Despite Italy’s economic crisis, visitors come out in droves to see exhibits
Oct. 21/28 2013; Volume/number 13
By Emily Bowbridge
Economic turmoil and financial uncertainty across much of Italy was of little hindrance to the more than 100,000 attendees who turned out for the 31st edition of Cersaie, the world’s largest exhibition of stone, tile and sanitary wares, along with related technical and retail tools. An average of 20,000 visitors per day over the fair’s five-day period—which opened on a Monday as opposed to the usual Tuesday start—was augmented by an increase in foreign attendees as other parts of the world clawed their way up from the pit of a global economic recession.
In 2012, 910 exhibitors included 299 foreign companies from 32 different countries, and this year saw the addition of Japan and Slovenia to the roster. Echoing this upturn was a 4.2% increase in foreign attendees, from 44,640 in 2012 to 46,535 from 157 global nations. Italy’s domestic construction crisis reflected more sober numbers among domestic attendees: 106,846 Italian visitors in 2012 dipped 5.7% to register 100,769 potential customers. Media held a strong presence with 559 registered journalists, 226 of which traveled to the show from abroad.
Numbers in domestic and foreign sales carried the same tune as attendance numbers. At an international press conference, the director general of the Italian Foreign Trade Institute (ICE), Roberto Luongo, acknowledged the severity of the current crisis but stated, “The worst is hopefully behind us.” Despite a double-digit decrease in global ceramic sales, Q4 of 2012 and Q1 of 2013 showed a promising 3.8% increase. And optimism abounded as he announced that ICE would be opening branches in Doha, Mozambique, Bogota and Zurich. He added the organization’s concentration on traditional markets such as the U.S. and France would not stall forward motion in the BRIC nations, particularly Russia and Brazil.
According to Luongo, production of 2.3 billion square meters of ceramic and porcelain tile in 2012—grossing $19.57 billion in sales—left Italy second in overall production and sales, lagging behind China. According to ICE’s numbers, Italian ceramic production totaled 367.2 million square meters, resulting in $6.31 billion in sales for 2012. Luongo estimated totals for 2013 will increase by two or three percentage points. The estimate for 2013 is informed by a decrease in sales across the European Union (-1%) and balanced by double-digit growth in the U.S. (11.9%), Africa (17.1%) and Asia (14.5%).
The must-see event
Despite what the numbers say, Cersaie remains a lynchpin for innovation in ceramic technology. Of dozens of industry trade fairs and exhibitions, Italy’s stone and tile show remains a must-see event for businesses and retailers around the world. Bill McAuliffe, branch manager of the Manhattan location for Cancos Tile & Stone, said company associates have attended Cersaie since it opened, with the exception of travel complications from 2001’s terrorist attacks on New York’s Twin Towers. “Our company attending Cersaie is the equivalent of Gucci, Michael Kors and Victoria’s Secret all having their newest collections released at one grand European showing, where all the latest styles and tile fashions from every major manufacturer throughout the world have their newest ideas displayed,” he said. “Not only does the show have the newest designs and looks out there but it’s also nice to further your relationship with the factories you’re doing business with.”
And for the tile industry, late September is the month for companies to preview prototypes, launch new collections and set industry-wide trends for years to follow. Prevalent at this year’s fair were the standard smattering of wood and stone replicas, with a few even blended in between. But the advent of digital printing technology and streamlined production practices also introduced a growing number of textile-influenced aesthetics beyond the standard square and rectangular formats.
Combining a textured wood look with textile-inspired patterning, Type 32’s digitally printed visual is realized on a Slimtech long plank. Measuring 8 x 80 inches and only 2⁄10-inch in thickness, the product embodies the wood category’s exaggerated length, tile’s tendency toward thinner widths and digital visuals that embody 21st century production. Two graphics—multiplied by positive and negative inversions—in warm and cold tones come in Snow, Coffee, Vintage and Coffee-hued wood looks.
Delconca’s wood look, Fast, takes a categorical cue with a floating, click installation system in the form of polyurethane tabs affixed to the tongue-and-groove biscuit of the tiles. Fast is available across three product lines in four colors each, doubling its availability across Delconca’s collections in as many years. Current sizes measure 12 x 31½ inches and 20 x 47 inches. Recommended for residential and light commercial application, its click-and-walk attributes are estimated to reduce installation timelines by half.
Stone and wood looks, particularly combined in the resurgence of the Cassettonato application, were on view in Marazzi’s booth. The timber-inspired Treverkchic, a rustic character wood in four different shades, comes in a satin finish for a wax-like, patina effect. Rectified tiles at 4 inches thick are available in 30 x 120 cm, 20 x 120 cm, and 15 x 120 cm. Non-rectified tile is available in 10 x 120 cm with an extra inch in thickness. The collection also features 25% recycled content.
The Italgraniti Group
To meet the prediction that today’s “wood look will continue to grow,” Gianna Ruberti, Italgraniti Group, Northeast-Midwest sales, displayed Scrapwood. New for Cersaie, the character of wood-like flooring is inspired by reclaimed wood, but with the durability of porcelain. Suitable for heavy traffic as well as light use, the digitally printed visuals are done in colorways of Air, Coke, Fire, Light, Sun, and Wind on 15 x 90 cm rectified planks.