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MSI opens new showroom, distribution center

Orange, Calif.—MSI opened a new showroom and distribution center in Austin, Texas, with a full offering of the company’s flooring, countertop, decorative mosaic, wall tile and hardscape products. The new, 65,000-square-foot space will also serve residential and commercial markets in the San Antonio and Waco region.

"With our new showroom and distribution center, we have dramatically enhanced our ability to service our customers across Texas," said Raj Shah, president of MSI. "With a dedicated team of local professionals, local inventory and a state-of-the-art showroom, we believe we can offer both the broadest selection of hard surfacing products, unparalleled customer service and the strongest distribution capabilities across the region."

Due to the breadth of MSI products, the space is built as a trade resource across various business channels including residential remodeling, new home construction, multifamily and commercial. “Builders, retailers, fabricators, contractors and interior designers will have an immersive, customer-focused experience with the full line of MSI products," said David Pettit, Austin’s branch leader for MSI. "Access to a fully stocked inventory means they will be able to source and select the best surfaces for their projects–all under one roof.”

MSI’s Austin showroom features dedicated, well-lit and climate-controlled areas to encourage trade professionals and consumers to make the best product and design decisions. “Vignettes display bestselling products in a real-life setting so that visitors can see the latest innovations in everything from hardscaping to porcelain and ceramic tile to mosaic backsplash tile," Pettit added.

The showroom features products for a diverse customer base that were developed around lifestyles, trends and budgets–complete with a state-of-the-art indoor slab area featuring natural stone, Q Premium natural quartz and bestselling products like Everlife LVT and Arterra porcelain pavers. The slab viewing area includes more than 300 colors of granite, marble and other natural stone slabs. A designated quartz gallery houses the company's Q-Premium natural quartz collection. The lineup features more than 90 colors in an array of finishes such as matte, concrete and polished.

 

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MSI opens expanded showroom, distribution center

Phoenix—MSI has opened its enlarged and updated showroom and distribution center located in Phoenix, Arizona. The new 187,000 square-foot building has allowed MSI to more than double its inventory to better serve not only the growing Phoenix market, but also the entire Grand Canyon state.

Carefully designed with the customer experience in mind, MSI’s Phoenix showroom boasts a spacious layout, comfortable seating and meeting areas, and a pleasing aesthetic design. Throughout the space are numerous displays and creative vignettes which allow visitors to get hands-on with MSI’s products and easily envision them in their homes.

The facility features a modern 5,000 square-foot showroom complete with MSI’s full line of porcelain and ceramic tile, Rockmount Stacked Stone Panels, natural stone pavers, and hundreds of decorative mosaics and wall tiles. Complementing the showroom is a 14,000 square-foot slab selection area that includes over 5,500 slabs of the finest natural stone and all Q Premium Natural Quartz colors. The Phoenix facility also houses MSI’s complete line of Arterra Premium Porcelain Pavers, which are UV resistant and can withstand Arizona’s high temperatures without becoming uncomfortably hot.

“The demand for our products in this region is particularly strong,” said Raj Shah, president, MSI. “By expanding and upgrading the Phoenix showroom and distribution center, we’re offering customers better service and an even greater variety of on-trend surfaces—such as our new Everlife Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) collection. We’re getting phenomenal feedback about the Phoenix location and we’ll be opening more upgraded and brand-new facilities in the coming months—it’s an exciting time at MSI.”

For more information, visit: msisurfaces.com.

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MSI assists victims of Hurricane Harvey

gI_155355_AP_17244821529718Houston—M S International (MSI) has donated to Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts through the American Red Cross and other disaster relief organizations.

MSI employees and the MSI Charitable Trust joined forces to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey. “We were heartbroken to see the devastation caused by this catastrophic hurricane and knew we wanted to help,” said Manu Shah, CEO of MSI. “I’m proud and humbled by the generosity of our employees. Their thoughtful donations echo MSI’s deep-rooted commitment to humanitarian efforts.”

