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Tile Executive Forecast: Expanded applications, new tech to drive revenue

Dec. 9/16, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 12

By Megan Salzano


While the category is expected to remain flat for the coming year, there is no lack of innovation entering the market from suppliers determined to grow sales. This innovation comes in the form of larger formats, realistic visuals, new finishes and decoratives. The unpenetrated areas for tile also represent an upside for 2020, and suppliers are touting opportunities within wall and outdoor installations.

Greg Mather
What is your projection for category growth/decline in 2020?
I would characterize the current environment as difficult. While ceramic has been gaining placement on walls, the category has lost some share to LVT on the floor within the residential space.

What are the challenges the category must face in the coming year?
Labor and LVT will continue to be two factors with notable impact for the tile category. Labor for tile installation has been in tight supply, leading to higher installation costs and longer lead times for projects. At the same time, LVT has positioned itself as a flooring solution with lower labor costs and quicker installation times.

Where do you see opportunity within the category for 2020?
Innovation continues to be a strong point for ceramic tile. With larger formats, new looks and reliable performance, tile is increasingly a viable solution for more and more surfaces beyond just floors and walls.

What segments/products will illustrate innovation/fuel growth in 2020?
Wall tile and large format porcelain tile panels have been growth areas for the category over recent years, and porcelain slabs represent a new growth area going forward.

What are your biggest initiatives for 2020?
In 2020, we will introduce new products and solutions that drive growth of our wall tile, porcelain panel and slab products. We will continue the focus on educating the marketplace on the benefits of tile versus LVT to ensure specifiers are making informed decisions.

Gianni Mattiolo
Executive vice president
Dal-Tile Corporation
What is your projection for category growth/decline in 2020?
We expect 2020 to be slightly down or flat compared to 2019.

What are the challenges the category must face in the coming year?
We think the economy will soften next year across the board. Being an election year won’t help. Also, the lack of manpower for installation continues to be a problem as well as the growth of alternative flooring products.

Where do you see opportunity within the category for 2020?
Ceramic tile continues to be an aspirational product. Technological evolution, like digital printing, larger formats, etc., will continue—increasing demand.

What segments/products will illustrate innovation/fuel growth in 2020?
Polished materials, large sizes and more realistic finishes and structures will all spark innovation.

What are your biggest initiatives for 2020?
Dal-Tile will continue to make investments in key technologies and in our manufacturing to ensure that our brands maintain their leadership positions. In addition to investing in new products, we will also continue to invest in our websites, social media initiatives and servicing our customers.

Raj Shah
What is your projection for category growth/decline in 2020?
Tile continues to be one of the best options for the floor and wall. We do believe there should be close to 5% growth in the category due to all of the fundamental attributes of the economy and tile.

What are the challenges the category must face in the coming year?
There are numerous challenges for the tile category. Trade wars continue to upset stability of supply chains. This has led to retailer unease and ultimately consumer unease with the product line. In addition, LVT continues to be a threat to tile.

Where do you see opportunity within the category for 2020?
There is no lack of opportunity for tile. We need to inspire homeowners on the value of having tile floors. With today’s aesthetics, sizes and finishes, tile has to be the No. 1 choice for flooring. Technology has only improved, giving more and more choice to consumers.

What segments/products will illustrate innovation/fuel growth in 2020?
The wall is where the biggest innovations are happening. There has been so much development in this area. It’s almost as though we are going through a renaissance for walls. Today, there are different looks, sizes, finishes and even 3-D tile for the wall.

What are your biggest initiatives for 2020?
Inspiration—continuing to inspire consumers. To show consumers and retailers how tile products can be used to beautify walls, countertops and the outdoors with pavers. MSI has both a floor tile and wall tile visualizer to help consumers. It has been extremely helpful to our retail partners.

Mara Villanueva-Heras
Vice president, marketing
Emser Tile
What is your projection for category growth/decline in 2020?
In 2019, there was a slowdown in sales due to competition with other categories, namely LVT. The demand for tile has not gone away, and we expect the desire for these products to remain high in 2020.

What are the challenges the category must face in the coming year?
The issues with the greatest impact continue to be labor woes—both in availability and in rates—price regression within competitive surface options such as LVT, Chinese tariffs and anti-dumping legislation.

Where do you see opportunity within the category for 2020?
We are seeing aging housing stock in need of remodel. Here, there is a different value placed on stone and tile. Similar to hardwood, you will see these surfaces called out in property listings because of the prestige and value they add.  

What segments/products will illustrate innovation/fuel growth in 2020?
In addition to outdoor and wall tile categories, we are still seeing a strong desire for natural stone and decoratives—products such as our Allure and Impulse natural stone mosaics, Rhythm and Sterlina glazed porcelain, Yakedo burnt wood-look porcelain and Splash glass tile.

What are your biggest initiatives for 2020?
We are again bringing in an extensive number of new products both indoor and outdoor, and are excited for 2020. We have opened several new branches and continue to expand our network to better service our customers nationwide.

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Ceramic: Producers push innovation as consumption falls

Nov. 25/Dec. 2, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 11

By Megan Salzano


Daltile’s Panoramic Porcelain Surfaces suit the growing demand for slab-style countertops.

As was predicted this time last year, consumption of ceramic tile in 2019 is lower than that of the previous year. The downward trend began in 2018, and the residential ceramic business slowed for the first three quarters of 2019. Many ceramic leaders agree that by the end of 2019 the category will have remained flat or declined by approximately 3% in both volume and dollar sales.

Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president, Dal-Tile Corporation, noted, however, the buildup of inventory, especially from China, during the last quarter of 2018 in anticipation of higher tariffs scheduled for January 1, 2019.

The housing market remains a steady meter against which to gauge the health of ceramic, and numerous factors including housing starts, new home sales/pricing and mortgage rates have impacted consumption.

New construction starts declined 11% in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $696.3 billion, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. This is the third consecutive monthly drop in construction starts. Through the first 10 months of the year, total construction starts were 4% lower than in the same period of 2018. The October statistics pushed the Dodge Index down to 147 compared to 166 in September.

That trend is expected to continue. Dodge Data & Analytics predicts total U.S. construction starts will slip to $776 billion in 2020, a 4% decline from 2019 estimated levels. “The recovery in construction starts that began during 2010 in the aftermath of the Great Recession is coming to an end,” said Richard Branch, chief economist, Dodge Data & Analytics.

Donato Grosser, industry consultant, noted the conservative nature of builders today as a possible influence on starts. “Housing starts went down about 70% in the recession. Fifty percent of the builders went out of business because they were over expended during that time. Today, most of the larger businesses have a much higher percentage of the business than they had before, but they are also much more conservative.”

Raj Shah, president, MSI, noted a slowdown in new home sales as well. “This is directly attributable to an increase in mortgage rates during this time frame,” he explained. “In addition, we have seen a reduction in the size of homes built.”

Greg Mather, president of Crossville, also pointed to the affordability of housing in general. “The high cost of new home building is limiting residential construction and homeownership levels,” he said.

