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Dal-Tile builder specialists are key asset for builder consumers

Dallas, Texas—Dal-Tile Corporation’s team of builder specialists are an ever-present and key asset for the company’s professional builder customers. These builder specialists represent several of the brands owned by Dal-Tile: Daltile, Marazzi and American Olean.

“Our Dal-Tile team of builder specialists are a key differentiator for us and help make our builder customers more profitable,” said Dan Butterfield, vice president, builder channel, Dal-Tile Corporation. “Although we successfully engage with our builders at the national and regional levels, a crucial role when the product really takes life is with our builder specialists.  They engage directly with those who influence the selling of product to the end consumer. Our builder specialists are a valuable resource regarding product and industry knowledge, design expertise and trends insights.”

Dal-Tile’s builder specialist team is a nationwide network of over 25 professionals, covering 100 of the key MSAs (market statistical areas) in the United States. Each specialist caters to the unique needs of their region.

“Many times, my builders will simply send their customers my way and I walk them through the entire selection process, ensuring they select a tile product that is well-suited for their needs, personal style and budget,” said Jennifer Hipp, builder specialist—South Central United States, Dal-Tile Corporation. “On other occasions, it is a builder’s own in-house designer with whom I am collaborating. Because I have such a strong working knowledge of all of our product lines, she can just give me a general sense of the ‘ideal’ product for a particular room and immediately I know the right Daltile, Marazzi or American Olean products to suggest that her clients consider.”

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American Olean focuses on PK training during roadshow

Dallas—American Olean is conducting intensive product knowledge training with its distributors through a nationwide roadshow stopping at all distributor locations. The training focuses on new products launching this summer.

“Distributors are a huge piece of how tile gets to market in the U.S.,” said Hector Narvaez, vice president of distributor sales, American Olean. “In fact, they are the biggest channel, so we put great emphasis on appropriately supporting our distributors. Together, American Olean and our distributor partners bring not only superior products to our retail customers, but unmatched customer service.”

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American Olean launches new summer collections

 Dallas—American Olean is further expanding its product assortment with the launch of three new lines this summer. Each collection offers consumers, architects and designers contemporary style—ideal for a variety of spaces.

“American Olean’s newest product additions remain true to the trusted brand heritage while featuring the latest styles and trends,” said Micah Hand, brand marketing manager for American Olean. “From a terrazzo-inspired aesthetic to a soft, linear marble design and a reclaimed barn wood plank visual, we’re introducing exciting tile collections that truly represent the brand’s take on today’s hottest trends.”

Neospeck—ColorBody porcelain floor and mosaic

Neospeck offers a terrazzo-inspired aesthetic with a monochromatic color scheme perfect for commercial settings. It transforms spaces into luxurious, modern splendor using large-format sizes with rectified edges. Five colors are available in unpolished and light polished finishes. Accentuate your design with a trapezoid mosaic in two complementary blends for an intriguing geometric effect.

Impresa—Glazed ceramic floor, wall and mosaic

With the look of Breccia marble, Impresa is destined to be a timeless selection. Detailed graphics reveal a soft, linear marble look that is modern in design and classic in style. A unique size offering with neutral colors makes this series adaptable to a wide range of color schemes and design opportunities.

Timberbrook—Glazed porcelain floor

Timberbrook by American Olean captivates with the appeal of reclaimed barn wood that’s been given new life in a durable porcelain tile. A naturally distressed wood look is captured perfectly with richly blended colors on a unique plank size. The result is rustic elegance for a modern farmhouse design.

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American Olean shows designers, photographers benefits of digital printing

Dallas—American Olean (AO) recently partnered with its distributor Gulf Tile & Cabinetry to teach a group of Florida designers and photographers what ceramic tile can do from an artistic and design perspective and how digital printing is greatly enhancing the visuals possible in tile. The presentation was held at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa, Fla., and included a continuing education unit, further discussion about digital printing, and a social networking hour for photographers and design professionals.