MSI is headquartered in Orange, Calif., but has dozens of showrooms and distribution centers across the United States including one in Houston. “Our Houston facility suffered only minor damage, but our employees, customers and partners weren’t all as fortunate,” said Rajesh Shah, president of MSI. “We hope this donation will support them—and others—as they begin to rebuild in Harvey’s aftermath.”

For more information, visit msistone.com.

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MSI finds ‘window of opportunity’ with recycled glass

By Nicole Murray

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 5.00.54 PMOver the years, floor covering manufacturers have incorporated recycled materials into their products—the most common examples including used tires repurposed for rubber flooring; old wood panels recovered from dilapidated barns or railroad ties re-milled for rustic-plank flooring; and sawdust captured from woodworking operations that is then converted into MDF fiberboard for laminate flooring planks.

MS International (MSI) continues in that tradition with the launch of Urban Cool, a new line of wall and flooring tiles made from recycled glass with various textile prints and marble looks available in beige, light gray, dark gray, white and brown.

“Urban Cool now has 12 stunning items made from crushed glass powder that is mixed with a binding agent and then printed with ink-jet technology,” said Emily Holle, director of trend & design national marketing, MSI. “The collection features 2-inch hexagon, interlocking patterns and 2 x 4 subway tiles.”

By using recycled glass as a source material, MSI is able to repurpose components that would otherwise go to waste. Beyond the environmental benefits, this newly launched product has limitless capabilities to accommodate any style because of the surface’s recycled glass texture, according to the company.

“The printing technology applied to the surface offers a unique look not found elsewhere in the marketplace,” Holle said, citing potential applications in kitchens and bathrooms. “These items will make calming back splashes, gorgeous shower floors and great accent details when paired with shower tile.”

MSI expects Urban Cool will retail between $14.99 and $19.99 per sheet. Merchandising aids are also available for stocking dealers. These include grouted boards, materials and instructions. “Most retailers will choose to sample these new mosaics in a 12 x 12 grouted board mounted on a wall or an ‘A’ frame—all of which are available to ship now,” said Manny Llerena, director of sales and marketing, MSI.

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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.

 

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MSI opens new innovation center

March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.30.28 AMAtlanta—MS International recently opened its new innovation center here, a state-of-the-art, 20,000-square-foot space within a 150,000-square-foot warehouse that supplements its 200,000-square-foot showroom and warehouse five miles down the road.

The new building reflects the enormous growth the company has been experiencing over the past decade. In fact, according to Manny Llerena, director of sales and marketing, the company has grown its sales at least $100 million each year for the past five years and is on target to surpass the $1 billion mark this year.

The new innovation center houses the entire MSI marketing team, 18 strong and growing. This includes graphic designers and the digital marketing and product development teams. “The idea was to create a space that was exciting, where you would want to come to work,” said Emily Holle, creative director. “It’s beautiful, comfortable and inspiring. It’s a cool space and shows off much of our product.” The space also includes a training area that doubles as a break room. As well, a creative library space—where MSI designers can design the next wave of product—offers a plethora of natural light. “Here our designers can track home décor trends.”

But it all wouldn’t be possible without MSI’s exponential growth, which Llerena attributes in large part to a philosophy of being affordable and accessible. “We find the best-looking products from around the world. We are low cost from the manufacturer to the retailer. That whole idea is allowing us to expand the market as opposed to taking a share of the market.”

He added that success begins with the product itself. “We are sourcing the latest products, trends and technologies, and are leading in styling and bringing them in at affordable prices. We make even the high-end products very affordable.”

After posting sales of $920 million in 2016, MSI fully expects to eclipse the $1 billion mark in 2017. That will be achieved in part by virtue of four or five new branches, bringing to 27 the total number of locations in the U.S. To support this growth, the company hired 280 new employees last year and projects to bring on the same number or more this year.