Ongoing challenges
In addition to changes in the housing market, ceramic has been impacted by various other factors—namely ongoing trade wars/ antidumping legislation, installation woes and the encroachment of resilient flooring.

The ongoing volatility caused by the trade wars, section 301 and the anti-dumping case against ceramic tile have significantly impacted demand. “In terms of the political climate when it comes to ceramic tile, one word comes to mind—tariffs,” said Mara Heras, vice president of marketing, Emser Tile. “Clearly, the tariffs and anti-dumping actions have impacted both the suppliers and manufacturers as well as the entire supply chain and final customers.”

In November, after receiving a petition from a coalition of eight U.S. tile producers claiming injury earlier this year, the U.S. Commerce Department made a preliminary determination that Chinese exporters had dumped ceramic tile in the U.S. market at less-than-fair value. The department has imposed preliminary duties ranging from 114.49% to 356.02% but is scheduled to announce its final determination by March 23, 2020. This is on top of the current Section 301 tariffs imposed on ceramic tile. Imports of ceramic tile from China were valued at an estimated $481.3 million in 2018, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

While some suppliers argue consumers will benefit from the superior quality, design and service domestic manufacturers can provide, others note the impact on consumer, distributor and retailer confidence that could lead to a reduction in investments in marketing and innovation. Regardless, uncertainty is still the name of the game.

Isla Tiles’ Pietra Mediterranea collection features a variety of tile sizes with a mix of textures.

The struggle to find qualified labor and the resulting growth of installation costs is, however, the biggest challenge faced by the category to date. And no significant solution has yet to be implemented. What’s more, the rising costs have pushed some consumers to the lower end of the market and toward products such as LVT. “Labor pressure has created an opportunity for ‘easy-to-install’ resilient flooring,” Emser’s Heras explained.

Crossville’s Mather pointed out that ceramic has been impacted less than wood or carpet. “Nonetheless, we have lost placement,” he said. “I would expect tile’s position to improve over time as the growth of LVT slows.”

To combat this shift, Heras said manufacturers are looking at ways to “impact the labor challenges and drive better understanding of the total lifecycle cost of ownership for LVT as compared to tile and stone and the impact tile has on property values vs. the inexpensive substitute.”

MSI’s Shah added that LVT and ceramic can co- exist in today’s market. “There are many opportunities for ceramic tile for which LVT cannot be used. This includes any sort of surface that has a finish (i.e., polished, etc.), the wall and out- doors. It’s a matter of figuring out what works best for the consumers’ need.”

In an effort to combat ongoing difficulties, innovation is slated to grow in 2020, according to suppliers. The technological advancements needed to move that innovation forward have already been implemented. “During the last few years, technological advances in decoration and sizes have totally transformed the ceramic tile industry with the quality and variety of products that are now being offered,” Dal-Tile’s Mattioli explained. “Manufacturers now have the ability to offer greater realism, more sophisticated designs, new sizes, shapes and thicknesses and increased performance.”

The ceramic category has embraced these new possibilities and is experiencing growth outside traditional flooring. Wall products, countertops and outdoor pavers, for example, have served as key growth segments.

Gauged porcelain panels, Crossville’s Mather said, are proving to be a good solution on both walls and floors. “They provide the opportunity for fewer grout joints, tile-over-tile installation, as well an attractive alternative to more expensive large-format natural stones,” he said.

The desire to coordinate visuals and advancements in technology has allowed porcelain countertops to grow in demand as well. “With more fabricators able to install porcelain slabs it is becoming more accessible for consumers,” MSI’s Shah said. “There is a huge market for porcelain slabs. Over 80% of consumers would like to have a white marble countertop, but due to technical characteristics and price are not able to have it in their homes. Porcelain slabs solve this problem.”

There is also a multi-billion-dollar market for decks and pavers, according to Shah. “It’s a matter of marketing this product to consumers,” he said.

When it comes to opportunity, it’s not always about starting from scratch, Heras added. “It is always good to have tried-and-true styles in the line, but constant evolution and advancements can make even the classic looks more updated with unique textures and finishes.”

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Tile: Stone suppliers utilize innovation to recoup lost market share

October 28/November 4, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 9

By Megan Salzano


Emser Tile’s Trav Fontane (floor) and Stacked Slate (pool/hot tub surround) tap today’s outdoor living trend.

The consumer’s love affair with natural stone’s luxury and durability has raged for centuries. While consumers are often fickle with their hearts, it is unlikely this category will cease to draw demand for the long run. New shapes, sizes, colors and textures have also reinvigorated the category, allowing it to move outside the confines of kitchen and bath and drawing new consumers to the category.

“Stone continues to be a category that drives higher property perception and value and is desired by the end users,” said Mara Heras, vice president of marketing, Emser Tile.

However, traditional stone sales have been battered of late by a number of challenges the category will have to overcome in order to regain its presence in the residential market.

Like other hard surface materials, the persistent growth of resilient flooring—namely LVT/P—has left a dent in stone sales. While many in the industry believe vinyl cannot yet compete with the visuals of the stone category or even those of its ceramic tile brethren, its advantage lies in its low cost of entry as well as ease of installation and maintenance compared to stone.

The continuing visual advancements of stone’s familial category, ceramic tile, has also left its mark. “Today, ceramic tile is able to mimic the looks of natural stone at lower costs,” Raj Shah, president, MSI, explained. “In addition, due to the digital printing of ceramic tile, we can narrow down the look of the tiles, resulting in each tile being perfect. Natural stone has itsown beauty but typically has a wider variation of looks, which is difficult to explain to a residential customer.”

Perhaps the greatest challenge for the stone category, and possibly being felt more so than any other, is the loss of qualified labor. “The pool of labor with the skills and experience necessary to install natural stone has diminished,” Heras explained. “In addition, the product can have higher labor costs to install, requires more training and sales time to show the range of color and visuals for natural stone, and it has a different maintenance profile. The education and touch points required make it a longer and more involved sale.”

As with most categories, stone is also feeling some pressure as consumers pull back in a slowing economy—although it currently remains generally healthy—trade disputes with China and the general political uncertainty ahead of next year’s presidential election.

While suppliers agree that these issues haven’t impacted the category as heavily as some others, its effects are still felt. The biggest issue, according to MSI’s Shah, has been the Section 301 duties from China on natural stone. “As natural stones generally are only available from the country they are quarried, this has caused inflationary pressures on Chinese natural stone,” he explained. “This has also caused price increases as it relates to mosaics and stacked stone coming from China. And, there were also threats of Section 301 on European granites.”

A large percentage of natural stone comes from countries such as India and Turkey as well. “As we know, China is facing tariffs on Chinese products that could be up to 30%,” said Roy Viana, director of natural stone and slab, Dal-Tile Corp. “India and Turkey have experienced the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) termination, which provided duty-free treatment of goods from designated beneficiary countries. Now, stones from these countries will be charged normal tariffs. These cost increases have made stone less affordable.”

