forecast, January 2008

Table 1
(In thousands sq. ft.)

% Change in Consumption from

Year U.S. Shipments Imports Exports Total

Consumption

Previous Year
2007 539,156 2,178,258 47,478 2,669,936 -19.5
2006 629,672 2,732,199 45,107 3,316,764 1.8
2005 658,198 2,638,359 37,022 3,259,535 3.5
2004 695,386 2,488,181 34,727 3,148,840 11.8
2003 614,955 2,231,188 28,938 2,817,205 6.6
2002 649,488 2,034,634 41,705 2,642,417 16.2
2001 591,080 1,716,371 33,306 2,274,145 0.5
2000 620,064 1,685,716 42,685 2,263,094 8.4
(Source: U.S. Commerce Dept.)

The top five countries from which tile was
imported in 2007 based on sq. ft. were:

Country Sq. Ft. 2007 Sq. Ft. 2006 2007/2006 % Change 2006/2005 % Change
Italy 523,623,382 660,815,836 -20.8% -4.1%
Mexico 439,945,248 452,002,163 -2.7% 10.6%
China 351,285,136 346,463,033 1.4% 53.9%
Brazil 297,835,862 430,279,074 -30.8% -4.8%
Spain 215,157,211 346,178,952 -37.8% -5.0%

The top five countries from which tile was imported in 2007 based on total U.S. $ value (including duty, freight, and insurance) were:

Country Tot $ Val 2007 Tot $ Val 2006 Tot $ Val 2005 2007/2006 % Change 2006/2005 % Change
Italy 889,642,881 1,040,504,857 1,033,038,229 -14.5% 0.7%
Mexico 262,877,966 275,234,007 250,987,708 -4.5% 9.7%
Spain 256,022,948 368,532,372 356,599,093 -30.5% 3.3%
China 225,580,029 215,627,028 134,326,030 4.6% 60.5%
Brazil 185,887,442 268,145,063 276,227,319 -30.7% -2.9%

Tile Tour 2008: Ceramic Tiles of Italy Spring Preview
 
May 2nd, 2008

Trendsetting Tiles Set to Launch at Coverings 2008

May-June 2008

The Italian pavilion at Coverings is the premiere place to see the top new tile introductions under one roof. From metallic colors to glamorous patterns to innovative formats that are either extremely large or quite small, the space will be a showcase for trendsetting new products from Italy. Year in and year out, American buyers count on Italian tile manufacturers to come up with design solutions that are fresh and fashion-forward.

Organic Solutions
Sustainability and a green lifestyle are top of mind for today’s architects, designers and even end-consumers. In itself, tile is an innately sustainable surface and therefore an ideal choice. Furthermore, Italian manufacturers adhere to strict production guidelines and many are recipients of the prestigious European Eco-label. Tiles that are made in Italy combine outstanding technical benefits with appealing aesthetics. One of the most popular options available on the market is a faux bois tile, which will not only last forever but also help to preserve the outdoors. These tiles are available in elongated planks, squares and chevrons. The offerings also include basket-weave textures, knotty pines mixed with metallic and wood replicas in any hue from the color chart.

The Italians are also sponsoring seminars across the country to spread the message about the benefits of using tile for ventilated wall facades. This is a cost-effective and energy saving answer to exterior cladding.

Luxe Appeal
In this style-driven market, Italian tile collections are on the A-list with designs that mirror this season’s top runway and ready-to-wear looks. With a sea of new introductions in this category, there has never been a better time to dress up an interior. Thanks to continuous advances in technology, visitors to the Italian pavilion at Coverings 2008 will be treated to a new and notable selection of herringbone, hounds-tooth, damask and floral patterns. Whether shown in an oversized format or a small mosaic, these looks make a grand statement in the marketplace.

