Revestir - April 2013
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By Darius Helm
Brazil’s eleventh annual tile show, held in Sao Paulo’s Transamerica Expo Center at the beginning of March, is a lesson in the significance of Brazil, and South America in general, on the world stage—as a consumer, a producer and a global influence. Every aspect of the event seems to emphasize the relevance of the region. Though the show itself is smaller in total area than the Surfaces–StonExpo/Marmomacc show held in Las Vegas, this year over 48,000 attendees roamed its halls. It was the biggest Revestir yet, in both area and attendance.
The 240 exhibitors included 80 from foreign countries, counting among them some of the most prominent tile manufacturers in the world. Foreign exhibitors included Marazzi, Atlas Concorde, Pamesa, Fiandre, Apavisa, Emil Ceramica, Roca and Refin. And though it’s traditionally a tile show, there were also manufacturers of other types of flooring on hand. Formica was there, along with Duratex, a Brazilian manufacturer of sanitary ware and laminate flooring. There was also a bamboo flooring manufacturer, as well as two firms prominent in the U.S. market—Tarkett and Mannington’s Amtico International.
In addition to flooring and ceramic tile for walls and cladding, the expo showcased equipment manufacturers, including Italy’s Sacmi, and a hall for sanitary ware producers.
The show is hosted by ANFACER, the Brazilian Association of Manufacturers of Ceramic Tiles, Sanitary Ware and Related Products. The association had some high profile speakers at the show, among them renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma; Birgit Lohmann, the publisher of Italy’s DesignBoom, an online magazine with over four million readers; and Yukio Hashimoto, a Japanese designer whose products include the highly acclaimed Moonbird lamp.
Run concurrently with the expo is the International Forum of Architecture and Design, a series of seminars, lectures and debates that gather over 3,000 professionals, including architects, interior designers, manufacturers, builders and retailers.
The Revestir show is held in Sao Paulo, a city known as much for its thriving economy as it is for its poverty-stricken favelas (hillside slums built of scrap material). Measured by metro-area, the city has a population of about 19 million, making it bigger than every American city with the exception of New York. It’s bigger than Shanghai, Paris, London, Beijing and Moscow.
A WORLD UNTO ITSELF
It’s significant that very little English is spoken at the Revestir show (and in Brazil in general). It’s all Portuguese—and after that it’s Spanish—a testament to the strength of the regional market. With a population of over 200 million, Brazil alone accounts for half of the people in South America. It’s the fifth largest country in the world, with nearly two-thirds the population of the U.S., and the sixth largest economy, behind the U.S., China, Japan, Germany and France. And, despite a sluggish pace the last couple of years, it’s growing faster than most other industrialized nations.
South America itself is a force to be reckoned with, a region coming into its own—fitfully at times—a point underscored by the recent appointment of an Argentinean cardinal, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, as the new pope.
According to Marcio Holland, secretary for economic policy at Brazil’s Ministry of Finance, the construction industry represents 45% of the investments in the country. There’s so much new construction that close to 90% of domestic tile production is consumed internally, and most of what remains supplies the other 200 million people living in South America. Brazil’s not only the second biggest global producer, after China, of ceramic tile (by volume), but it’s also the second biggest consumer of ceramic tile.
That’s not to say that the U.S. is irrelevant to Brazil. Looking at all consumption, the U.S. is by far the world’s largest consumer, accounting for nearly 30% of global expenditures, equivalent to ten South Americas—and that’s hard to ignore. But the U.S. wasn’t as relevant when its economy was floundering. With the weakness of the dollar as a deterrent, the recession led several Brazilian ceramic tile producers to pull out of the market. Now those same manufacturers say they are restarting their U.S. operations, though their level of commitment will be more evident once they start building their U.S. based staffs and warehouse operations.
Nevertheless, the fact that tile consumption per capita in the U.S. is less than seven square feet, compared to more then 35 square feet for Brazil and around 25 square feet for China is a compelling reason to keep the U.S. in the crosshairs.
There were certainly plenty of Brazilian-made products on display at Revestir that will do well in the U.S. market, mostly among the wood designs. Some were too bold for the U.S. market, like timeworn looks with glossy reliefs and matte on the lower contours, but there were also plenty of reclaimed and barnwood looks that were well executed. While some product was too glossy for most U.S. markets, at the same time there was a wide variety of matte and low gloss looks in both wood and stone in muted earth tones. And tile producers not just from Brazil but also from Spain and Italy all featured tile in various trendy grey colorations.
The only Brazilian tile producer that has maintained a permanent presence in the U.S. is Eliane, which has had offices in Carrollton, Texas for over 20 years. While the firm offers a lot of 24”x24” tiles, and even 24”x48” tiles, to the Brazilian market, that’s still too big for most U.S. consumers, so the firm targets the U.S. market with 18”x18”, 12”x12” and 12”x24” formats.
One particularly striking product at Eliane was its new ArqGeo, a striated stone look with three finishes—slip resistant, satin and polished—that comes in both 24”x48” and 12”x24”, and is offered in earth tones and neutrals ranging from ivory to warm grey to a medium brown with a subtle grey hue.
Eliane also had on view several wood looks, including Arbor from its DecorTiles program. The low matte rustic narrow plank design features dynamic jumps of texture and color between the plank visuals. Also on display were some fashion-forward textile looks.
One of the more unique offerings at the show came from Gail, a firm originally founded in Germany in 1812. However, since 1970 all manufacturing has been in Brazil. The firm’s extruded tiles, which target the medium to high end commercial market, don’t have porcelain’s high performance characteristics, but they offer a lush, substantial look that is hard to replicate. Because they’re extruded, the 12mm floor tiles generally don’t go much above 10”x10”.
Over the last year, Gail has started doing business in the U.S.—in Texas and Florida so far. The firm does a lot of customization for clients.
Portinari offered some of the most fashion forward products at this year’s Revestir expo, including thin tiles for floor and wall, super large formats, moody commercial colors and a range of sophisticated wood looks. The firm offers medium to high price points.
Eco Plant is a line of aged pine looks with clear linear graining, knots and good color range in a low gloss finish. The tiles come in three formats: 6”x47”, 8”x47” and 12”x47”. Even trendier is the firm’s Eco Home, which comes in the same formats but offers a reclaimed barnwood look, with hints of sanded-off paint, linear cracks, and well designed color jumps between the planks.
Another major Brazilian producer, Portobello, closed down its U.S. offices three years ago, but it has been retargeting the U.S. Most of Portobello’s tiles are at the higher end of the market, but it does a lot of business in the middle price points and has also been offering entry-level tiles through manufacturing partnerships. The firm, which has ten facilities in Brazil, exports about 10% of its products.
It’s a big firm and it always comes out with a lot of product introductions, and among this year’s notable new looks was Teca, based on an exotic hardwood from Southeast Asia, with gentle linear graining with a timeworn surface. The line comes in two long plank lengths: 8”x72” and 8”x48”. Portobello also offers an outdoor version of the look, called Deck Teca.
In addition, there were a couple of other memorable wood looks, Acacia and Royal Oak, but probably the most arresting look was Oriente, a textured carpet visual of contrasting earth tone designs packaged in three sizes for multi-format installations.
The firm is currently building a new facility in Tijucas for large format products. Like most of the Brazilian tile producers, Portobello is working at full capacity to meet the demands of both the domestic market and its export business.
Copyright 2013 Floor Focus