When it comes to what to expect in 2020, Roy Marcus, Artistic Tile brand ambassador, said election years can be tricky. “Uncertainty in political life can influence the level of confidence in the stability of the economy. This can delay final decisions as homeowners choose materials.”

Tackling challenges head on

Stone has a variety of challenges to face, but suppliers agree the category will meet them head on. For example, while labor pressure has created an opportunity for “easy-to-install” resilient flooring, Emser’s Heras noted continued opportunity in the remodel business. “We continue to see aging housing stock in need of remodel. In times of economic uncertainty, homeowners continue to stay in place and update vs. looking to sell and build or purchase again. This translates to a continued opportunity for remodel business.”

Suppliers have also noted LVT fatigue within the industry due to its oversaturation and low price points, causing a shift back to more natural and sustainable materials. “The proliferation of players, assortments, SKUs and a race to the bottom on price point is causing a reverse trend of shifting back to materials like stone, ceramic and hardwood,” Emser’s Heras explained.

Artistic Tile’s Fusion Wow quartzite slab dances between maroon, blue, green, copper and gray with intense natural variation.

Marcus said Artistic Tile’s sales force is keen to tackle the competition from ceramic. “The difference between natural stone and porcelain can be sometimes subtle but always apparent. Our team is especially adept at using that difference to empower our clientele to make design decisions ideally suited to the luxury project.”

In addition, Dal-Tile’s Viana said ceramic and LVT products are generally used in floor applications, leaving a big opportunity for the installation of natural stone in vertical settings.

Design forward

Taking on the challenges also means seizing new opportunities within the category. Innovation has led to new shapes and sizes, finishes and dimensional cuts that allow suppliers—and their retailers—to draw new customers to the category.

“New shapes and sizes are making an ancient material even more exciting,” Emser’s Heras noted. “Formats are getting larger and have moved solidly away from squares. Retro formats like hexagons and other shapes are popular.”

Stone mosaics have also evolved into intricate shapes, Dal-Tile’s Viana said, with multiple textures and sizes.

Bringing innovative visuals to market is also important for the category to meet new demands in interior design. Viana noted the visuals, finishes and textures that are now achievable with new equipment are setting stone apart from other floor and wall covering categories. He added that customers are now even willing and able to blend multiple materials such as ceramic, wood and metal with stone.

In addition, while stone is an ancient material, suppliers are not exempt from taking cues from new color trends. “At Artistic Tile we are rejoicing in the triumph of color,” Marcus said. “We—and our clientele—are dazzled by so many new colorful stone tile and slab choices, including a range of rosy, peachy marbles; greens that run the spectrum from brightest spring to deepest forest; delicate lilac to wine-dark purple; blues that soar skyward.”

While new colors are growing in demand, more traditional colors are still driving the market. “The market has shifted completely to white, grays and taupe colors, which remain most popular,” Dal-Tile’s Viana said. “Marbles and limestone are the two most popular stones in the industry. These two stones will continue to take market share as long as a contemporary color palette is offered.”

Emser’s Heras noted that while gray is still in demand, the company is seeing warmer tones come back in fashion. “With the cyclical nature of our industry, it is not a surprise that golds, creams and beiges are in demand,” she said. “There are definitely more marbles and limestones driving the category, but we are also seeing a return to travertines following the trend toward warmer tones.”

Building outside the box

These advances in design have helped to grow stone’s application potential, allowing it to move up the wall and outdoors, expanding not only its place within the home but its growth potential as well.

“The best way to continue the growth of natural stone is to find more uses for it from outdoor pavers, to backsplashes, to mosaics on the floor and pebbles in the yard,” MSI’s Shah said.

The move toward slab installation for bathroom walls, Artistic Tile’s Marcus noted, has been a major shift over the last few years, as has the move to rectangular tile with a 1-to-3 ratio, or longer, as opposed to 1-to-2. “And of course, the huge demand for curvilinear mosaics created via water-jet technology has been revolutionary,” he added.

Vertical applications such as bathroom walls, fireplaces, feature walls and backsplashes, Dal-Tile’s Viana noted, are focal points where customers want to make a statement and invest in more expensive and luxurious products such as natural stone wall tiles and mosaics.

Emser’s Heras said the outdoors remains an opportunity as the desire to create extended living spaces that keep us connected to the outdoors is strong. She added that the availability of larger formats has driven more interest in utilizing tile in larger living spaces such as great rooms, open concept home and living rooms.

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Fall intros: Innovations entice dealers to sell better goods

September 16/23, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 7

By Ken Ryan


The newest product introductions in the flooring industry run the gamut from latest in rigid core construction to carpet tiles engineered for exterior applications. What these disparate products have in common, however, are technology advancements that will help define and differentiate these innovations as they hit the market at the height of the fall selling season.

Engineered Floors
Its Dream Weaver residential brand is bringing to market a brand new line of design-focused patterns, textures and colors called DW Select. Comprising 14 initial styles, these carpets bring textural nuances reminiscent of natural materials into the home. Featuring EFs’ proprietary twistX technology, DW Select features blended fiber components that enhance wearability and styling.

Foss Floors
Foss’ Grizzly Grass mimics artificial grass but eliminates the many negatives associated with tufted grass constructions. Available in both broadloom and tiles, Grizzly Grass features DuraLock technology, which bonds all fibers in place without the use of latex/chemicals. Its premium self-stick tiles includes the company’s peel-and-stick backing system, making installation over any surface easy. Grizzly Grass is 100% waterproof and comes with a lifetime warranty against fraying, zippering, fading, stain and wear.

Launched as Inhaus’ first 100% commercially focused floor, Moto is a 3mm-thick, PVC-free, glue-down resilient plank manufactured in Japan. It is made of a polypropylene mineral composite core, ultra-clear 20-mil polypropylene surface wear layer and embossed surface to enhance the texture of wood. It is also topped with a protective surface coating. Created in collaboration with the design community, Moto consists of a collection of 12 colors.

Mohawk’s new, 100%waterproof SolidTech Plus blends style and durability. With low pattern repetition, painted beveled edges and embossed textures, SolidTech Plus adds a more authentic, natural hardwood look and feel to the SolidTech collection. Mohawk said the new rigid flooring is three times more scratch resistant due to its tough wear layer and enhanced lacquer finish. Its EasyClean technology adds stain and soil protection, while a UniClic locking system creates a watertight seam that traps water on the surface.

Entice and Tempt—created with 100% SureSoftSD and protected by Microban antimicrobial technology, are classic, casual textures. Available to retailers this fall, the multi-tonal shades of the 15-color palette are designed to create a neutral statement that sets the tone for an interior space. Resourceful & Rational, the newest casual textures from Phenix, combines fresh, earthy colors to create a 30-color line. Protected by Microban and constructed with 100% SureSoft carpet yarn, Resourceful & Rational are ideal for active households. Determined, Eager & Energetic—the latest pattern collection from Phenix—is crafted from original artistry, pulling inspiration from natural materials and textures. Twenty natural colors are available in this Microban-protected grouping.