Much More Metallic
This ubiquitous trend is taking hold of the US market. It is evident in all sectors of high-end design, especially the world of Italian tile. One great example of this move towards metallic is the Ceramic Tiles of Italy booth, which was designed using silver and gold tiles from close to 20 different Italian manufacturers. From silver and gold to platinum and bronze, the list of shimmering colors increases each season and the finishes just get better and better. Many Italian companies are infusing glazes with metals to capture true iridescent qualities. Metallic pieces can be used as accents, but nowadays architects and designers are installing large format ceramic and porcelain for entire floor and wall applications. These sleek and shiny surfaces will be presented in all shapes, sizes and patterns. Be on the lookout for edgy designs that are embossed or in bas-relief.

Color Wheel
Black, white and shades of gray topped the charts at all the major shows this year and promise to continue their dominance at Coverings. Italian manufacturers will show off collections in this classic color scheme. Just like the dresses worn by the top actresses on Oscar Night, red is also a hot color in the design scene. This bold color looks great either mixed with black and white or as an accent. Other rich colors including grey-plum, mustard, marigold, emerald and cobalt will be seen throughout the Italian pavilion.

Graphic Design
Fabulous florals, optical illusions and geometric forms are just a few of the surface images that will make headlines at Coverings. Designers agree that pattern is on the top of everyone’s list this season. From a subtle, tone-on-tone damask print to vivacious circles cast in bright colors, the Italians are taking this trend to new levels to ensure that there is a tile for every style.


Green Tile: A Perfect Fit for the Sustainable, Greenbuilding Marketplace
 
May 2nd, 2008

May-June 2008

By Zoe Voigt

Green – it isn’t just forest, kelly, or lime anymore. These days, green is more likely to refer to environmentally friendly products and buildings that are not only better for the earth, but also health-ier for those using the built space.
Although there may be a learning curve for you and your customers, the green movement is very relevant to flooring and is gaining momentum. Ultimately, the tile industry stands to benefit by this shift toward environmental responsibility because tile is inherently greener than many other flooring options.

Green is everywhere and it isn’t going away
Terri Boyd, president of Craftsman Court Ceramics in Scottsdale, AZ, says, “I’m seeing people ask for green products more and more. We never had anyone ask before this year, but now more people are requesting it.”
In newspapers and consumer publications, environmentally friendly products abound. “I’m seeing more of a demand both in the local shelter magazines and with people coming in and asking for green products,” says Boyd. “There’ve been more articles about it and it really seems to be coming to the forefront.

“I deal mainly with designers and architects, but the end-users are starting to think about sustainable design, too. Designers will be forced to ask about environmentally friendly products.”

As the shift toward sustainability and environmental health increases, it will be important to stay informed on the subject. For tile dealers, in fact for everyone in the building industry, the challenge will be in understanding the many aspects to the green movement and all the certifications that go along with it.

Get the facts
Patti Fasan, of Professional Attention to Tile Installations, recommends that tile retailers, “Research and know the facts. Platitudes on how green your product is without substance are everywhere and do not distinguish the store as green, honest or believable. Back up your claims with actual data and don’t over-state the product or industry’s efforts towards sustainability.”

As more consumers, designers and architects turn towards the green movement, they are going to be coming into flooring showrooms armed with more and more knowledge on what is and isn’t green.

The trouble is, even though you and your customers may have good intentions regarding the use of green products, it can be challenging to pin down exactly what that means—which suppliers offer green and which are just “green washing,” or slapping a meaningless label on their boxes. Many manufacturers claim that their products are green, but how can one be sure?

Fasan suggests that retailers, “Focus on health, safety, air quality, and landfill issues, as ceramic tile achieves an excellent report card in all of these areas.”

What does it mean to be green?
Greenness isn’t just about recycling. Some of the factors to consider in deciding if a product is green include sustainability, life cycle impact, indoor air quality, emissions, soil erosion, efficient use of water, transportation, and of course, use of recycled materials—of which there are multiple kinds.