“We want American Olean to be a major player in new designs, not just commodity products,” said Williams Pontel, commercial sales manager for American Olean. “We are now including products in our line to really catch the attention of designers. Some of the new products that we are proudest of are achieved through our Reveal Imaging digital printing technology. It was exciting today to educate these designers on what tile can mean to their designs and artistry.”

To learn more about American Olean and its latest product launches, visit: americanolean.com.

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Award of Excellence: Mohawk returns to winner’s circle as Best Overall

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Ken Ryan

 

Garden City, N.Y.—For the third year in a row, Mohawk Industries was voted Best Overall Manufacturer—one of four Mohawk-branded honors, and six in all for Mohawk Group—in FCNews’ 22nd annual Award of Excellence competition.

Mohawk won for Best Carpet Manufacturer (Group A), Best Commercial Carpet Manufacturer and Best Laminate Manufacturer (Group A), as well as Best Overall. Further, two Mohawk companies took home top honors, including Dal-Tile, which was named Best Ceramic Manufacturer (Group A) for an unprecedented 20th consecutive year. Karastan won top honors for Area Rugs.

“At Mohawk, we continue to invest heavily in the future,” said Tom Lape, president of Mohawk residential, who attended the annual affair at the Garden City Hotel with several members of the Mohawk team. “We are honored that retailers recognize our products, such as the industry’s first hypoallergenic soft flooring—Air.o; our SmartStrand franchise and our revolutionary wood flooring—RevWood, as innovations that contribute to their business success and consumer satisfaction. Mohawk is not only thankful for their resounding endorsement of our products but also of our hardworking employees whose talent and dedication earned our company these prestigious awards.”

Dal-Tile has done what no other company or brand has done—won the award for two decades running. According to John Turner, president, the victory laps never get old. “Winning the Award of Excellence is meaningful to Dal-Tile because it reinforces how our customers feel about their relationship with our business and how they value our Daltile, American Olean and Marazzi brands,” he said. “Each team member plays a critical role in ensuring that we forge relationships with our customers through superior service and products that lead the industry in style, innovation and quality. Our long history of success in this awards program illustrates our commitment to excellence and the significant partnerships we enjoy with our customers.”

Mohawk wasn’t the only dominant company. It was a big night for Shaw Industries and its divisions as well, with five awards. Shaw won Best Manufacturer for LVT (Group A) and Best Manufacturer for Hardwood (Group A); Anderson Tuftex took home top honors for Carpet (Group B) and Hardwood (Group B), while USFloors took first place in the inaugural WPC/Rigid Core category.

“The Award of Excellence is a coveted and respected industry award and receiving this award for both LVT and hardwood is an immense honor for Shaw Floors,” said Herb Upton, vice president, hard surface. “We’re thrilled to see our latest hard surface products have been well received, and these awards confirm Shaw Floors leads the way in hard surface innovation.”

Drew Hash, vice president, Shaw hard surface products, added, “To be chosen for these prestigious awards by our retail partners speaks to the success of Shaw’s efforts to put customers at the forefront of all we do. We thank our dealers and Shaw associates who make our shared achievements possible.”

For the first time a separate category for WPC/Rigid Core was established, a nod to the explosiveness of the waterproof vinyl flooring segment. USFloors, marketer of the highly successful COREtec brand of WPC, won the award for WPC/Rigid Core after taking top honors for LVT the previous two years. “To achieve an Award of Excellence from your customers is the most meaningful and valuable recognition any company can wish for,” said Piet Dossche, president of USFloors. “I am very proud and honored to receive this trophy on behalf of our entire team of dedicated people who are working hard to provide the best product and service to our retail partners. The revolution our COREtec product has created in the WPC product category has been great for our customers who have embraced this exciting new product wholeheartedly. Thank you, FCNews and Informa Exhibitions, for organizing this yearly contest and event.”

Being part of the Shaw family, Dossche added, has given USFloors more opportunities to grow the COREtec business. “We are committed to remain the leader in this category and building COREtec into a strong consumer brand.”