Philadelphia Commercial
The newest carpet collection by Philadelphia Commercial, Shape of Color, is a 24 x 24-inch carpet tile featuring the company’s environmentally guaranteed EcoSolution Q Nylon and EcoWorx tile backing. Engineered to perform, Shape of Color is ideal for high-traffic applications. This collection includes two styles offering design versatility while adding bold expression to any space—Block by Block and Line by Line. Block by Block has bold contrasting colors, saturated tonal hues and neutrals that encourage the uninhibited use of color being embraced in fashion, the home and the workplace. Line by Line features a subtle color palette and a sophisticated linear pattern that reflects the angles in Block by Block.

Shaw Floors
Distinction Plus is Shaw Floors’ latest WPC introduction featuring 7 x 48 planks with 10 visuals in a range of wood species, including oak, maple, pine and eucalyptus. Part of the Floorté Classic Series, Distinction Plus was designed with classic style and amplified comfort in mind. Its foamed, 100% waterproof core promises better sound absorption and enhanced comfort underfoot for a softer, warmer hard surface flooring option. Distinction Plus protects from splashes, spills and daily household traffic thanks to Shaw’s Armourbead finish and 12-mil wearlayer.

COREtec Stone presents a designer-curated collection of tile and stone designs. An embossed thermo-resin layer provides realism while integrated grout lines match the floor perfectly, without making a mess.

Chief among COREtec Stone’s achievements is a new, rigid mineral core that’s free of PVC and plasticizers. The rigid mineral core offers indentation resistance with dimensional stability, allowing the product to offer a 18 x 36-inch platform among its array of design-forward aesthetics and formats suitable for commercial or residential use. The rigid mineral core offers greater dimensional stability than WPC and SPC, making COREtec stone ideal for large spaces without using transition pieces. According to USFloors, moisture from the top or bottom will have no effect on COREtec Stone as its rigid mineral core is waterproof.

Opti-Wood rigid core hardwood flooring is now available in wider/longer premium planks—7-inch widths and 84-inch lengths featuring real hardwood bonded to Wellmade’s patented HDPC rigid core. Low-luster, wire-brushed finishes along with distressed and hand-scraped textures augment the collection’s dramatic visuals. Representing the next generation of engineered flooring, Opti-Wood is tolerant to temperature fluctuations while remaining stable in the most demanding environments. With its waterproof properties, Opti-Wood can be installed in areas prone to moisture and humidity, including kitchen, bath and below-grade applications.

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Tile: New applications expand segment’s potential

September 2/9, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 6

By Megan Salzano


Daltile’s Panoramic Porcelain Surfaces are resistant to water, heat, stains, scratches, chemicals and traffic.

While the tile market is under pressure from the realistic visuals and waterproof technologies of resilient product lines, porcelain is taking its market share back through innovative new products. Porcelain slabs and pavers, in particular, have expanded tile’s possibilities within the home and helped grow its market share during a time of intense competition.

“Consumers today are looking for options that will make their spaces stand out above the rest,” said Mara Heras, vice president of marketing, Emser Tile. “New, fresh styles and larger sizes have increased options for residential applications. The potential for growth is unlimited.”

New tile technologies have helped forge this new place for porcelain, whether it’s the creation of unmatched wood and natural stone visuals or the unprecedented sizes—10 feet, 20mm and even 2cm thicknesses—now achievable. These opportunities have been a boon to tile manufacturers.

“The latest technologies have definitely helped these new categories grow our porcelain business in areas where the more traditional sizes and thicknesses had limited us before,” said Dave Pantaleo, senior product promoter, MSI.

Noah Chitty, technical director, Crossville, echoed Pantaleo’s sentiments, noting Crossville’s potential for growth with the new product segment. “The introduction of Crossville Porcelain Countertops really takes us into the countertop market unlike ever before. With these products, we now have surfacing solutions that directly compete with the most commonly preferred countertop materials.”

These new looks and sizes have not only allowed porcelain tile to enter rooms in the house previously thought unfeasible, but it has also allowed porcelain tile to take market share from adjacent categories. “Designers and consumers have a unique opportunity to let their imaginations run wild,” noted Ben Redding, director of counter- top sales and operations, Dal-Tile Corp., parent company of the Daltile brand. “If they’ve ever dreamt of using limestone in places limestone should never be used, [large-format slabs] can help them make those dreams come true. Or, if they’ve ever wished they could bathe a room in marble, now they can create that look at a fraction of the cost.”

‘Paving’ the way
Porcelain pavers have tapped a growing home design preference: outdoor living spaces. Consumers continue to push the boundaries of design by bringing livable space outside its four-wall confines, and newly designed porcelain pavers now allow consumers to seamlessly extend their interior design into their outdoor spaces.

“The trend for indoor-to-out-door transitional living continues, and porcelain pavers is an important offering for anyone looking to extend their internal living space to the outdoors,” Emser’s Heras noted.

Outside of the house, the 20mm tiles allow for the replacement of natural materials, such as stone, in all the areas, experts say. This includes areas such as decks, patios, swimming pool edges, pedestrian walkways, even outdoor furniture and myriad more. “Obviously, the reason why these products are so successful lies in the great qualities of porcelain stoneware itself,” said Mauro Manfredini, sales and marketing director, Casalgrande Padana. “It’s easy to clean and maintain, resistant to all types of wear, hygienic, frost-proof and non-absorbent with an aesthetic level that does not have equals in any other materials, compared to which it is often cheaper.”

MSI's Arterra Porcelain Pavers offer all the features of natural stone pavers with the added benefits of porcelain.

Slabs open opportunities
The size and shape of today’s porcelain slabs have helped the category as a whole reach new heights. New porcelain tile slab installation possibilities and visuals also support consumer and new home construction trends, such as open floor plans, and have helped expand the category’s possibilities within the consumer’s home.

As such, tile manufacturers have noted the ongoing potential of residential porcelain slab usage. “These new, innovative products make it possible for specifiers to use porcelain in ways we once might not have even imagined,” Crossville’s Chitty noted.

Porcelain slabs have also expanded the design and aesthetic possibilities regarding how spaces are designed. “The large- format size combined with the fashion-driven designs and color options available let designers and homeowners achieve seamless, continuous design,” Daltile’s Redding said.

What’s more, what began as a product segment specified particularly for the commercial sector has finally taken hold within residential spaces and given the slab segment—and those that supply it—a boost. “The unlimited design capabilities paired with superior technical performances made porcelain slabs a desirable material to be used not only in commercial settings but more and more in residential projects,” explained Michele Ballarin, director of Florim Stone - North America market. “Flooring, interior cladding, kitchen counters, vanities, furniture cladding—these are only a few of the applications where the porcelain slabs have been used in the home.”