Indoor air quality
The US Environmental Protection Agency regulates volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids and include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects. This is a bigger issue for indoor air quality as concentrations of VOCs can be many times higher inside a building. The good news is that tile usually fares better for air quality than carpeting, wood products and resilient flooring. Some areas of concern might be the installation materials and maintenance products.
There are multiple agencies certifying air quality for various flooring industries. There is Green Label and Green Label Plus for carpeting, FloorScore for resilient floor coverings and GreenGuard Environmental Institute (GEI) for multiple product categories.

A non-profit organization, GEI oversees the GREENGUARD Certification Program. According to their website, GEI is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Authorized Standards Developer, and establishes acceptable indoor air standards for indoor products, environments, and buildings. Currently, Florida Tile is the only ceramic tile manufacturer with certification from GEI, with certification for 36 products. Laticrete has twenty products certified by GEI, including adhesives, mortars and grouts.

MAPEI has made concerted efforts to improve indoor air quality with technological advances to reduce dust during installation and products that inhibit the growth of mold, mildew and bacteria in many of their products. The company is a member of the US Green Building Council and has developed dozens of environmentally sustainable products that contribute points toward LEED-certified projects.

Emissions
In general, the manufacturing process of ceramic tiles produces some air pollution. The US EPA issued a report on “Emissions from Clay Ceramics Manufacturing Facilities” in 2003. In it, the EPA found that the production of clay ceramic products results in the emissions of pollutants including particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, VOCs, and hazardous air pollutants. These are generally produced due to fuel combustion during handling and transfer at the kilns and at some of the dryers. The final processing of ceramics also results in some emissions. Polishing and final grinding, as well as surface coating and chemical treatment of ceramics also causes VOCs.

Life cycle issues
“There is good news for those in the tile industry. When compared to other flooring, such as vinyl and carpeting, tile fares very well,” says Fasan. “Research alternate floor and wall covering choices and know the competition. Ceramic tile has an excellent environmental story and value.”

One of the biggest issues in green construction is the life span of materials. Life cycle assessment (LCA), or cradle-to-grave analysis, is the investigation of the environmental impacts caused by a product’s existence throughout its usable life. The environmental impact of longevity usually far outweighs the impact of the manufacturing process.

Tile’s performance, durability, ease of maintenance and longevity make it a greener choice than most other flooring options as it will last much longer before it needs to be replaced. Other products may wind up in a landfill in six to ten years, whereas tile can easily last 50 years, and of course, some types can last much longer.

In 2005, the Tile Council of North America commissioned Scharf-Godfrey, an independent construction cost consulting firm, to compare tile to other flooring such as vinyl, hardwood, carpet, etc. The study concluded that all types of tile were more durable and therefore less expensive over the course of the product’s life span. This information also applies to the environmental impact of tile, because if it lasts longer, the overall LCA will be better.

“Get a copy of the Tile Council of North America’s Life Cycle Cost survey for ceramic tile to promote both the financial and environmental savings ceramic tile offers,” suggests Fasan.

Transportation
“Tile, in general, is a green product because it is of the earth,” says Boyd. “But what about the glazes—does the manufacturer recapture them? Do they contain lead? Do they reuse the clay? What do they do with the water after they’ve used it? You really have to be conscious of all of that. They can make the tile in a conserving way, but then they still have to ship it, which of course uses fossil fuels. So this is a difficult thing to balance.
“Concrete tends to use less energy and has no glaze. Recycled glass is another good one. There is an interesting cellulose product that is made from vegetation and recycled old buildings. The problem is that it is made in Thailand and you have to stick it on a boat and ship it here,” says Boyd.

Obviously, tile is heavy. Tile manufactured closer to its installation site is going to use less fossil fuel than tile imported from the other side of the world. If the raw materials to create the tile are harvested from within 500 miles of the factory, then the US Green Building Council considers it to be more environmentally friendly and awards points toward LEED certification.

Crossville Inc. offers a map showing the 500-mile radius from their manufacturing facilities in Tennessee, allowing builders to see how far the tiles have to travel to get to the building site.

