Cersaie 2007 - November 2007
By Kemp Harr
Since the majority of tile sold in the U.S. comes from Italy, it makes sense that the foremost trade show for that industry is in Bologna, Italy. And this year, during the first week of October, the Cersaie tile show celebrated its silver anniversary with 92,000 visitors (up 1.1%) and 1,100 exhibitors from 32 different countries.
This is the eighth year that we’ve covered this show and there are two significant reasons. In the last 12 years, per-capita use of ceramic and porcelain floor tile in the U.S. has tripled and in 2006 the category passed hardwood as the third largest flooring category with just over $2.4 billion in sales. Despite this growth, however, our per-capita use of tile here in the U.S. is a third of what it is Europe. And secondly, Italian porcelain tile was mentioned specifically in our recent Top 250 Design Survey as a product category that designers are not only enamored with, but are specifying with ever increasing frequency.
You don’t personally have to go to this show before you add tile to your product line or begin specifying the product on your next commercial project. But if you can find the time to make the trip, attending this show gives you a new perspective on the enormous range of styling, the versatility of the product and the numerous choices you have for suppliers. There’s also the cultural side benefit of visiting a land rich in art and architecture, and the culinary benefit of Italian cuisine. And if you’re worrying about the language barrier, don’t. Most Italians can understand English if you speak slowly enough and many of the larger companies have their American or British representatives at the show.
If you’re in the flooring business and you aren’t selling or specifying tile, you’re missing a very important category. Yes, there are many choices to make as you navigate the wide range of options, but that also means that what you choose to offer can easily be much different than what is available down the street. Unlike the carpet industry and, more recently, the hardwood industry, consolidation is not a factor and it is easy to make a unique and impressive statement about your design and fashion knowledge using tile as the medium for creative merchandising.
Consumers find tile desirable and in fashion because it’s stylish, timeless, natural, and durable. On the commercial side of the market, the use of tile is growing in the retail, hospitality and public space sectors due to its ease of maintenance, its ability to emulate natural stone and its versatility in design.
Our goal with this article every year is to provide you with some styling and product information from the key players who caught our eye at the show and who also have established distribution in the U.S. and are therefore easy to do business with.
With 18 manufacturing facilities around the world including a large plant in Dallas, Texas, Marazzi is the largest Italian tile producer in the world. As a publicly traded firm on the Milan stock exchange, Marazzi had a big presence at the show, featuring two core brands, Marazzi and Ragno. One new contemporary collection called New York uses gloss and matte textures in conjunction with a ribbed pattern to convey a metropolitan look. It’s available in a range of minimalistic colors, from beige, brown, gray and black to a bright white. The Soho collection of large flagstones was also interesting, especially when matched with coordinating wall tile that creates a modern high-low relief pattern by using small elements of different thickness. This collection is available in beige, two shades of gray and black.
Prior to being acquired by Marazzi in 1989, Ragno was the third largest Italian tile manufacturer and now it continues to be a separate brand with a unique line of products. Most impressive was the Revisions collection, with its leathery texture combined with a pillow edge. Featured as the main floor in the Ragno show booth in a 12” x 28” format, Revision is available in five colors and three formats.
The big story for Florim is its decision to revamp its entire global branding strategy by positioning all five brands under the Florim company name. In the past, each of its brands, resulting from multiple acquisitions, has stood alone. But now Florim plans to synergize its organization for the benefit of all brands. To communicate this news at the show, all of its promotional material read “Made in Florim.” While Florim is based in Italy, it owns and operates the former TileCera plant in Clarksville, Tennessee. According to Jim Dougherty, Florim’s head of sales and marketing for the U.S., “With us you get products that are designed in Italy and made in America and you aren’t penalized based on the value of the dollar in relation to the euro.”