Casalgrande Padana’s Manfredini noted that today’s porcelain stoneware is particularly useful for kitchen counter- tops as it carries all the advantages of porcelain and can replace the materials once used. “For kitchen countertops, porcelain slabs are ideal because it is a 100% healthy material, does not have any kind of harmful emissions, is very easy to clean, has a lifetime duration and it can be proposed in a huge number of aesthetic options.”

Manufacturers agree that any time application opportunities are expanded a category has the potential to thrive. Today’s porcelain slabs and pavers are leading that opportunity for tile and its full potential is yet to be seen. “We’re quite early in the game and look forward to seeing the potential unfold,” Chitty said.

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Ceramic: Technology expands tile’s design possibilities

July 8/15, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 2

By Megan Salzano


Advancing technologies have had a vast impact on most major flooring categories for the past several years, and perhaps none more so than tile.

In the past decade, technological advancements—some adopted from other industries—have led to major design innovations for the category. Advanced digital printing, for example, forever changed tile’s aesthetic capabilities while new sizes, shapes, textures and thicknesses also helped shape its future in the home. Due in large part to those technologies, tile is no longer relegated to the kitchen and bath but has expanded into new areas both inside and out.

Domestic and international manufacturers have capitalized on those technologies to help bring the category to new heights, launching new products and product lines that tout innovation across the board. “During the last few years, technological advances in decoration and sizes have totally transformed the ceramic tile industry,” said Paij Thorn-Brooks, vice president of marketing, Dal-Tile. “Manufacturers now have the ability to offer greater realism, more sophisticated designs, new sizes, shapes and thicknesses and increased performance.”

With so many new design options, these technologies have helped drive the category forward and also led to market growth. “The versatility of indoor and outdoor usage, the enhanced technical characteristics that create grip finish options and an unbeatable life expectancy along with the wide array of designs has spiked growth in both the residential and commercial market,” said Jana Manzella, private label, key accounts and marketing manager, Milestone.

Digital printing
The implementation of advanced digital printing has no doubt had the greatest impact on the tile category. According to Dal-Tile’s Thorn-Brooks, digital printing has transformed the industry over the past several years, and manufacturers are now able to produce even more sophisticated products that better meet the needs of the customer. “The evolution of printing technology has led to manufacturers being able to create unique patterns, designs and vibrant colors on individual tiles, similar to natural materials, which we are replicating with incredibly high degrees of authenticity,” she explained.

More specifically, Noah Chitty, Crossville’s director of technical services, said bringing this technology into the tile industry has allowed manufacturers to design tiles in Photoshop using the skills of graphic artists to create and replicate looks. “Now we can take natural stone or wood, or just about anything, put it on a flatbed scanner, take the resulting image and repro- duce it in very high definition onto the surface of a porcelain or a ceramic tile,” she said.

In addition to the trendy wood, stone and concrete looks driving the market today, digital printing has also ushered in the creation of new hybrid designs. “These futuristic printing technologies allow us to mix mediums,” explained Alp Er, general manager, Ege Seramik USA. “For example, we can have one tile created by intertwining two types of natural stone or combining a concrete look with a linen look, wood with stone. These ‘fusions’ are not normally seen in nature, but now tiles are bringing them to center stage.”

In addition, Mark Seal, vice president of supply chain at Emser, noted beyond producing 2-D replicas of these scans in ceramic inks, the latest generation of inkjet printers can print colors and glazes as raised 3-D textures, as sublimation colors that penetrate the surface of unglazed ceramic tiles and as metallic inks and lusters.

Tile manufacturers agree, in addition to aesthetic and textural innovations, new printing technology has advanced the entire manufacturing process. “The whole printing process has accelerated production,” Ege Seramik USA’s Er said. “The ink-jet printers themselves are in a constant evolving state. In the past, we had printers whose heads would clog and we’d have to stop production to clean and/or replace them to avoid a ‘tracking line’ going down the face of each tile. Now, the printers are self-cleaning. This is very time-saving and efficient for quality control.”

Through it all, manufacturers noted that perhaps the most important shift brought about through the innovation of advanced digital printing is the drive to differentiate. “As more and more tile manufacturers have embraced digital inkjet printing, competition between them has resulted in development advances, which continually push the looks that can be achieved using this technology,” Emser’s Seal said.

Shapes and sizes
New technologies have not only impacted the surface designs of tile but the shapes and sizes of those entering the market as well. These technologies allow manufacturers to create everything from mosaics in hexagons to rectangular shapes and even large-format porcelain slabs. “Technology has allowed us to go bigger, thicker and thinner,” Crossville’s Chitty noted. “We’re creating larger size formats and leaner profile thicknesses than many of us would’ve ever imagined years ago.”

Large-format tiles continue to gain popularity both in residential and commercial design. From 24 x 48-inch planks to 5 x 10-foot porcelain panels, the advancements in size have helped the category evolve considerably. However, it isn’t just about the size. Thicknesses are also playing a major role. “Thin tile is an innovation gaining traction that presents a unique opportunity for the marketplace,” Dal-Tile’s Thorn- Brooks said.

Market growth
New looks, sizes, shapes and textures equate to more than just excitement within the tile industry. These new designs—and the technologies behind them—have ushered in nearly a decade of growth for the category. “Technology and the subsequent improvements in both quality and aesthetics that it creates are opening up whole new market opportunities for tile,” Dal-Tile’s Thorn-Brooks said.

One driver behind this market opportunity is the expansion of applications. “New properties and features available in tile allow it to be used in areas where it previously might not have been considered,” said Mara Heras, vice president of marketing, Emser. “These new technologies are stretching the boundaries of historic design.”

The development of large-format, thin tile, for example, has allowed for a greater number of tile applications both residentially and commercially. Thin tile, Emser’s Heras noted, allows designers to design with the beauty of tile in places where its weight and thickness traditionally limited options.

In addition, due to its durability and performance, these tiles can replace materials that were traditionally specified. “Larger format tiles and plank tiles afford us to compete for market share from wood and LVT,” Ege Seramik USA’s Er said. “We are seeing the larger format tiles moving from the walls and floors to countertops and backsplashes. The capabilities are endless.”

Milestone’s Manzella said the use of these sizes is only going to increase moving forward. “Large-format tile production is just beginning to take hold in the U.S. market. We’re going to continue to see this trend grow as consumers are finding new uses for porcelain tile.”

Outdoor living spaces have also expanded tile’s usage and application. Consumers today demand a continuation of their interior design aesthetics when bringing the inside out but also need materials that can boast superior breaking strength, durability and frost resistance. New technologies are contributing to the outdoor renaissance. “The creation of slip-resistance technologies allows tile to be used even in exterior spaces,” Dal-Tile’s Thorn-Brooks noted.

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Ceramic: Lower consumption keeps growth rates in check

June 24/July 1, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 1

By Megan Salzano


For the ninth consecutive year since the fallout of the Great Recession, the U.S. ceramic tile market registered growth. However, the growth witnessed in 2018 was not on par with the 5%-6% increase the category experienced in both volume and sales since 2016. In fact, many industry observers noted a significant slowdown in 2018.