Recycled material
There are different kinds of recycled material. Post-industrial and post-consumer are the recycled materials that are mentioned most often, usually as a percentage by weight. The LEED program awards points toward the final project for use of recycled materials.

Many glass manufacturers are using recycled post-consumer content. Some reuse old windshields, bottles and other materials. Other manufacturers are able to recapture clay and glazes to recycle materials within the factory. Although this may not technically count toward recycled credits, it does keep these substances out of landfills and water supplies.

Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) awarded certification for the recycled content of Crossville’s EcoCycle line. These certifications can help towards LEED credits. Fireclay Tile, Eco-Tile, Terra Classics and Crossville are mentioned on the Green Building website for their use of recycled materials.

Certifications
Currently, the US government does not have broad oversight over the green movement. There are multiple agencies and companies that provide labeling programs, standards and certifications for individual products. Others provide certifications for whole building projects but do not specify any products that will help toward this certification. In fact, there are so many that knowing which ones are valid can be overwhelming. International companies have the added burden of meeting standards in multiple countries.

One of the most used measurements of environmental responsibility, the LEED certification by the US Green Building Council, is a complex rating system that identifies entire buildings, not individual products. It seeks to be comprehensive in attempting to certify buildings that are truly environmentally friendly.

Most companies and agencies that provide certification for individual products have few, if any stone, ceramic or porcelain tile listed. Since there is a fee for the certification services, it may be that the larger manufacturers are going to have an easier time getting certifications. Smaller companies also may have green products but may have a harder time coming up with the resources to prove it.

Until there is consensus about standards for green product certification, manufacturers and distributors are going to have to wade though the multiple options and do the best they can to be responsible and use good sense.
According to Boyd, “There have been several articles in the home section of our local newspaper on sustainability and how to shop for it. But the reality is that you have to work through a maze when you start to shop for green products.

“This is a tricky thing. It gets so complicated that I am worried that the average user will just bury his head in the sand,” says Boyd. “We’re moving into a new showroom and we’re going to have a section devoted to recycled and LEED-compliant products. I’m looking for other products to add to this green category for my showroom.”

Awareness
“The big question mark for sustainability right now is, how do you implement it? What are the criteria? It is hard to get information on green tile. I am being forced to take the word of the manufacturer that the tile is sustainable,” says Boyd.

“What the tile industry needs is something like the Good Housekeeping Seal, a standard set by a third party who can create some sort of criteria. That way we can compare apples to apples.
“In the meantime, if nothing else, it is good to raise awareness that sustainability is something to think about,” says Boyd.

What is LEED Certification?
One of the terms being bandied about in the press and by many architects is “LEED certification.” The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System® is a sustainable building program created by the US Green Building Council. The program is a whole building certification program that is setting standards and gaining momentum. This system does not certify individual products, but they can contribute to the project by earning points.

Ashley Katz, communications coordinator for the U.S. Green Building Council says, “The rating system doesn’t specifically call out tiles. However, projects can earn a point within the rating system if they choose products with either 10% or 20% recycled content. If a tile contains this amount of recycled content, it can be used in the rating system and can help earn a point towards certification. Additionally, materials that are extracted, processed and manufactured regionally can earn a point in the rating system.”

“LEED evaluates buildings in the following areas: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. Each of these categories is considered a credit. For each credit, the rating system identifies the intent, requirement, and technologies or strategies to achieve the credit. One or more points are available within each credit, and points are achieved by meeting specified requirements,” says Katz. LEED credits can also be awarded for innova­­tion in design.

Green Choices Multiply
Environmentally-friendly building is here to stay and an increasingly important option for all homeowners, buyers and remodelers. Market trends revealed at the recent International Builders Show in Orlando confirmed the consumer’s continued interest in green building products. Gopal Ahluwalia, NAHB’s vice president of research, reported that new home buyers are interested in anything “green.” Gayle Butler, editor-in-chief of Better Homes and Gardens, agreed, reporting that in a recent study by the magazine, more than half of the respondents wanted to consider green building and remodeling options.