Another large Italian based manufacturer with a manufacturing presence in the U.S. is GranitiFiandre, whose plant in Crossville, Tennessee is operated under the Stonepeak brand. One of its most noteworthy products at the show was Luminar—a technical porcelain tile that features a texture of concentric circles with a metallic finish. This unique collection is available in five colors in a 24” square format. A second line that is tailored for the U.S. market is a collection of granite and stone looks sold under the Geologica name. While all of these products are actually porcelain, they look like real granite and stone but without the veining flaws, potential cracks and sealing issues you have with the natural product. The granite collection comes in seven styles and the stone look comes in 22 styles.
Emil Ceramica with its Ergon commercial brand is yet another Italian company that manufactures Italian designed tile in the U.S. Of its five plants, three are in Italy, one is in the Ukraine, and the U.S. plant is a joint venture with Dal-Tile in Musgokee, Oklahoma. The most noteworthy collection at the show was its new Green Tech product, which is not only tailored to the U.S. market with its natural travertine look but, more importantly, has 25% post industrial recycled content, which helps with the accumulation of LEED points. Green Tech is available in four colors. Also, still under development is a line of engineered stone products containing recycled glass called Crystal Dust. The plan is to offer six colors in two square formats.
The Panaria Group is the last of the Italian based companies that we visited with a plant here in the U.S. In fact, its Florida Tile division with a recently opened plant in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky now represents 23% of sales. We were impressed with Panaria’s Marmor collection that looks like polished marble. It is available in six colors and five formats.
Marco Corona, one of the ten brands in the Atlas Concorde Group, used to be known for its high end residential products but lately has been making a name within the commercial market—especially now that Atlas has expanded its ability to make larger format tiles. One perfect example is its dazzling new C-Project series, a porcelain product with a carbon fabric face. This charcoal gray product uses the relief pattern of the woven carbon fabric to convey an urban contemporary look. The company has plans to open an office in Chicago later this year.
Caesar is another one of Atlas Concorde Group’s brands and it has been focused on the commercial market for many years. In fact, its first line of products was designed for airports and train stations. Now the line has broadened for a wider range of commercial applications. The new D-sign collection is designed to enrich contemporary architecture with color. Available in eight colors and four formats, this collection also comes with smooth, laser or stave finishes. Caesar’s Glam and More 90 collections are also worth taking a look at for breathtaking commercial floors.
No review of Italian tile can be complete without mentioning Sicis. With offices in New York, Sicis is known in the design community for its colorful mosaic tiles. Most of its new products at the show were focused in the 4mm wall tile format but it has expanded its Classic Marble collection of 8mm thick floor tile products to include some larger format laser cut shapes.
The second largest exporting country to the U.S. is Spain and one of its most innovative companies is Tau Ceramica. This year, Tau added the Linnox and Corbono series to its Tau Materia product line. With Linnox, the company has been able to reproduce a smooth aluminum metallic finish with opalescent coloring and the Carbono product is much like the Marca Corona C-10 product mentioned earlier but the coloring and shading are more varied.
Another major supplier from Spain is Roca and it has been expanding its presence in the U.S. by moving its headquarters from Ohio to Miami and opening five warehouses across the country in the last two years. This year Roca has expanded its well known Rock & Rock product line to include a new series called Red Rock, which has a coarse weathered finish and is available in four sizes. Roca also markets products here in the U.S. under the Laufen brand.
Also from Spain is Porcelanosa, which sells to the U.S. market primarily through its own showrooms. One quick walk through its showroom, and you could tell that it had mastered many of the natural looks with its porcelain tile process. Most notable was the Detroit line, which combines a multi-hued slate look with a metallic finish. This product is available in two formats and two colors. The company also offers a striking silk textured product called Lino in both charcoal gray and white.
Elaine, Brazil’s largest exporter into the U.S. market, has done an excellent job of creating the type of look that we would consider mainstream here in the States. Its new Contemporanea line is a through body porcelain that looks like limestone or textured concrete. It’s available in five colors, three sizes and two finishes. Also of interest was its new Materia glazed collection, which has a stone look with a metallic finish.
Copyright 2007 Floor Focus