“In the past year, we saw growth in both residential and commercial segments for ceramic tile,” said Raj Shah, president, MSI International. “That said, the growth was the lowest we have seen since the economic crisis.”

FCNews research shows the category saw about 2% growth in volume from 2.426 billion square feet in 2017 to 2.474 billion square feet in 2018. Sales were relatively flat for the category, registering less than 1% growth from $2.921 billion in 2017 to $2.935 billion last year. “It is important to note there was a lot of buildup of inventory, especially from China, during last quarter of 2018 in anticipation of higher tariffs scheduled to start January 1, 2019,” Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president of Dal-Tile, explained.

Even with the slowdown, the category still held strong in 2018 as the third-largest sector in flooring in terms of dollars and volume, representing 12.8% of all flooring sold in 2018—although down from 13.3% in 2017—and 12.6% of total industry volume, slightly up from 12.35% in 2017. Only the carpet/rugs and resilient categories accounted for more volume and sales.

Commercial gains
The commercial market saw a slightly better outcome in terms of growth when compared to residential. Commercial projects and spending continued on the growth path they have experienced since 2015. FCNews research showed ceramic’s share of the commercial market increased slightly to 15.4% last year, up from 14.1% in 2017. This was driven by strong growth in the hospitality, corporate, retail and assisted-living segments. Multi-family construction also rose in 2018.

Tile suppliers noted the ongoing success of wall tile within the commercial market and the possibility of its future growth within both the commercial and residential segments. “We have seen a renaissance in wall tile happen with all kinds of new formats and aesthetics being popularized in the market,” Shah said. “Long term, I believe the percentage of wall tile to floor tile will continue to grow as wall tile is not as susceptible to product substitution and due to the innovation in formats and aesthetics.”

Imports vs. domestic
U.S. imports in 2018 comprised about 70% of tile consumption in square feet, up from about 68% in 2017. In 2018, the U.S. imported 2.2 billion square feet of ceramic tile, up 4.7% from 2.1 billion square feet in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

China remained the largest exporter of ceramic tile to the U.S. (in square feet), a position it has held each year since 2015. Chinese imports made up 31.5% of U.S. imports in 2018, the highest annual percentage China has ever held of the U.S. import market. The 10% tariff increase on Chinese ceramic tile imports imposed by the Trump administration took effect at the end of September but, according to the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), was unlikely to have a meaningful impact on China’s market position.

Despite the peso’s significant decline vs. the U.S. dollar over the last six years, losing nearly half its value, Mexican ceramic tile exports to the U.S. have fallen each year since 2015, the TCNA reported. In 2018, tile from Mexico comprised 17.3% of U.S. imports vs. 18.9% the year prior, the lowest share since 2006. Italy was the third-largest exporter of tile to the U.S. in 2018, making up 16.4% of U.S. imports, down from 18.1% in 2017. The next largest exporters to the U.S. were Spain (14.1%) and Brazil (7.3%).

In terms of dollars (including duty, freight and insurance), Italy remained the largest exporter to the U.S. in 2018, comprising 30.9% of U.S. imports. China was second with 27.3% and Spain was third with 15.6%.

Compared to 2017, U.S. shipments of ceramic tile in 2018 were down 5.4% to 911 million square feet. This marked the first year-over-year decline in domestic shipments since 2009. Even still, domestically produced tile is still the tile of choice for consumers as it accounted for 29.3% of all U.S. tile consumption in square feet in 2018. The next highest countries of origin were China (22.3%), Mexico (12.2%) and Italy (11.6%).

In dollar value, 2018 U.S. FOB factory sales of domestic shipments were down 4.4% to $1.39 billion, vs. $1.45 billion in 2017. (FOB port means the seller pays for transportation of the goods to the port of shipment, plus loading costs. The buyer pays the cost of marine freight transport, insurance, unloading and transportation from the arrival port to the final destination.) Domestically produced tile comprised 37.7% of total U.S. tile consumption by dollar value. The per-unit value of domestic shipments increased from $1.51 in 2017 to $1.53 in 2018.

U.S. ceramic tile exports in 2018 were 29.7 million square feet, up 4.4% vs. 2017. Most of these exports were to Canada (79.6%) and Mexico (4.5%).

Ongoing challenges
Industry observers cite several challenges that led to the reduced tile consumption in 2018. Among them: tariff wars, a less robust housing market, competition from other categories and continuing labor/installation woes. “Generally speaking, it was a strong economy throughout the year,” MSI’s Shah said. “That said, beginning in the second quarter a lot of confidence began to deteriorate with the threat of trade wars between China and the U.S. Section 301 tariffs did get set at 10% with a threat of 25% for most of the year, which hurt overall confidence. The third and fourth quarters of 2018 were dramatically slower than the first half of 2019 for ceramic tile.”

One key indicator for the health of ceramic tile is that of the housing market, which continued to have heavy implications for 2018. “After the end of the recession, the ceramic tile market increased quite a bit, but last year the increase became very small compared to previous years,” said Donato Grosser, industry consultant. “The main reason is the housing market is not moving—it’s basically flat. Housing is a very important factor for ceramic tile. During the recession housing starts fell by more than 70%, tile declined 30% and you saw that immediate decline.”

Grosser added that while the remodeling segment of the housing market is doing fairly well, “we don’t sell as much tile in remodeling projects as we do with new projects.”

Competition from other categories, namely resilient, also put pressure on tile. “LVT is widely reported to have been the largest growth category in flooring in 2018, taking significant share and putting pressure on other categories of flooring,” said Jeff Daniel, vice president of sales support and planning, Emser Tile.

The novelty and low cost of LVT—and its WPC/SPC brethren—were major factors for its growth, observers said. “It’s a new product, it’s inexpensive, it’s easy to install and people are not looking at which product is superior; they’re looking at how much they’re spending,” Grosser explained. “People look at the first thing— cost. Then, the second—looks. That’s basically what affects the whole market and part of ceramic tile.”

In order to push back against LVT, suppliers said continued innovation within the category as well as adding value will be key. Some also noted several advantages tile already has in the market that should be better leveraged. For example, MSI’s Shah noted the growing popularity of new looks in tile vs. current LVT visuals. “LVT is still primarily a wood-look category,” he explained. “We are starting to see more non-wood visuals coming to market. The aesthetics available in ceramic tile that are non-wood still are significantly higher quality than can be found in LVT. In addition, with LVT there are technical difficulties with certain looks that are available in ceramic tile. This remains an opportunity for the LVT market, but at the same time it seems ceramic tile has a large head start in these looks.”

Emser’s Daniel focused on the upside—the belief that ceramic tile has not been as heavily impacted as other flooring categories by LVT’s growth. “Based on our view that the tile category continued to grow year over year, the market share pressure was likely hardest felt in soft flooring and wood categories.”

Another challenge the category continues to struggle with is the shortage of qualified installers. “This problem continued to be present in 2018,” Shah said. “This definitely accelerated the push toward LVT, which has a faster and lower install cost.”