What makes a product green, or environmentally friendly, often has much to do with where or how it’s made as well as what it is (or is not) made of. Here is just a handful of green products that represent the world-wide impact of greenbuilding.

Crossville’s EcoCycle™ Series of eight Porcelain Stone™ tile products have a certified recycled content of 40 percent. Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) confirmed that EcoCycle meets the necessary criteria for recycled content claims based on internationally recognized standards and guidance established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED™ Rating System.
In addition, Crossville will be introducing a new recycled glass product for walls, countertops and floors in the second quarter of 2008. The line comprises five sizes and a 15-color palette, designed by Barbara Schirmeister, which includes white, black and red, as well as soft blues, greens and ambers. It will be available in three finishes: clear, frosted and iridescent.

Hakatai Enterprises has improved and expanded its popular Ashland glass tile to include the new Ashland-e series comprised of 30 to 70 percent recycled glass from bottles and/or other waste glass that would otherwise enter the solid waste stream. The new series offers architects, specifiers, designers and homeowners an environmentally-friendly glass mosaic tile option for commercial or residential projects.

EcoDomo LLC, an importer and distributor specializing in green architectural details, offers Recycled Leather Tiles now listed in GreenSpec®. They are hand-stitched in the United States by Amish artisans. The tiles are a completely “green” product that uses scraps of leather from BMW car seat manufacturers and other tanneries that would otherwise go to landfills. The leather scraps are shredded and bound together again using natural rubber and Acacia tree sap. The process is similar to the making of recycled paper.

Green building applies to more than the tile itself. Increasingly, the materials and products used in the surface preparation and installation of tile and stone products have benefited from new technologies that result in the manufacture of greener products. For example, most MAPEI products qualify for LEED credits. In addition, MAPEI has added its BioBlock technology to select products to help inhibit the growth of various types of odor- and stain-causing mold, mildew and bacteria and promote healthier indoor air quality.

Cork underlayments have some environmental benefits that most other products cannot match. It is a truly renewable and sustainable resource. Unlike solid wood, composite wood products, paper and other renewable resources; no trees are cut down to make cork products. In fact, Cork Oak trees in Portugal, Spain and most other producing countries in the Mediterranean area are protected by law. To harvest cork, the bark is stripped from about 1⁄3 of the tree every 9 to 12 years. This process actually enhances the life span of the tree. The manufacturing process of cork products also produces a near zero waste stream and results in no toxic emissions. The bottom line in green building is that some cork products meet many of the key criteria of the organizations that promote and support green building initiatives.

Media Contacts:

Hakatai Enterprises
541-552-0855
info@hakatai.com

EcoDomo
Christian Nadeau
301-424 7717
Christian@EcoDomo.com

Laurie Lyza, Director of Marketing
Crossville, Inc.
llyza@crossvilleinc.com

Sources:

U.S. Green Building Council (LEED)
www.usgbc.org

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
www.epa.gov

GreenGuard Environmental Institute (GEI)
www.greenguard.org

Scientific Certification Systems
www.scscertified.com

American National Standards Institute
www.ansi.org

To obtain a copy of the “2005 Floor Coverings Cost Comparison Life Cycle Cost Comparison,” contact TCNA:
www.tileusa.com

The Alliance for Sustainable Built Environments has a list of links to green programs and certifications:
http://www.greenerfacilities.org/links/index.cfm

National Association of Home Builders Green Building Guide
http://www.nahbrc.org/greenguidelines/

Green Building Initiative
www.thegbi.org

The GreenSpec® Directory lists product descriptions for over 2,000 environmentally preferable products, including a few tile lines.
www.buildinggreen.com

Europe: eco-label called “the flower”
http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ecolabel/product/pg_hardfloor_en.htm

Canada: Eco-Logo has a certification standard for tile products, but there are not any products listed that have met the criteria.
www.ecologo.org


Making the Most of Going Online
 
May 2nd, 2008

May-June 2008

By William & Patti Feldman

Only about 50 percent of small businesses in the U.S. with fewer than 10 employees have web sites. Yet, with eight out of ten people in the country spending as much time online as watching television, having an active web presence can be an important marketing tool. Many business owners or homeowners search for tile dealers only online. If you are not there, you won’t get an invitation to quote or even show your wares.