Among the repeat winners, Emser Tile won for the second year in a row in Ceramic (Group B), and Inhaus took top honors for Laminate (Group B), marking its second consecutive year in the winner’s circle. “Emser Tile is proud to be recognized by our customers and receive the FCNews Award of Excellence,” said Bob Baldocchi, chief marketing officer. “As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, this recognition validates our service promise commitment to our customers and inspires us to continue to find new ways to innovate and enhance the overall customer experience.”

Derek Welbourn, CEO of Inhaus, commented: “We feel extremely fortunate and are honored that our customers voted for us. We have a passion for our product offerings and strive to create products that people are excited about both in terms of innovative design and quality. In our eyes, this award is a recognition of our efforts, and we are very appreciative of that.”

A new classification (Group C) was established for the first time to recognize quality, smaller-scale companies. In carpet, Southwind won for Group C while HomerWood was honored in hardwood.

“Southwind and all of our employees are honored to have won this Award of Excellence,” said Richard Abramowicz, executive vice president. “It is a team effort—not one individual. Southwind strives to bring to market the most innovative and forward-thinking products that provide solutions to the marketplace. We would like to thank our valued customers for recognizing our efforts for this award.”

Methodology

Sponsored by FCNews and Informa Exhibitions, proprietors of The International Surface Event (TISE), the Award of Excellence is a way for manufacturers’ customers—retailers, distributors, designers, installers and specifiers—to honor the companies they feel consistently provide the best service, professionalism of sales force, management responsiveness, value, design, B2B, handling of claims and ease of doing business.

“The Awards of Excellence are honors bestowed to manufacturers by the heart and soul of the flooring industry—the retailers,” said Dana Teague, vice president, Design Group, Informa Global Exhibitions. “It is a pleasure and an honor for Informa/Surfaces to co-sponsor this year’s awards with Floor Covering News. We are delighted to share our enthusiasm for innovation with brands that continually strive for excellence. Surfaces is the platform that manufacturers use to launch or highlight many of the winning products to the delight of the thousands of retailers, distributors, designers and installers that come to Las Vegas every January. Congratulations to the recipients of this year’s awards.”

Readers of FCNews, as well as other industry personnel visiting trade shows such as Surfaces (and not employed by a manufacturer), voted between October 2017 and the end of March 2018 for the companies they felt best met established criteria in the following floor covering categories—Carpet, Commercial Carpet, Area Rugs, Resilient, Resilient Sheet, Resilient Commercial, Hardwood, Tile, Laminate, Cushion/Underlayment, WPC—as well as the Best Overall mill. Ballots were featured in FCNews and readers could mail or fax them back, as well as vote online and at industry events such as Surfaces.

While the category awards were done on a simple, one-vote-per-category/company format, the Best Overall award required voters to fill in their choice for first, second and third place. Votes were weighted so that first place was worth five points, second place worth three points and third place one point. Point totals were tabulated and the company with the most in each was named the winner.

As has been done for the previous nine years, individual category winners were selected in two or three groups based on their volume. Also, manufacturers did not have to pay a fee to be eligible to receive a vote, which has been customary since the first Award of Excellence competition. Any and all manufacturers of floor covering products in the above-referenced categories were allowed to receive votes.

More than 2,200 votes—representing flooring retailers, distributors, designers and installers—were cast, with more industry professionals voting online than ever.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dal-Tile wins exclusive tile provider status

Dallas—Dal-Tile Corporation was recently named as the exclusive tile provider for Woodside Homes. With both companies keenly focused on offering products rich in style and design, this relationship provides homebuyers in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah with a new resource to help achieve their desired home. 

“Woodside Homes self-describes as ‘Better By Design,’ and they put primary emphasis on helping home buyers customize their space with their own personal style,” said Mike Profilio, director of national accounts – Western U.S., Dal-Tile. “As their exclusive tile provider, Dal-Tile puts three of the world’s top tile brands (Daltile, Marazzi and American Olean) at Woodside’s disposal to create programs that meet all style and pricepoint needs.”

