One on One with Florida Tile Marketing Director Sean Cilona
 
September 1st, 2011

 

Sean Cilona

For more than half a century, Florida Tile has built a well earned reputation as one of the tile industry’s most consistent trailblazers. The company has pioneered new technological innovations, steadily worked to enhance quality and taken the lead in striving to protect both indoor and outdoor environments. Five years ago, Florida Tile was purchased by Panariagroup, a leading Italian tile maker comprised of eight brands manufactured in three countries, and with products distributed to more than 100 countries worldwide. The purchase by Panariagroup has given Florida Tile enormous technological strengths, which the company has leveraged to turn out some of the best digital printing in the industry. One of the company’s porcelain products, for instance, looks more like slate than the real thing, and some say actually installs and wears better as well.

Panariagroup’s partnership and multimillion dollar investment in Florida Tile also enabled the latter’s manufacture of large-format throughbody porcelain tile at what is one of only three such manufacturing facilities in the United States. These developments are consistent with Florida Tile’s mission, “to become the most recognized and valuable domestic brand in the mid to high-end segment of the tile and stone market, [and] to recognize the needs of the market and offer the best products and value for every category and every channel.” Recently, TileDealer requested and received permission to interview Florida Tile’s director of marketing Sean G. Cilona, who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company’s marketing department, and whose responsibilities include product development, promotions, advertising and merchandising, among others. Following his arrival at Florida Tile in February 2009 following a successful stint as marketing manager at Roca Tile Group in Miami, Mr. Cilona quickly went to work on a variety of Florida Tile initiatives. Last year, he orchestrated the re-branding of the company and its massive product launch at Coverings in Orlando. He has since carried the re-branding through an updated logo design and a brand new website. In this exchange Cilona weighs in on a number of issues of interest to TileDealer readers. He reveals what he believes to be the keys to Florida Tile’s success, and sheds light on the company’s decision to continue innovating through the recession, when many competitors avoided R & D. He discusses the advantages that flow from Florida Tile’s strategic location in Lexington, Ky. And finally, he dons his prognosticator’s cap to talk about the technological changes he believes will impact the tile industry in the next five to 10 years.

TileDealer: To what do you credit the success of Florida Tile – design or technology?
I think that over the last few years, Florida Tile has emerged as a leader in design. From large format floor and wall, to metal, natural stone and glass tile, we are producing the products that designers both residentially and commercially are looking for. Technology does play a big part in this, especially with the digital printing process, but without good design knowledge and a style that people can appreciate, all the technology in the world won’t help an ugly product.

TileDealer: How does Florida Tile so successfully marry the two?
As a product developer, I try to keep my eyes open to all industries to draw on what is popular and what is emerging for the future. Very often trends in color and design are influenced from the most random places. We have a great network of salespeople that let us know what is going on in the market, and we try to listen to their needs. We combine this with a strong parent company that believes in our ability and our future, and continues to invest in new technology.

TileDealer: Florida Tile continued to innovate through the recession; others didn’t. How and why?
The only way to stay relevant is to continue to be in front of people. Some companies choose to do that through gimmicks, we chose to do it through our products. It was a strategic decision that was made before the recession hit and luckily we are able to continue through the tough times and it seems to be paying off for us. I think that other companies just don’t have the resources that we do, or the willingness to believe in their organization and their people. Good people and good products are always rewarded.

 

TileDealer: Who are Florida Tile’s biggest competitors in the marketplace?
At this point we have to compete with other domestic manufacturers that target the mid- to high-end segment of the market. This is who we are and that is still our goal, to be the most respected and valued brand in the market. There are always the importers that we have to deal with, both in the low end and higher end of the market. But we feel that we can offer something that is better quality at an affordable price and it is made here in the USA.

TileDealer: Florida Tile is paradoxically headquartered in Kentucky. What strategic benefits flow to Florida Tile from its Lexington location?
The most important is the proximity to our manufacturing facility, which is only a few miles from our corporate headquarters. That move was made in 2010 to improve logistics, communication and synergies between departments. We don’t really get hung up on the name, although we do get a lot of laughs. In any case, a Midwestern manufacturing and distribution center is ideally located to the most densely populated metropolitan areas of the country.

TileDealer: Where do you see technology, the marketplace and tile design headed in the next five years?
I think the industry is going to be heavily reliant on digital printing. As more manufacturers are incorporating the technology, the benefits are going to be more widely seen and images are going to be consistently improved. This process combined with other applications is something that we are already doing, but as digital printing evolves, this is where the design is going to head. As far as the market, it is hard to tell, but we’re seeing a strong growth in our commercial business as we introduce more products targeted at that segment. I believe that once the credit loosens up, we will start to see smaller projects and firms get back on track and hopefully an improvement to the residential market.

TileDealer: What benefits does Florida Tile enjoy by participating in CTDA’s fall event, Total Solutions Plus?
This is a great event for us to get together with our distributors and contractor partners to discuss what is going on in the industry, talk about products and hopefully network to develop some new relationships. Overall, it is a terrific event that we look forward to every year.

 

TileDealer: What’s ahead for you and Florida Tile?
Florida Tile is still developing and introducing new products to meet the needs of the market and define the trends that will carry out through the industry. We are investing in new equipment and people to allow the company to grow in the direction that we dictate—not that current economic conditions dictate. We are focused on being contemporary, but trying to stay consistent with the values and the fundamental elements that have kept us one of the top domestic manufacturers for the last 50 years.

SOURCE: Sean G. Cilona, director of marketing Florida Tile, Lexington, KY 859-219-5213

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