Creating a website yourself is not a daunting process. With the help of a couple of affordable software solutions, you can easily develop and maintain a website and take advantage of various online marketing techniques, including posting your own mini-infomercials on YouTube.

The suite of web-based software and services Microsoft Office Live Small Business 2.0 (www.officelive.com), released earlier this year, offers free web site hosting, free services and several design capabilities that will guide and aid you in creating a professional looking website. The program includes custom domain name registration with 100 business e-mail accounts, each with 5 GB of storage. Custom domains are free for a year and $14.95 annually after that.

The software features several business applications, including a contact management application for performing basic customer relationship management; Team Workspace, for posting documents and information you’d like to access remotely or share with employees, customers or business partners in a password-protected environment; and Document Manager, which can serve as an online repository of documents, photos and other data.
Adobe Premiere Elements 4 conversion video-editing software (www.adobe.com) enables users to take digital photos and/or video clips, attach identifying keywords (tags) to the photo or clip, and turn out a polished movie in a surprisingly short time and then post it online.

Using the software, there are two easy ways to put together a video—using a timeline or a sceneline. The sceneline method is easy and actually fun.

The screen is divided into three work spaces. A thumbnail display of the media clips (photos or videos) you want to work on fills most of the right side of the screen. Getting them there was just a process of drag and drop. Once they are up there, you can rearrange the order or delete any scene with just a couple of clicks. A large interactive version of the clip on which you are currently working is displayed on most of the left side of the screen.
The video you are making is displayed as a horizontal sceneline which will scroll across the full width of the bottom of the screen. Building the video requires only dragging and dropping each scene you select from the scenes available on the upper right anywhere into the sceneline.

You edit each scene in turn on the upper left—trimming length, zooming in or out, and/or superimposing a title. The program supports one-click use of a broad range of transitions and effects, such as spin in, swing out, flip, swipe or dissolve between scenes and the addition of lighting effects and other special effects to each scene. You can drag and drop to rearrange the order of the scenes and can delete any scene at any time.

Sound mixing is also easy. An onscreen mixing board features several inputs you can experiment with to achieve professional quality narration, music and other sound effects. You can even coordinate all spoken narration with the “action.”

The timeline method of video-making supports more advanced, more precise editing, such as if you want exacting coordination of music to start and stop with change of scene.

Adobe Premiere Elements 4 has built in capability both for uploading the finished video directly to your own company website and for automatically converting the video to Adobe Flash Video format, the file format YouTube uses to broadcast videos and then posting it to your free user account at www.youtube.com. Once confirmation of the upload to YouTube appears on screen, you can cut and paste the hyperlink to your video and e-mail it to customers or post it to your own website.

A recent search at www.youtube.com for ceramic tile pulled up 2,190 videos, most posted in the past year, the majority in just the past few months.

The topics ranged from straightforward clips on how to cut tile or the broader topic of how to install tile floors to primers on such subjects as the difference between ceramic tile and porcelain tile and trends in ceramic. Typically, the voiceover notes that the video is brought “to you by XYZ” with the website superimposed. Length ranged from 30 seconds to several minutes. In addition to infomercials, you might want to post a video of sequential digital shots of a photogenic project over time.

Distribution of your video can go beyond the Internet. Using Adobe Premiere Elements 4, you can also upload the videos to an iPhone or other video-enabled mobile device and play the video on a sales call or burn the video to a DVD or Blu-ray disc for distribution as hand-outs.