“Our strong brand awareness also enhances the home-buyer experience, while customers are exploring Woodside’s online Inspiration Gallery design platform and during their in-person Woodside Homes Inspiration Gallery visits,” added Profilio.

For product information, visit daltile.com, marazziusa.com and americanolean.com.

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NRF prioritizes service for partners at NEFM

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Steven Feldman & Mara Bollettieri

Uncasville, Conn.—Winter turned to spring on March 19 as things were heating up at NRF Distributors’ New England Flooring Market (NEFM). With 110 vendors showcasing their latest wares to an estimated 320 customers, Terry Gray, vice president of marketing, was anticipating the one-day event to generate $3 million in business. Every vendor offered some type of special to encourage retailers to make the trip to NEFM and spend.

“This is their local Surfaces,” Gray told FCNews. By her count, only 10 retailers who signed up for the NEFM attended Surfaces. “Instead of flying to Vegas and spending all that money, they can spend a night here and buy new displays and meet executives of the brands they sell.”

The NEFM concept began nearly 40 years ago, when it was held in NRF’s Augusta, Maine-based warehouse. The market eventually outgrew the venue and has been held in casinos for the last 10 years, attracting customers from Maine to Pennsylvania. NRF now hosts three markets a year for its customers—two in Connecticut and one in New York.

One initiative the distributor was focusing on at this event was its newly launched social media platform, NRF Social, which aims to help retail customers build their Facebook and Twitter presence. Michael Gallicchio, social media manager of NRF Social, explained how the program familiarizes itself with the retailer and adapts to his or her specific community and product line. This allows the program to produce a library of personalized content. “What we try to do is engage the community through social media in the name of the retailer and target people who are showing the tendency toward home improvement services. Once we do that, more than likely when people go to buy flooring, they’re going to be thinking about the local retailers first.”

The program costs anywhere from $99-$149 a month depending on the level of service. Ninety-nine bucks a month includes posting content and pictures; for $149 a month, retailers receive content plus paid Facebook ads. Gallicchio emphasized how putting money behind Facebook advertising can be extremely beneficial to a retailer’s business. “For hardly any money, comparatively speaking to what existed 20 years ago—when people spent thousands of dollars in ads—you can deliver a branded message with pictures, specs and product knowledge that will help people make decisions on the fly.”

Around 30 to 40 stores have signed on to NRF Social since its launch in October, and at least a dozen more were added at the show, Gallicchio shared. “NRF had the foresight to not guess what consumers do. We studied it.” The platform allows retailers to maximize their time on the floor with customers while the social media experts handle the advertising.

NRF’s social media team held a four-month pilot program, where it tested numerous types of messaging and online advertising through social media platforms. The data collected from this study revealed what consumers best respond to, so a local retailer can hyper-locally target consumers in his or her community.

NRF has also launched a campaign promoting the “shop local” movement with service, honesty, options and pricing providing the basis for the acronym SHOP. NRF has adorned the back door of its 68 trucks with the signage and is also providing POP material in the form of stickers to retailers. “The idea is to get people to buy specialty flooring products from their local retailer,” Gray said. “It’s a way to drive more traffic into stores. We are driving the fact local stores do it better.”

NRF is also using its trucks to promote its vendors. For example, 28 trucks sport the Tarkett logo and a large room scene visual plastered on the side. “We’ve been doing that since 1988,” Gray said. “We don’t know of any other distributor doing that. It’s the best advertising you can get. That will last 12 years; the trailer will die before the label comes off.”

Gray noted that NRF was up about 6% in 2017 and, like just about everyone, is riding the crest of the LVT/WPC/SPC wave. Beauflor and Raskin are new vendors joining Tarkett, which NRF has handled for five years. “Actually, the last two or three years have been great,” Gray said.

That is not to say NRF is strictly growing because of hard surface. Gray pointed out that carpet is still a big part of the distributor’s overall sales. “Carpet remains 30% of our business. I have carpet in stock all the time.”

