Pictured is a selection from the Milos series of ceramic tile. Part of Ceracasa's Natural Collection, the product made its debut at Cersaie 2004 in Bologna, Italy.

Chart 1
The future of the ceramic tile segment continues to shine with a 16 percent increase projected in the next 18 months (chart 1), according to respondents of the just-completed Ceramic/Stone Tile Market Trends Study conducted by National Floor Trends magazine in partnership with the market research division of BNP Media.

The survey, which received a 21 percent response rate, was sent to a representative sample of 1,500 active, qualified floor covering dealers/contractors selected on an Nth-name basis from the domestic circulation of NFT subscribers.

According to these industry professionals, the biggest challenge ceramic tile manufacturers will need to overcome is price; followed by styling; availability; competition from other product categories; and installation.

Furthermore, issues currently impacting the ceramic/stone business are (multiple responses allowed): increasing numbers of Big Box channels, 58 percent; increasing competition from other flooring channels, 47 percent; other flooring types, 43 percent; eroding profit margins, 41 percent; consolidating retailers and manufacturers, 30 percent; and consumer brand switching, 13 percent.

Daltile was again named the top-selling brand of ceramic tile in this year's study with 23 percent mention, followed by American Olean and Mohawk at 11 percent; and Florida Tile, 10 percent. Price, selection, availability, and quality were the attributes cited by retailers/contractors as the key reasons for naming Daltile.

Other important survey findings: Flooring retailers/contractors continue to sell more imported than domestic ceramic tile, with the margin narrowing to 53 percent compared to 47 percent last year. Two years ago, imports had a 63 to 37 percent advantage. Eighty-one percent of ceramic/stone sold is for residential use with 19 percent commercial.

Chart 2

Two of five survey panelists (41 percent) reportedly have ceramic/stone sales of $200,000 or more. This is an increase of 8 percent over 2003 and a mean of $302,541 annually (chart 2). The monthly number of ceramic/stone sales per store is 32 with 12 percent of respondents tallying 50 or more ceramic/stone sales (chart 3). The average ticket amount per ceramic tile sale was $2,846 covering 286 square feet.

The segment is expected to continue its growth with 61 percent of respondents expecting ceramic tile sales to increase within the next 18 months. Only 3 percent of respondents see ceramic tile sales decreasing.

Attributes affecting the decision to sell a particular brand of ceramic tile are led by product design and styling followed by product quality, price, and distributor service and support. The least-important attributes include incentive plans and rebates.

Chart 3

Porcelain tile continues to be constant with a 38 percent average from responding flooring retailers/contractors. Further, porcelain tile sales are expected to increase by 16 percent in the next 18 months (chart 4).

Retailers/contractors recommend ceramic/stone to customers as follows: always, 37 percent; often, 49 percent; and sometimes, 13 percent. Just 1 percent never mentioned ceramic/stone during a customers' visit to the floor covering store. Consumers continue to be positive about ceramic/stone and rated the products' characteristics of durability, quality, selection/styling, price, and maintenance at higher levels this year compared to 2003.

Floor tile (71 percent) leads the type of ceramic sold, followed by wall tile, 14 percent; countertops & backsplashes, 8 percent; trims and decorative tile, 5 percent; and exterior, 2 percent.

The 12-by-12-inch size remains the industry's top floor tile seller at 56 percent, while 13-by-13 inch is at 25 percent. For wall tile, the 6-by-6-inch size now has a 32 percent share of market followed by 4-by-4 inch with 28 percent. Both sizes realized five percent increases compared to the 2003 study.

Chart 4

As far as installation, 54 percent of retailers/contractors surveyed claim they have enough qualified installers, whereas 39 percent need more installers and 27 percent are looking for a quality training program.

Daltile was selected at the top-selling brand of stone with 37 percent, followed by American Olean at 7 percent. The average ticket amount per stone tile sale was $2,475 covering 236 sq. ft.

These are just some of the findings in NFT's 2004 Ceramic/Stone Tile Market Trends Study.

Editor's Note: National Floor Trends commissioned another in our ongoing series of market studies to help flooring retailers/contractors enhance the success and profitability of their businesses. Identifying current product /sales trends and projecting the industry's future direction is imperative to making strategic decisions than ensure growth and prosperity.

Among the topics covered are: ceramic/stone sales generated each month; annual ceramic/stone sales; average ticket amount of ceramic/stone sales; types of ceramic tile sold; expected change in ceramic tile sales within 18 months; ceramic floor tile most frequently sold; ceramic wall tile most frequently sold; ceramic tile size expected to sell most within next 18 months; porcelain tile percentages; changes in porcelain tile sales within 18 months; domestic vs. imported ceramic tile sales; floor space devoted to ceramic/stone products; ceramic/stone residential and commercial percentages; frequency of recommending ceramic/stone; consumer response to ceramic/stone products; perception of ceramic tile characteristics; top-selling ceramic tile brand; ceramic tile brand attributes; issues impacting ceramic/stone business; challenges ceramic tile manufacturers need to overcome; effect of Big Box home centers; ceramic tile sales training; ceramic tile installation needs; and sources of ceramic tile.

The complete 2004 Ceramic Stone Tile Market Trends Study is available for $225 each or $195 for multiple copies.