Though Photoshop Elements 6 comes with a hard copy getting started guide and Premiere Elements 4 comes with a user guide, to get comfortable quickly with the programs you may want to refer to the new book, Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0 and Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0 Classroom in a Box (www.adobepress.com), which offer sequential self-paced lessons that cover the basics of both applications and a disk that has sample projects to work through each concept.


Showroom Seminar: Design Services
 
May 2nd, 2008

May-June 2008

By Kathleen Furore

Listellos and murals. Glazed and unglazed. Glass, metal and stone.

There’s no denying today’s myriad tile options have opened a world of style for customers designing from scratch or remodeling their homes. But those options also have complicated the selection process, creating a growing and lucrative market for tile design services.

“Many tile customers are looking for something special, a feature or focal point that will make their tile installation unique,” says Colleen Crawley, Installation Designer for Motawi Tileworks of Ann Arbor, Mich., where siblings Karim and Nawal Motawi and their staff of artisans have been crafting decorative tiles since opening their studio and showroom in 1992. “However, for quite a few of these same customers, design considerations such as color and balance, and making decisions about combining materials and selecting finishes put them out of their comfort zone.”

Unfortunately, once customers have left that zone they’ll likely leave your store, too—unless you can steer them back to a place that restores their confidence about the ability to choose the right tile.

“It is important for dealers to offer some sort of a design service because tile can be a complicated product category, which is difficult to change once it is installed,” Carol Huso, owner of Carol Huso Interiors in Mahtomedi, Minn. and a student member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), says.

When a kitchen backsplash, foyer floor or shower stall enhances a home because it has been conceived and installed in a way that uses the elements and principles of design, it is more likely to be successful. “That could enhance the reputation and business of the tile dealer,” Huso adds.

Echoes Crawley: “It is certainly an advantage for showrooms and tile dealers to provide some sort of design service. They [customers] look to the ‘experts’ to steer them in the right direction.”

Offering design assistance is especially important in today’s tight home market. “We are seeing a large number of customers who are remodeling existing homes rather than selling and buying new,” Crawley continues. “While some choose to work with an interior designer or architect, many of them are going it alone. They may walk in with images from magazines or catalogs that speak to them, but due to differences between their own home and the spaces featured in the pictures, they have trouble making the connection. They want to know, ‘How can my kitchen, with this layout and these dimensions, look like that picture?’ This is an opportunity for a staff designer to provide a huge service to customers.”

Structuring Services
There are several ways dealers can provide design services to their tile customers. The specific structure of those services and fees will depend on the design talents of your sales staff and your ability to hire a design professional. Options include offering free consultations, charging for a set range of time, or providing services on an hourly basis.

Free Consultations. Huso recommends that dealers offer one introductory design consultation free of charge so customers have a professional framework for deciding the kind of tile to choose.

“The [customer’s] inability to make a decision could otherwise inhibit or, at the very least, postpone a sale,” Huso notes. “This initial consultation could provide color, texture, and size/shape direction, with ideas for creating a room focal point, if one is needed in the space.”

Motawi Tileworks follows that formula. According to Crawley, the company’s free consultation is “absolutely the most popular assistance we provide, and almost all of our installation customers take advantage of this service.”
The initial discussion between the client and Crawley (currently the only full-time designer on staff) can happen in-store, or by telephone, fax or even email. “At this point, some people will choose to do it themselves or will take my comments and suggestions to their own design professional,” Crawley explains. “In a few cases, such as very simple or straight forward projects, the free consultation may be all that is required.”

The Motawi designer says her customers most often ask for advice about glazes, wanting to see a range of glaze samples which can vary significantly in shade, hue and surface quality. Tile size is another popular item for discussion.

“Our customers are often surprised by the size variations available in our line, and also by the fact that there is virtually no cost increase between a square foot of 3×3 tiles and the same amount of 6×6 or 8×8 tile. They discover that there are many more possibilities for their project than they had imagined,” she reports.