Service with a smile 

Service has been, and always will be, something Gray believes is an NRF hallmark. “Truck drivers deliver to every single store twice a week—roll goods, boxed goods, palletized goods. Generally speaking, customers never have to wait more than a week for anything. We even have 400 customers who have given the truck drivers keys to their stores, so they can deliver early in the morning. Sometimes we even start the coffee maker.”

Delivery of product begins long before NRF drivers show up on a retailer’s doorstep. In many cases, product comes from overseas, which requires astute management to ensure proper inventory. “If you are buying containers from China, you must factor in how many weeks and months it takes to get product,” Gray noted. “You need 15 to 18 weeks inventory if it’s coming on a container. You have to have a purchasing system for all the different items. You have to factor in all the nuances of each product lines.”

Retailers attending the NEFM attested to NRF’s focus on service. Jeff Hosking, owner of Payless Floors, North Attleborough, Mass., shared the advantages of using the distributor for his local business. “The pricing is better when you buy it in bulk, and they’re great people to deal with. We’ve worked with them now for a lot of years, and we’ve found them to be very honest when we have an issue. They back up what they say. They help us sell our customers with product knowledge and offer training.”

When asked what separates NRF from other distributors, Hosking did not hesitate to respond. “They’re more attentive. The service is 100% better than most of the other distributors.”

Even retailers who are new to the game are impressed with the service NRF provides. Eileen Nash and her husband, Dylan O’Malley-Joyce, recently opened The Floor Works in Bethlehem, N.H. She shared how they recently had a problem with some of their flooring and NRF resolved the issue. “The manufacturer blamed the installer, so NRF got us an inspector. It turned out to be a flooring defect, and NRF had everything fixed [just] like that.”

As an added bonus, NRF has a printing department and another that handles sampling for wood and ceramic. NRF also offers its customers products to sell on a private-label basis. “We always thought it was important for customers to have their own lines,” Gray said. “Everyone can go on their phones and say, ‘I can buy it cheaper.’ But private-label products can’t be shopped.”

Manufacturers also attest to the value NRF provides. “They’re just efficient,” said Stephan Guindon, executive director, NA, Venture Carpet. “The reputation they’ve built in the marketplace is something I haven’t seen in other areas of the country.”

If reputation is No. 1, then product knowledge is a close second. Bruce Hammer, vice president of sales at Ribadao Wood Boutique, was one who commended the distributor’s familiarity of his products. “They have an extremely knowledgeable sales staff that can talk in depth about the unique species we offer.”

Raskin Industries is a relatively new supplier, only four months into the relationship. “I would say they dominate New England more than any other distributor dominates their own marketplace,” said Ted Rocha, vice president of sales. He likened his partnership with NRF to being a part of an extended family. “They have great support from areas that are very difficult to get to.”

Mike Lewandowski, general manager of American Olean, is also pleased with NRF as a distributor partner. “They support all our new launches and every effort we do in the market.”

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American Olean opens new markets for distributors

Dallas—American Olean is making it easier for its distributors to expand into new territories through convenient “turn-key” stores built by the company. These facilities are part of a value-added service where American Olean executes all of the up-front financing and legwork to site survey, manage construction and build-out the interior of a new store that will feature American Olean as its “anchor” brand.

Once the doors are ready to be opened for business American Olean hands the keys over to its distributor. The eventual cost to the distributor through an easy payment plan is much more doable than shouldering the burden of up-front construction costs and the risk of a new business venture alone.

“Our ongoing mission is to equip our distributors for success with the American Olean brand,” said Hector Narvaez, vice president of distributor sales for American Olean. “Our turn-key value-added service is a powerful tool to help distributors increase their revenue—and the best part about it is, American Olean does all of the heavy lifting for them.”

Travis Tile is the latest American Olean distributor to take advantage of this opportunity and recently celebrated the grand opening of its new Travis Tile showroom in McAllen, Texas. Travis Tile has been an important American Olean distributor for 32 years. “American Olean is serving as the ultimate strategic ally, offering distributors an easy way to substantially increase their revenue stream by expanding into new markets via American Olean’s turn-key showroom opportunities,” said Jamie Tyler of Travis Tile.

