Moscow-based Estima Ceramica, one of the largest producers of ceramic tile in Europe, is presenting at Coverings 2017 in Orlando, Fla., for the second year in an effort to grow its U.S. market share. With a production capacity of 160 million square feet, the company manufacturers rectified, glazed porcelain. Estima develops its products in collaboration with clients in the United States to ensure they reflect the design needs of the market. We recently spoke with Maria Troshina, brand manager of Estima Ceramica, to talk about the company’s growth plans for the U.S.
FT: How would you describe the difference in product styles for the U.S. market compared to the European market?
Troshina: The gap of design between Europe and America is not as wide as in the past. The reason is the introduction of digital technology and the American consumers understanding of ceramic tile and its wide use. This can be found specifically in stone, marble, and wood designs, which are extremely popular in the U.S. We still see a difference in the size or formats used between the markets; however as the U.S. installers become more familiar with installation methods and certifications are increasing through programs such as the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT), this gap is becoming less. Large slabs are very popular throughout Europe and now referred to as “gauged porcelain tile” and “gauged porcelain panels/slabs”. The U.S. is more conservative, but starting to see the benefits of these new sizes.
FT: What trends are you seeing and pursuing in product development for the U.S?
Troshina: Estima has taken a different approach, as we have with other markets, and that is to study the market trends to provide each market the products that are accepted already and take that to the next level with European influence. Estima has researched the categories in the U.S. market including: concrete, stone, wood, fabric looks, and incorporating various technical properties to ensure we meet the growing market’s needs.
FT: What are your goals for this year’s Coverings?
Troshina: Estima’s goal for the Coverings show is to introduce to the market that they have a different channel to source tile from—Russia—with its Italian machinery, European mindset, and the very best raw materials in the world.
FT: What are the challenges you see in growing your share of the U.S. market?
Troshina: The challenge Estima is faced within the U.S. market is to develop the same level of service as domestic producers by providing inventory when our clients require it. We believe our collections are at the same level or superior to many of the U.S. factories.
FT: Tell us about Estima porcelain innovation. What advantages do you bring to the U.S. market?
Troshina: We are utilizing the most advanced technology in the market. We are creating trendy collections with high technical features but with an affordable price.
FT: What is your business outlook for 2017?
Troshina: 2017 for Estima is very positive. We recently opened a new distribution center in Italy and are developing the European and American markets rapidly.
FT: How do you differentiate the Estima brand from competitors?
Troshina: Estima products are made in Europe which defines our quality and service. Our U.S. design team utilizes market research as well as current client’s assistance in the develop of the trendiest and best-selling products for the U.S. market
FT: Do you already have distributor representation throughout the U.S., or are there areas you still need coverage?
Troshina: Our presence in the U.S. market is primarily on the west coast where we have our distribution center and our local team of sales representatives. We are currently developing the market with the right partners who see the Estima difference.
FT: How will your partnership in Italy assist with worldwide distribution?
Troshina: Italy for us is a key point. First, we purchase all our machinery there where it is the hub of new technologies. In addition, our R&D department is in Sassuolo to define the newest and most innovative designs from the capital of ceramic tile design.
FT: Tell us about Instalex Tile.
Troshina: Instalex is our sister company who is assisting us to develop the U.S. market. We have inventory in Los Angeles for our distributors to pull from when they need to fill orders rapidly. In addition, we stock all our merchandising tools there to ensure superior service. Distributors can buy directly from the factory or purchase smaller quantities from the local warehouse when required to meet their customers’ requirements.
FT: Does Russia experience the same issues with installation and finding qualified installers as we do in the United States?
Troshina: In Russia, we have similar issues with installers not having the training opportunities. To guarantee the consumer is getting a quality installation, we have developed Estima training courses to train installers on how to properly install tile, which has led to increased used of tile across the country.
For more information, visit estima.ru/en.
Also check out the seven new collections Estima Ceramica will introduce at Coverings 2017.