“We want to work with many of the large retailers and help them grow their tile business,” Llerena said. But MSI will be very selective regarding its retail partners. “We are looking to grow with retailers who have dedicated themselves to this category. Ceramic is a difficult category to manage.”

At the same time, MSI also hopes to bring more retailers into countertops, a business that generates approximately half of MSI’s total sales. “With the excitement around quartz, it is easier for the retailer to get involved in the category. They don’t have to show a tremendous number of slabs in the warehouse. We can help them by joining them up with our fabricators.”

MSI will be exhibiting at Coverings with a bevy of new products. Llerena says they all respond to five trends:

  1. A focus on the wall. “Today, one out of every five sales is a wall tile sale. People are getting tired of paint. They are using wall tile to replace paint.
  2. A continuation of lineal looks. “They are a little softer, more water color lines running through tiles.”
  3. Black and white combinations for floors and walls.
  4. Outdoor spaces. Taking tiles that can work indoors and coordinating them with outdoors.
  5. Creative floor/wall tile combinations.
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MSI updates, expands Bay Area showroom, distribution capabilities

IMG_0049Hayward, Calif. —M S International (MSI) has updated and doubled the size its Bay Area showroom and distribution center. Today, the company boasts more than 500 surfacing products displayed and inventoried throughout 5,600 square feet of showroom space and approximately 160,000 square feet of total warehousing space.

Underscoring MSI’s commitment to customer service, the redesigned showroom includes new seating areas and work tables, as well as hosting space for seminars and various industry events. A spacious conference room provides a comfortable space for designers, fabricators and staff to meet with customers.

IMG_0038In addition to the showroom, the warehouse received substantial upgrades. “We doubled the warehouse size, thereby significantly increasing our overall stocking capacity for all of our product lines including flooring, countertops and hardscaping,” Raj Shah, president of MSI, explained. “In addition, we installed four more cranes—bringing the total number to eight—to improve operational functionality and fill orders more efficiently.”

An open house is scheduled for March 16. The public is encouraged to stop by and learn about all the new products MSI has to offer. For an immediate introduction to the updated facility, they’re invited to take a Google Tour. These advanced, 360-degree interactive virtual tours make it possible for consumers to browse the tile showroom, slab warehouse, Q Premium Natural Quartz Slab Gallery, and more—right from the comfort of their homes.

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Executive Forecast: Tile—Technology, pent-up demand to fuel consumption in 2017

December 5/12, 2016; Volume 31, Number 13         

By K.J. Quinn

The outlook for ceramic tile has never been better, as new production technologies are enabling producers to introduce game-changing formats and designs. Fresh off a year where sales and volume approached 10% spikes, marketers are bullish about growth prospects for 2017, as key economic indicators such as the new housing market and a rebounding economy are trending in the right direction.

Bob Baldocchi, CMO, VP, sales support, Emser Tile
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-14-55-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
We believe the flooring industry will see solid growth next year that will range between 8% -12%. The growth will come from new home construction and commercial activity.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
The continued increase in the ceramic, wall and decorative categories. Consumers continue to expand their use of tile in the remodel plans that extend beyond just new floors. Walls, decorative accents have all contributed to growth.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
Our plans are to outpace the industry’s flooring growth. This will be driven primarily by our consistent market expansion. We opened up 10 new design and distribution facilities in 2016 with plans for additional locations in 2017.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
2017 will see many of the same “X factors” that were present in 2016. Labor continues to put a regulator on growth opportunities, but is also contributing to a sustained housing boom as supplies still seem to lag behind demand.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
We are excited to see our aggressive expansion plans of the last three to four years continue to show positive returns and high year over year growth. The biggest challenge is staying in front of all the amazing growth opportunities.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
We are excited about our expansion plans. Our new East Coast distribution center opening in Q1 will provide our national footprint with enhanced service capabilities in the region.