The manufacturer’s turn-key showroom is designed to offer a “complete American Olean shopping experience.” Displays in each store showcase the entire American Olean product line. In addition, the overall layout of each store incorporates today’s most studied principles on how consumers shop and what overall shopping experience most effectively guides consumers through the consideration and selection process.

For more information, visit americanolean.com.

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American Olean introduces new commercial merchandising tools

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 10.15.52 AMDallas—American Olean recently launched new commercial merchandising tools, the AO “library box” and its complementary “library cards”, expanding the brand’s merchandising resources and providing an effective way to present commercial product samples to decision-makers during the consideration and selection portions of the buying process.

“Our ongoing mission is to equip our distributors for success with the American Olean brand,” said Hector Narvaez, vice president of distributor sales. Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 10.15.55 AM“We are not only sending our distributors out with a trusted brand name, but trend-forward products and effective merchandising tools to give them everything they need to excel at serving their customers, especially their A & D audience.”

American Olean’s new library box was developed to fit easily into architectural libraries and securely holds up to 11 commercial product library cards. The library cards showcase products from the recent spring and summer American Olean launches, including Merit, Perspecta, Elemental Canvas, Theoretical and Theoretical Bold. These cards feature product samples that customers can see and touch as well as information on technical specifications. Each library card is 8 x 14, conveniently fitting into the library box dimensions of 6.5 x 17 x 14.

For more information, visit: americanolean.com.

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Ceramic: Next-gen digital printing technologies unlock tile’s potential

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.26.15 PMDigital printing has helped to change the tile industry by providing manufacturers with limitless designs that mimic what is trending amongst consumers. Whether it’s natural stone, cement, marble, slate or wood looks, digital printing offers consumers the looks they want, the ability to put it where they want and at a desirable price range—all of which ultimately benefits the specialty retailer.

Case in point is Confindustria Ceramica, which finds digital printing to be one of the key technologies used in Italian ceramic tile production. “When it was first introduced, it could only guarantee satisfactory results for certain materials, but it can now be used successfully for any kind of product,” said Vittorio Borelli, chairman. “Its role has been further strengthened by the emergence of the second major innovation in ceramics, that of large-format panels and slabs, given that digital technology is essential for decorating these products.”

As technologies continue to advance, manufacturers from all over the globe are developing newer visuals and textures. Some of the newer design trends Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing Emser Tile, has noticed include Moroccan and Spanish looks, as well as antique visuals that mimic handmade tile. The main development she sees focuses on the manufacturer’s ability to customize products. “Another trend we’re seeing is the ability to create art on tile. Artists are now doing renderings and it’s being reproduced on tile. All of that is great to do now that the technology allows for it. I think in general we’re seeing a lot of customization.”

Haaksma explained that the new customizable features of tile are a bonus for specialty retailers, especially those who have designers or customers who want to create their own images. This trend lets tile take on higher-end looks with greater nuances, not only among tiles but customers as well.

Other tile manufacturers, such as Dal-Tile—the parent company of Marazzi, Daltile, American Olean and Ragno—are also creating more sophisticated products with the help of next-generation digital printing. “The evolution of printing technology has led to manufacturers being able to create unique patterns and designs on individual tiles, similar to the natural materials, like wood or stone, which we are replicating with high degrees of authenticity,” said Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president, product and marketing.

Part of Dal-Tile’s digital printing technology includes what the company calls “Reveal Imaging.” As Mattioli explained: “[It] is our state-of-the-art digital printing process that produces realistic color, detail and veining that is unique on every single tile for a look that’s virtually indistinguishable from natural stone. Digital printing technology is giving us—as well as other tile manufacturers—a competitive advantage over other flooring categories.”