Set Fee Structure. An extension of free design consultation, a set fee for a specified amount of time, is another idea. Crawley says the majority of Motawi Tileworks’ customers she has worked with are willing to pay the set $300 fee the company charges for up to five hours of additional design services. This option, she notes, gives customers the opportunity to see multiple design options and resolve any questions they still have after their initial consult. “A small number of clients request a site visit, generally only for local, complex projects, and rarely has our service exceeded the initial $300 fee,” she reports.

Per Hour Pricing. Huso notes that many designers work with clients on an hourly basis when projects grow in scope beyond what a free or set-price consultation can solve. Motawi Tileworks, for example, charges $60 per hour. But it is an option few customers choose, Crawley says.

Whatever your fee structure, consider providing what Huso calls “visualization tools for the client”—perspective line drawings enhanced with Photoshop images. “These visualization tools, otherwise known as renderings, can reduce the client’s anxiety over the decision-making, ordering, and installation process, and potentially encourage the client to add to the tile order, which further benefits the tile dealer,” she notes.

Finding a Design Pro
If you want to offer design services, but can’t afford to staff a full-time professional, there are options to consider, industry experts say.

Turn to the manufacturers of the tiles you sell. Motawi Tileworks, for example, lets dealers and showrooms that represent the company utilize Motawi’s design services, passing Motawi’s fees on to their customers.
Hire at least one sales representative with a background in interior design. “It is not unusual, especially for high-end product lines,” Crawley notes.

Work with local designers on a contract basis. According to Huso, there are many designers willing to work on limited-scope projects on an hourly, contract basis. This makes design assistance accessible to all types of tile dealers. “They should develop a list in collaboration with their local ASID chapter of designers, and share this list with their customers,” she suggests. “Tile dealers could also join their local ASID chapter as an Industry Partner, which would greatly facilitate their knowledge of and visibility in the local design community.”


Certifying Porcelain Tile
 
May 2nd, 2008

May-June 2008

Now it is possible to have the real porcelain tile stand up!

The Porcelain Tile Certification Agency (PTCA) has officially begun accepting applications and testing to certify porcelain tile. In the past, sorting out genuine porcelain tile from other ceramic tiles in the marketplace has been impossible without actually submitting the tiles for testing. As a result, marketplace confusion, installation problems and even liability concerns have been the norm when non-porcelain tile is misrepresented in the marketplace. “Porcelain ceramic tile” is specifically defined as ceramic tile having a water absorption of 0.5% or less, when tested in accordance with ASTM C373.

Porcelain ceramic tile offers specific wear characteristics. For example, porcelain’s dense, impervious body is sometimes necessary to meet the environmental and wear demands of the installation. Also, because of its low water absorption characteristics, porcelain tile is considered “frost-proof” and can be used in external applications in cold environments.

When non-porcelain tile is misrepresented, or if there is simply no proof that a tile meets the ANSI definition of porcelain, the wrong tile may be installed for the specifications. This often results in costly tile failures that are both time-consuming and expensive to repair. In a move to correct this situation, the Porcelain Tile Certification Agency (PTCA) offers manufacturers and importers/distributors the opportunity to certify that their product meets the standard for porcelain. And end users who purchase porcelain tile have the knowledge that the product will meet the required specifications.

How Certification Works
Manufacturers and distributors may apply for Porcelain Ceramic Tile Certification by submitting samples of each tile series to be tested to determine compliance with the standard. Manufacturers seeking certification pay the costs of testing as well as initial and annual certification fees. Recertification of tile at least every three years is required. Manufacturers may then use the PTCA certification mark on their product packaging, marketing materials, and more as confirmation of that standard compliance.

A number of major tile manufacturers have already submitted products for porcelain certification.

The Porcelain Tile Certification Agency (PTCA) was established jointly by the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), representing distributors, and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), representing manufacturers. PTCA is a result of their belief that misunderstandings on the definition of porcelain ceramic tile and mislabeled products result in complex and often costly problems. They have agreed that a product certification program for porcelain tile will help mitigate these problems.

For more information, contact PTCA at (630) 942-6588.

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