Donato Grosser, president and chief consultant, D. Grosser & Associates
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-15-00-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
The housing market is recovering quite nicely and is the main driver for sales of ceramic tile in this country. The remodeling market is relatively stable. We thought we would see an increase of 8%-10%, but it looks like it won’t be more than 5%.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Large tiles and slabs are being used more and more. Sizes like 3 x 10 are very common in the commercial market. Large tiles are 16 x 16, 20 x 20 and 24 x 24 in the residential market.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
N/A

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
There is always the danger that a new product will come into the market and compete with ceramic tile. Someone may invent a product that will drive ceramic out of business.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
There are a lot of unknown factors. We just had a Presidential election in this country and no one knows what is going to happen in the future. If the value of the U.S. dollar stays this way, it will be good for imports from Europe.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
N/A

 

Gianni Mattioli, executive VP, product & marketing, Dal-Tile
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-15-06-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
We have seen positive growth in the tile segment, a trend we expect to continue in 2017. Right now we predict that the category will grow by 4%-6%.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
The housing market, specifically new residential, continues to positively impact the tile sector. Many of the trends in the residential segment are positive signs for the ceramic tile industry, as they will lead to increases in sales.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
Dal-Tile sales continue to exceed expectations, and we anticipate overall strong growth. We’ll do this primarily by continuing to introduce new products that match trends, improving our product portfolio.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
In 2016 we made key investments in our manufacturing capabilities, specifically with our Dickson facility. Dal-Tile is leading the advancement of design and manufacturing technologies so we can continue to provide great service.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
Through new innovations we are able to develop tile lines that meet consumer demands. We are going to continue to explore new tools to ensure we are providing the most cutting-edge products on the market.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
We will continue to focus on the key areas that are vital to our success: brand identity, product innovation and availability, exceptional service, value to our customers and unmatched logistics.

 

Raj Shah, president, MSI
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-15-11-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
I predict the category will grown 6%-8%.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
Tile continues to take market share. Also, significant growth in wall tile is occurring. We should see a lot of growth as Americans install more tile on the walls.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
Our expectation continues to be to significantly outpace industry growth.

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
There are numerous “X factors,” including the political climate. This is especially true as it relates to tax and immigration reforms.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
We are looking at each channel, including builders, retailers/dealers and architects and designers to grow the business. Ultimately, we need to keep making tile more affordable and accessible, and the consumer is responding.

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
The biggest initiatives would be to increase growth in our newer channels, including builders and A&D, and continued product introductions with the proper marketing support.

 

Lindsey Waldrep, VP of marketing, Crossville
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-10-15-15-amWhat is your projection for category growth next year?
The tile market is growing both commercially and residentially at a pace exceeding that of America’s new build growth. Clearly, the preference for tile is strong now and poised to continue this strength into the coming year.

What segments and/or products will fuel this growth?
With both commercial and residential markets consuming more tile, we’ve seen an increase in international and domestic production. This has resulted in the availability of more designs offered in a broader range of price points.

What is the predicted growth of your company in 2017?
N/A

What is the “X factor” that will impact business next year?
It’s essential that manufacturers focus on educating the market about the differences between products. This includes specifiers in both the interior design and consumer communities, as well as installers.

Where do you see opportunities for next year? Challenges?
N/A

What are some of your biggest initiatives for 2017?
Crossville is focused on highlighting the way our products bring creative solutions to challenging scenarios. We’re working with our distributors to reach specifiers with innovative ideas and alternatives.

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Ceramic: State of the Industry—Housing strength, buying trends boost consumption

November 21/28, 2016: Volume 31, Number 12

By K.J. Quinn

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-11-02-48-amWhile much excitement in the U.S. flooring industry surrounds innovations in LVT, the irony is most of these faux designs resemble a product requiring no introduction: ceramic tile. The category is making some noise of its own, as new digital printing technologies and larger formats are driving pent-up demand in the residential market.

“Speaking with various manufacturers and tile distributors at TSP, everyone seems busy and their sales are up,” said Donato Pompo, president, Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants. “Everyone seems to be looking forward to continued growth in 2017.”

