March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21
By Steven Feldman
Atlanta—MS International recently opened its new innovation center here, a state-of-the-art, 20,000-square-foot space within a 150,000-square-foot warehouse that supplements its 200,000-square-foot showroom and warehouse five miles down the road.
The new building reflects the enormous growth the company has been experiencing over the past decade. In fact, according to Manny Llerena, director of sales and marketing, the company has grown its sales at least $100 million each year for the past five years and is on target to surpass the $1 billion mark this year.
The new innovation center houses the entire MSI marketing team, 18 strong and growing. This includes graphic designers and the digital marketing and product development teams. “The idea was to create a space that was exciting, where you would want to come to work,” said Emily Holle, creative director. “It’s beautiful, comfortable and inspiring. It’s a cool space and shows off much of our product.” The space also includes a training area that doubles as a break room. As well, a creative library space—where MSI designers can design the next wave of product—offers a plethora of natural light. “Here our designers can track home décor trends.”
But it all wouldn’t be possible without MSI’s exponential growth, which Llerena attributes in large part to a philosophy of being affordable and accessible. “We find the best-looking products from around the world. We are low cost from the manufacturer to the retailer. That whole idea is allowing us to expand the market as opposed to taking a share of the market.”
He added that success begins with the product itself. “We are sourcing the latest products, trends and technologies, and are leading in styling and bringing them in at affordable prices. We make even the high-end products very affordable.”
After posting sales of $920 million in 2016, MSI fully expects to eclipse the $1 billion mark in 2017. That will be achieved in part by virtue of four or five new branches, bringing to 27 the total number of locations in the U.S. To support this growth, the company hired 280 new employees last year and projects to bring on the same number or more this year.
“We want to work with many of the large retailers and help them grow their tile business,” Llerena said. But MSI will be very selective regarding its retail partners. “We are looking to grow with retailers who have dedicated themselves to this category. Ceramic is a difficult category to manage.”
At the same time, MSI also hopes to bring more retailers into countertops, a business that generates approximately half of MSI’s total sales. “With the excitement around quartz, it is easier for the retailer to get involved in the category. They don’t have to show a tremendous number of slabs in the warehouse. We can help them by joining them up with our fabricators.”
MSI will be exhibiting at Coverings with a bevy of new products. Llerena says they all respond to five trends:
- A focus on the wall. “Today, one out of every five sales is a wall tile sale. People are getting tired of paint. They are using wall tile to replace paint.
- A continuation of lineal looks. “They are a little softer, more water color lines running through tiles.”
- Black and white combinations for floors and walls.
- Outdoor spaces. Taking tiles that can work indoors and coordinating them with outdoors.
- Creative floor/wall tile combinations.