A 9-Point Plan for Industry Optimism
September 12th, 2012

Every once in a while a good pep talk is in order. Here are nine reasons why we in the tile industry should be optimistic.

1. Housing Starts. The number of housing starts have been steadily improving over the last several months. As the number of foreclosures inches down and housing inventories fall relative to demand, builders and buyers are sensing opportunity. And to add a little icing on the cake, the size of the new homes is increasing once again, after years of decline. Larger floorplans equals more tile.

2. Affordable Care Act. After two years of back and forth on the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold most of the law provides small businesses owners with some certainty regarding their healthcare budget lines. The tax credits available to small businesses that provide healthcare to their employees will also be a welcome relief after years of escalating costs from insurers.

3. Strengthening Dollar. For those of us who import most of our tile, a strong dollar is a welcome sign. In the last year, the Euro has dropped nearly 20% in value against the US dollar. If you haven’t already discussed better pricing from your overseas suppliers, you should be doing so now.

4. Better Materials. Advances in ceramic technologies have improved the performance and the look of tile. High definition glazes, large format porcelain and thin tiles are all the result of new technologies that are improving the products we bring to market. In addition, grouts, adhesives, sealers and other sundries have all made great strides in the last decade, resulting in fewer claims, longer lasting installations, and less maintenance.

5. Better Installers. The recession in the construction business had at least one silver lining: it drove out many of the fly-by-night installers who got into the business for a quick buck during the boom. The installer who survived the recession is of a higher caliber, both in terms of quality of installation and customer service. In addition, installer certification courses like those offered by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation raise the standard. Installers are our key partners in the industry, since even the best looking tile won’t look good if the installation is bad.

6. Echo Boom First Time Buyers. Pessimists fret over the retirement of the baby boomers. Optimists look to the Echo Boom–children of the boomers–as the new source of economic stimulus. The Echo Boomers are hitting their thirties now and starting to purchase homes. While their tastes may be somewhat different than their parents, the Echo Boomers will be buying tile for their kitchens, bathrooms, fireplaces and, who knows, maybe even their bedroom floors. Just think how elegant and functional one of our wood-look tiles with underlayment heating would be in a master bedroom.

7. Conclusion of the Presidential Campaign. Whoever you happen to be rooting for in November, we can all agree that presidential campaigns are not good for business. Advertising costs skyrockets as campaigns buy up all the airspace, and the general uncertainty about the direction of the federal government causes businesses and individuals to put a hold on major initiatives. The good news is that it will all be over in just a few short weeks.

8. Healthy Homes. American consumers are paying closer attention to the importance of safe and healthy materials in the construction of their homes. They are concerned about increasing asthma and allergy rates among children linked to chemicals used in many of the products found in our homes. Unlike many of our competitors’ goods, tile emits no volatile organic compounds, does not require the use of harsh finishing goods and is simple to clean. Tile also is mold-resistant.

9. Sustainability. Last but not least, tile is the most sustainable flooring material on the market. There is plenty of hype around bamboo, recycled carpet, and whatever the latest green product is, but once all of the factors are weighed, nothing comes close to tile. The raw materials are abundant and available close to the point of production. Production is clean and energy efficient. Installation does not require harsh chemicals. Maintenance is simple. And, most importantly, tile lasts as long or longer than anything else out there. Ask a carpet rep to give an example of a hundred year old carpet installation and then show him a thousand year old tile installation in the churches of Europe.

Now is a great time to be in the tile business.

Ryan Calkins
Statements Tile & Stone

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