Emser’s Daniel agreed, adding: “It is certainly impacting the cost of the final delivered product to the owner/buyer of both residential and nonresidential builds. There are issues with delays due to labor, but most issues appear to be pressures on the installation cost side due to competition for qualified labor. Innovation in products that require less labor to install will help offset labor time and cost.”

Looking ahead
While the ceramic tile market slowed its growth in 2018, sup- pliers are hopeful about the category’s potential for the remainder of this year and into 2020. “Innovation will continue to be the key to growth in the future,” Dal-Tile’s Mattioli said. “Advancements in decoration technology and impressive sizes such as 5 x 10-foot porcelain slabs are examples of how tile has been an innovation leader in the flooring industry.”

Pre-recession numbers remain on the minds of industry observers. For the category to return to its heyday, some believe both commercial and residential construction will have to continue on the path of stable growth. “Despite the long post-recession recovery, many would argue we are still falling 10%-15% short of the annual residential starts number to support population and demographics,” Daniel noted. “Affordability aside, that supply shortage would aid to the growth in the category when realized.”

Overall, ceramic tile has its inherent qualities that keep end users—both big and small—coming back for more. MSI’s Shah noted that ceramic tile continues to be the flooring option that has the highest longevity, least maintenance and most décor options.

“As an industry we can continue to see growth in ceramic by making it affordable and accessible,” he explained. “This specifically means making sure there is inherent value in all of the positive aspects ceramic tile has to offer while bringing more innovative aesthetics and performance that consumers are looking. At the same time, we have to take into account the relative value and competing products.”

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A look back at 2018’s top introductions

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Lindsay Baillie and Ken Ryan


In a marketplace plagued by “me-too” products, it is up to manufacturers to develop standout flooring. Whether it’s carpet, hardwood, laminate, tile or resilient, suppliers have had to step up their game in style, design and performance to excite flooring dealers and customers alike.

In 2018, the industry saw a plethora of new products enter the scene. Following is an overview of those products that stood out to flooring retailers.

Terra Linda by Anderson Tuftex

About the product: Terra Linda is a 100% Stainmaster Luxerell BCF nylon carpet with textured styled. Available in 24 colors the signature product also features A/T’s Softbac Platinum Backing.

Sierra Nevada by Audacity from CFL
About the product:
Audacity’s water-resistant laminate floors are available in five collections—Classic Naturals, Hearthside, Lodge, Monticello and Vintage. In the U.S. and in Canada, Audacity Flooring is sold exclusively through select Armstrong Flooring distributors.

Adventure II by Engineered Floors
About the product:
EF’s Adventure II is a 5.5mm luxury vinyl plank with a 22-mil wear layer and a ceramic bead finish. Available in nine wood-look visuals, the 7 x 48-inch plank can be installed floating and comes with a 10-year commercial warranty and a lifetime residential warranty. What’s more, Adventure II is Floorscore certified for indoor air quality.

Sono by Inhaus
About the product: Sono is a 100% recyclable, PVC-free flooring that is made up of 60% mineral powder and 40% polypropylene. Sono is waterproof, easy to install and highly stable under both humidity and heat. The company continues to invest in its digital printing to ensure quality, on-trend visuals.

RevWood Plus by Mohawk
About the product: 
RevWood Plus is a revolutionary wood floor destined to make consumers rethink the wood category. RevWood Plus planks offer reliable durability that resist stains, scratches and dents. Thanks to its 100% waterproof flooring system, spills, accidents and tracked-in-stain-makers are kept on the surface for quick, easy cleanup.

Sweet Memories collection by Mirage
About the product: 
Mirage’s Sweet Memories collection features the manufacturer’s exclusive staining and brushing processes to create floors with the charm of yesteryear. Variations, knots, cracks and other natural characteristics help to create the collection’s authentic appearance.

Titanium by Karastan

About the product: Karastan’s Titanium rug collection is grounded by a careful combination of both traditional and transitional patterns. The collection is meant to satisfy a craving for contrast with a fashion-forward fusion of matte and sheen finishes.

Acrylx by Raskin

About the product: Acrylx is a solid surface waterproof floor available in three collections: Premier Home, Premier XL and Premier G-Core XL. Acrylx’s high-density core is made of pure materials and minerals that are tightly bonded with polymers to create a solid core that is more impact resistant and denser than other floors.

Great California Oak by Republic Floors

About the product: Great California Oak is an extra-wide, pure SPC floor with beveled edges and realistic grains. The 100% waterproof flooring carries a limited 25-year residential warranty and a limited 10-year commercial warranty. What’s more, it features the company’s new antibacterial EVA underlayment padding.

Bellera by Shaw Floors

About the product: Created with a holistic approach to meet the design and performance needs of consumers, Bellera is a top-to-bottom innovation known for style and durability. With Bellera, Shaw’s new Endurance high-performance fiber is combined with proven technologies such as R2X soil and stain resistance and LifeGuard backing to create a worry-free carpet.

Harbor Plank by Southwind
About the product: 
The Harbor Plank series features planks 6 x 48, with a high-density wood plastic composite core and a Uniclic locking system. Attached to each luxury vinyl plank is the Southwind IXPE underlayment pad, which is impervious to water, hides subfloor imperfections, provides added sound absorption and comfort underfoot.

COREtec Pro Plus by USFloors
About the product: 
The COREtec Pro Plus Series consists of two collections: COREtec Pro Plus (5mm total thickness) and COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced (7mm total thickness). COREtec Pro Plus Enhanced includes all the features of the Pro Plus collection coupled with a four-sided enhanced bevel for added realism.

Radius by Stanton Carpet

About the product: Stanton’s Radius broadloom carpet is available in Stanton Street, the company’s Decorative Commercial line. Radius is a cut-pile nylon and is crafted for residential to heavy commercial application.

TruTEX by Tarkett
About the product: With its unique textile backing, TruTEX luxury sheet flooring resists mold and mildew while adding superior strength against rips, tears and gouges. With 20 realistic, high-definition stone and wood designs, TruTEX is easy to install over existing floor coverings, greatly reducing the time spent preparing subfloors.



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Coverings 2019: Premier tile and stone event going strong after 30 years

April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23

By Steven Feldman


Orlando, Fla.—Against the backdrop of a slowing ceramic tile market, a sold-out Coverings celebrated its 30th anniversary here April 9-12 with 1,100 exhibitors from more than 40 countries showing their latest and greatest in response to a variety of trends.

At 480,000 square feet, Coverings is ranked as the 35th largest trade show in the U.S., according to Trade Show magazine. That’s up 3% from 2018, said Jennifer Hoff, whose company, Taffy Event Strategies, has been managing the show for the past three years. To put that in perspective, Surfaces, the flooring industry’s premier event, is ranked 42nd in terms of exhibit space. The good news is Coverings continues to grow despite U.S. ceramic tile consumption more or less stalling in 2018, increasing just 1.5% to 3.11 billion square feet, according to the Tile Council of North America (TCNA). Consumption increased at least 5.1% in each of the three prior years.

