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.

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