While industry sales and consumption projections vary widely due to fragmentation, the category is on pace to post 10% growth in sales and volume in 2016 and similar results are expected next year, according to industry estimates. Tile is also more accessible to consumers than ever before, as nearly all flooring retail channels sell it.

“We have seen positive growth in the domestic residential ceramic tile market, particularly in the new residential segment,” said Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president, product and marketing, Dal-Tile.

Tile of Spain is bullish about category growth, noting U.S. residential and commercial tile sales have been strong the past 36 months. Year-to-date U.S. ceramic imports from Spain increased 35.5% in value and 46% in volume. “Tile of Spain feels it is going to be a great year for Spanish ceramic tile manufacturers, consolidating a growth that started in 2011,” said Rocamador Rubio Gomez, director of Tile of Spain U.S.

Traditional metrics used to gauge the state of ceramic—such as strength of the U.S. economy, lending and unemployment rates—are pointing in the right direction. But what really has industry members excited regarding prospects for next year is good news from the home front. New single-family housing, the single-largest economic indicator for the residential market, rose 3.1% in September to a seasonally adjusted rate of 593,000 units and is up nearly 30% over last year, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Census Bureau. “In recent years, single-family homes have continued to grow larger in size, which is positive for the ceramic tile market, since the category represents a greater percentage of the flooring used,” Mattioli said.

While the builder business remains on solid ground, it still lags behind growth rates prior to the 2008 recession. “The market is fairly good, even if residential housing is still stuck below the normal [annual] level of 1.5 million housing starts,” observed Donato Grosser, president and chief consultant, D. Grosser & Associates. “If housing starts were up to 1.5 million, you’d see a lot more tile sold.”

Indeed, there remains plenty of room for growth, as the U.S. market has only scratched the surface in per-capita use of ceramic. Tile as a percentage of total flooring in new homes continues to rise as it finds more applications in spaces such as patios, garages and basements. “We are also seeing an increase in overall dollars per home sales, so that means more premium finishes—which benefits tile,” noted Sean Cilona, director of marketing and product development, Florida Tile.

Issues impacting growth
screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-11-03-11-amWhile the builder market is the biggest driver of U.S. residential tile consumption, there are other issues emerging which stand to impact sales and volume in 2017. For example, the stronger U.S. dollar is reportedly reducing the cost of imported products. “The increase of lower-priced imports is affecting overall price and competition with domestic suppliers,” Cilona stated.

Ceramic, like all floor coverings, is losing an untold number of opportunities to LVT. Nonetheless, suppliers are convinced tile’s position as a premium, natural product will win out, as there are products for all shopping budgets. “Tile is better than any other floor and can last longer,” Grosser said. “If someone is buying for the short term, they may buy a cheaper product which may have to be replaced in five years.”

Another issue is the perennial shortage of qualified installers. “Tile installers typically don’t have a formal education in how to properly install tile and they don’t know the industry standards,” Pompo explained. “Standards are created by a consensus group of tile installers, manufacturers, distributors, scientists and consultants in order to prevent reoccurring problems.”

To that end, the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS) offers an online course, “Tile Installers Thin-set Standards (ITS) Verification,” to teach floor layers the industry standards. “Installers who are ITS verified are more likely to provide quality workmanship and tile installations,” Pompo said. “This course is offered through CTDA, NTCA, TTMAC and Fuse Alliance.”

Cultivating and recruiting qualified labor is an issue vendors take very seriously—and for good reason. “It’s essential that there are plenty of experienced contractors to meet growing demand for tile installation,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing, Crossville. “It’s also essential for those installers to invest in training and education to successfully work with new products, particularly the increasingly popular porcelain tiles.”

Crossville has been proactive in helping to address this issue by participating in, hosting and leading training sessions for installers. “Whether holding training at our plant in Tennessee or providing hands on support for workshops at the regional level in partnership with our distributors, we are committed to helping installers achieve success with our creative solutions,” Waldrep said.