Eric Astrachan, executive director, TCNA, pegged the U.S. ceramic tile industry at $3.69 billion, up just 0.4% from 2017. Imports grew as a portion of the market from 68.8% to 70.7%, an increase of 4.7%. On a dollar basis, Italy remained the largest exporter to the U.S. in 2018, comprising 30.9% of U.S. imports. China was second with a 27.3% share and Spain was third with a 15.6% share. In terms of square footage, China remained the largest exporter of ceramic tile to the U.S. with a 31.5% share. Next is Mexico with a 17.3% share, its lowest percentage since 2006. This despite the peso’s significant decline vs. the U.S. dollar over the last five years, losing nearly half of its value. Italy was the third-largest exporter of tile to the U.S. in 2018, making up 16.4% of U.S. imports.

What is impacting ceramic tile in the U.S.? For one, acronyms, namely LVT, WPC and SPC. The waterproof/rigid core revolution has impacted every category of flooring, and ceramic is not immune to that competitive pressure.

But it’s more than just the competition from LVT. Donato Grosser, consultant for Ceramic Tiles of Italy, acknowledged that Italian imports of ceramic tile to the U.S. in 2018 was down about 7% in dollars and square footage. “Ceramic tile in general has been down,” he said. “As for Italian tile, there is a lot of com- petition from Chinese, Spanish and Brazilian manufacturers, particularly the Spanish over the last couple of years; for some reason their FOB prices went down from $15 per square meter to $12 per square meter. We don’t know how this can happen so abruptly, but you have a situation where their products are cheaper than even the Chinese.”

Grosser also identified large companies like MSI, Bedrosians and Emser—all of which are very heavily invested in China. “They also import from other countries, but they buy mostly from China. And they offer good service, the product they sell is good and comparable to everything. So the price is not the only thing; otherwise, Brazil would have a much larger share of the market.”

Despite all of this, Hoff noted that Coverings attendance was trending ahead of last year with the hope that 26,000 people would make the trip to Orlando. Attendees run the gamut from architects and designers to fabricators and contractors to distributors and retailers.

Following are some of the key trends FCNews spotted at Coverings:

Classic polished marbles, sometimes mixed with retro elements
Matt Kahny with Ideology from American Olean.

Reflective tiles
Vetri collection from Refin

Patchwork tiles Opus collection from Casalgrande Pagana

Wood-look tile for indoor/ outdoor applications
Primewood from Sant’Agostino

Ceramic wallpaper by virtue of high-resolution digital printing technology
Kontinua collection from Casalgrande Pagana

More refined wood looks
Coby McDougal, director of non-slab sales, MSI, showcasing Caldera.

Geometric-inspired looks
Rhombix, Hexagono and Georama from MSI

Black and white retro looks Retro Revival from MSI


Color is back in a huge way; pink was especially prevalent at many Tile of Spain booths.

Art deco and art nouveau, both geometrics and florals and organics both in small, repetitive patterns and super-size graphics.

Marble looks feature more aggressive veining with greater variation.

Squares are coming back, both on their own and in pairings with rectangles.


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Ceramics: Functionality, style drive TISE 2019 tile introductions

March 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 20

By Megan Salzano


Las Vegas—While the tile and stone category has its challenges—think price points and installation—its evolution within the home has helped drive sales and the category’s overall value. No longer are consumers relegating tile and stone to kitchen and bath builds, they are looking to the category to support evolving home design trends such as decorative wall features, indoor/outdoor living and minimalistic design.

To fulfill these needs, tile manufacturers at this year’s Surfaces event showcased new collections that support 2019’s top design trends.

Indoor meets outdoor
Tile has wound its way across different surfaces within the home, but now it’s venturing outside as well. Manufacturers at the show were more than happy to oblige the current trend with new product collections boasting outdoor-rated products with matching indoor styles. Manufacturers were also quick to remind retailers of the growth opportunities this new trend is poised to bring.

MSI, for example, launched three indoor tile lines with coordinating outdoor pavers. “This is a whole new area, and we are trying to help the retailers see the opportunity,” said Manny Llerena, director of sales and marketing, MSI. “They traditionally think the outside is for the landscapers. We are telling them not anymore; not with porcelain. That really belongs to you now when you can connect the indoor to the outdoor.”

Some manufacturers added that while indoor tile may sell for $4 per square foot, outdoor tile may sell for twice as much. “It’s a great earning opportunity for the retailer,” Llerena added. “We think this is something that is going to really take hold and continue to grow, and we want to help them bring it along.”

‘Wood’ you look at that
When it comes to trending design, tile manufacturers agree wood looks are major sellers. What began just a few years ago as a nuanced style born out of advancing printing technologies has evolved into a full-fledged force to be reckoned with. With those advances in technology came not only the look of wood, but now the feel of hand-scraped or natural knots replicated on plank styles both large and small. This year, Emser tapped that technology to an even greater extent and partnered with Gensler to introduce its Yakedo collection.

“Wood looks are still an important part of the business, you can’t get away from it,” said Bob Baldocchi, chief marketing officer, Emser Tile. “So, what we do now is look at new technologies, new techniques—different sizes, textured feels, the right color blends and price points. Yakedo is a really special product for us. It’s based on the Shou Sugi Ban technique. They take hardwood, burn it and then install it, and it gives it a certain dimension, texture and strength. We’ve set up different lines of the manufacturing processes because we know these different looks are important.”

Black and blue
When it comes to trending colors within the tile category, manufacturers agree that both black and blue are beginning to reign. However, even wood-look planks with stark black colorways are growing in popularity. In addition, manufacturers agreed black and blue colorways are shifting from just a trend to an applied trend, with consumers and designers using a stark black shade within their applications instead of just admiring its possibilities.

“The black falls under the dark interiors trend—art deco, Victorian, gothic atmospheres and minimalistic design,” said Laura Grilli, senior product development manager, Daltile. “We are definitely starting to see these dark colors; and this is the inspiration behind Geometric Fusion.”

Daltile’s Geometric Fusion features nine patterns designed to be installed randomly, which creates an intentional deconstructed, geometric look. Each tile features a decorative blend of metallic, matte and glossy finishes. It’s available in four distinct colors, including a stark black called Obsidian.

Concrete ideas
One product trend show attendees were certain to notice was the focus on concrete looks within the tile category. Manufacturers big and small launched traditional concrete looks in square sizes while others incorporated terrazzo looks. Other suppliers stepped outside of the box with planks.

Crossville, for example, launched its Reformation collection at the show. “The name Reformation came from reforming your thinking about what concrete should be,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing. “When we started to consider doing a concrete plank so many people [thought], ‘But concrete comes in a square, it should be a square.’ But who said it has to be a square? Why don’t we think outside the box and do something a little different? Now that we’ve done it, people are in love with it. We have 24 x 36, 6 x 36 and 12 x 36 in the four colors—warm and cool neutrals, and I love the dark colors.”