Beyond the ability to recreate various designs and patterns is the ability of the new technologies to apply different materials to the tile. For example, the innovations at Crossville allow its digital printer to manufacture gloss, matte and luster glaze effects on its tiles, according to Craig Miller, R&D director.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.26.40 PMMS International (MSI) is also incorporating newer printing technology that enables a quicker production process. “Digital printer manufacturing companies, such as Kerajet from Spain, recently developed an inkjet printer that will be able to apply both glaze and ink in one step,” said Paulo Pereira Jr., senior merchant porcelain. “Since these cutting-edge digital printers can apply both enamels and solids simultaneously—besides the basic graphic effect—products can also incorporate other effects such as metallic, shiny or anti-slip effects in the same, one-step application.”

In that same vein, advanced technologies employed at Emser Tile are allowing the manufacturer to incorporate ink-jet printing deeper into the surface. “It’s not just a print sitting on top of the surface, but it actually becomes ingrained into the bisque,” Haaksma said. “So then the patterns and the colors are now infused into the tile itself.”

Overall, newer printing technologies are allowing manufacturers to innovate throughout the entire production process. For Borelli, this includes “image acquisition techniques that allow for ever higher levels of definition; increasingly powerful graphic design software capable of processing the images; more precise and high-performance print heads; and the development of suitable ceramic glazes.”

Retailer benefits
While next-generation digital printing provides manufacturers with benefits, it ultimately helps specialty retailers sell tile product at higher margins, according to tile executives.

These new technologies are enabling the consolidation of flooring products including wood, laminates, natural stones, etc. “For specialty retailers the requirement for training their sales team goes down as product lines are consolidated,” MSI’s Pereira said. “In addition, it enables more individualism for customers in the design process as the amount of choice significantly increases.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.26.09 PMWith the help of digital printing, consumers can also get high-end looks and high-performance flooring—both of which are available through porcelain tile at a much more affordable price. One example of this is found in tile that resembles natural stone. “[Natural stone] continues to gain strength in the market, but it is not suitable for all applications,” Emser Tile’s Haaksma said. “So you can get the realistic stone look with the performance, durability and affordability of porcelain. This way you can put it in a kitchen countertop, or wet space where you wouldn’t usually want to put a stone.”

Higher margins are available to retailers courtesy of the attractive characteristics made possible through digitally printed tile. “These types of products are letting retailers expand their margin dollars by drawing more consumers to their showrooms to buy products that were once unimaginable for a typical homeowner,” Mattioli explained.

Homeowners, industry expert say, are often inspired by botique hotels, spas and hospitality spaces they encounter through traveling. “In the past, the durability concerns and price points of rare stones and marbles prevented many consumers from bringing these gorgeous high-end looks in their own homes,” Mattioli explained. “However, through Dal-Tile’s Reveal Imaging technology, our brands are able to offer the visuals of rare stones and marbles in a tile product. This lets consumers have the look they love with the performance that real-life activity and real life budgets demand.”

For Confindustria Ceramica’s Borelli, higher margins are attainable by comparing past and present products. “All you have to do is compare these products with those that were available just five years ago to appreciate the progress that has been made. But it is crucial for retailers to communicate this value to their customers so that they are prepared to pay a premium for ceramic products that stand out in terms of innovation, technology and technical characteristics.”

Digitally differentiating
Most digital printing technologies are not proprietary—meaning manufacturers are often using similar machinery to produce hundreds of different products. When it comes to differentiating digitally printed tile, most manufacturers keep a close eye on developing trends to extract key details that will be unique to their product lines.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.26.04 PM“While digital decoration technology is capable of creating products with superior technical characteristics, it does mean the same plant solutions are being adopted across the entire Italian ceramic industry,” Borelli said. “What really sets companies apart is their stylistic choices, their use of graphic designs, colors and surface textures.”

Crossville aims to differentiate itself from other tile manufacturers by blending traditional printing technology and ceramic material effects with digitally printed images. “We call it a ‘digital-plus’ approach that allows us to create looks that are unique to Crossville products and are not replicable,” Miller explained.

For manufacturers such as Dal-Tile and its associate brands, differentiation comes from not only creating differing designs, but also from developing multiple products. “The vast array of tile offered by our brands provides every customer with a solution for every challenge they may face,” Mattioli explained.