Continuing education among installers is important when you consider the plethora of new tile products hitting the market each year. “New technologies and new products may [not] impact the supply chain, if all agents involved do not have proper knowledge about applications, installation and many other factors,” Gomez pointed out. “That is why, for Tile of Spain, education has always been so important. We place a priority on informing the tile community of new technologies to the U.S. market as soon as the manufacturers put them into the supply chain.”

Innovation improves value
screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-11-03-04-am2016 saw investments made in digital printing technologies which enabled producers to introduce game-changing formats and designs. These innovations have completely transformed the category, allowing manufacturers to supply consumers with high-quality floor tiles that resemble concrete, wood planks, stone and marble.

“Cersaie 2016 demonstrated many of the new technologies in tile which illustrated the versatility of porcelain/ceramic in applications,” said Raj Shah, president, MSI. “This includes not only porcelain/ceramic flooring in differing but realistic looks, but also in numerous shapes and sizes that were never available before.”

The digital printing process has become so sophisticated that manufacturers are creating tile that varies from piece to piece, much like the real products. Size does matter as vendors continue churning out larger formats such as 16 x 16 and 24 x 24 inches and shapes to accommodate demand. “New sizes and shapes are opening new markets,” Shah pointed out. “Large-format tile, hexagons, planks, etc., are all available in tile today.”

The latest porcelain tile panels are opening up possibilities for creative applications in residences as well as installation efficiencies, observers say. These products are generously proportioned—available in sizes as large as 72 x 120—so they cover lots of surface area with minimal grout lines for a sleek, sophisticated look. “These large tiles require a whole set of new tools and methods for installing, transporting and storing,” Pompo said. “They can be installed over existing tile surfaces or over properly prepared wall or floor substrates.” UofCTS offers online courses on Thin Gauged Porcelain tile so architects, installers, distributors and industry members can stay updated on these new products.

In order to meet future market demands, suppliers are closely following shifts in the segment to ensure they are providing products that meet customer demands. “Many of the trends in the residential segment are positive signs for the ceramic tile industry, as they will lead to increases in sales,” Mattioli said.

Meanwhile, suppliers continue investing in manufacturing to bolster production efficiency and speed to market. “We have added a new rectification line to our manufacturing facility that allows us to offer this new style of product manufactured inside our facility without sending it out for a third-party application or purchasing it from our companies overseas—both of which add to the final cost,” Cilona said.

 

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MSI completes Dallas showroom expansion, redesign

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-12-49-41-pmDallas—In response to increased product demand, M S International (MSI) recently redesigned and expanded its Dallas showroom. Revamped floor to ceiling, the state-of-the-art showroom was carefully planned with the consumer experience in mind. The spacious showroom features upgraded lighting, several comfortable seating areas and a strategic layout to facilitate the shopping experience. Worktables and a conference room provide designers, fabricators and staff ample space to meet with customers.

“We’re incredibly excited about the completion of this project,” said Raj Shah, president of MSI. “Our goal with the Dallas redesign and expansion was to create a space that inspires our customers with color, texture and design personality to get them thinking about surfacing products in new and exciting ways. Backed by a seasoned staff of helpful professionals, the new Dallas showroom exceeds our expectations.”

The expansion nearly doubles the showroom size and includes many new displays and installs. The addition of several new decorative mosaic fixtures make it easier than ever for customers to browse more than 300 distinctive backsplash tiles, from traditional to contemporary. The showroom’s Slab Selection Gallery was updated with the latest countertop colors, as well as more premium and exotic colors, and a separate Q Premium Natural Quartz Slab Gallery was installed.

With over 500 of MSI’s newest and most popular items on display, including many products that reflect local market preferences, the upgraded Dallas showroom underscores MSI’s commitment to offering a full-range of surfacing products in a customer-friendly environment.