The use of either tile or stone as a highly reliable flooring option may date back many centuries, but the segment in recent years has been getting an image makeover. Hard surfaces once lauded as highly practical and durable are increasingly being positioned as dramatic, sophisticated and even chic and sexy. And the approach seems to be paying off. Retailers and contractors report that the tile and stone category is generating a new-found sense of enthusiasm among consumers. Not surprisingly, expectations for the coming year are running high.
Our newly released survey of retailers and contractors involved in the tile and stone segment draws a number of rock solid conclusions about the category’s performance and the preferences being expressed at the point of sale. Perhaps what is most telling are the responses to questions related to the sales growth anticipated for next year. Nearly three-quarters of the respondents are forecasting an increase in the ceramic/porcelain tile business in 2007 while just under 60% are looking for an increase in their stone flooring sales.
The enthusiasm may be a byproduct of the category’s image as a popular upscale product that is seldom the focus of low-ball pricing. Retailers report that tile and stone shoppers are looking for the right product for their home and not necessarily oriented toward looking for the best deal. Asked to identify what consumers see as the chief selling point of the tile and stone category, retailers said design and style ranked higher than more workaday considerations like durability and price. And the preference being expressed by consumers could best be described as uncomplicated sophistication. Respondents in the study say natural stone and porcelain have become entrenched as the most sought after looks. And color selection is similarly humble. Retailers told us that beige, neutral and earth tones are the hues most in demand. In terms of tile size, 12” by 12”, 18” by 18” and 13” by 13” ranked as the top three choices.
The availability of compelling styles and designs was listed as the top consideration when dealers are picking the brands they offer. Price was No. 2 followed by the quality of the brand’s distribution network and, No. 4, the product’s overall quality and reliability. The ranking also offers evidence on that retailers are not easily swayed by sales reps or even shoppers looking for a specific brand. Of the list of product attributes that determine if a dealer stocks a given brand, No. 5 was sales rep knowledge/support and No. 6 was specific customer requests.
The survey also underscores the towering presence of Dal-Tile in both segments. Asked to name the top selling brand of ceramic tile and, separately, their top selling brand of stone, Dal-Tile landed in the top spot both times. In ceramic tile, the company was listed as No.1 by 21% of the respondents. In the stone segment its position was even stronger: the 60-year old Dallas-based company was named as the top seller in that area by 27% or the respondents.
Even so, the retailers and contractors participating collectively identified many other brands as their top seller. In each segment more than a dozen brands were collectively named as a top selling brand. Rounding out the top five brands in tile were American Olean (17%), Florida Tile (8%), Mohawk (8%) and Interceramic (6%). In stone the top five included Interceramic (7%), American Olean (6%), Florida Tile (6%) and Emser (6%). While Dal-Tile clearly enjoys dominance in tile and stone, both segments are still highly fragmented with numerous companies angling for market share. All told, 59 manufacturers/brands were included in the survey.
Also noteworthy is the fragmentation of product sold by retailers / contractors surveyed. About 63% of these retailers’ total ceramic tile sales volume is attributable to flooring products, while 19% is reportedly generated by wall tile and 10% from countertops and backsplashes. Trims and decorative tile accounted for 6% of their volume and 2% from exterior products. These findings suggest that traditional flooring retailers and contractors are keeping up with consumer demand and diversifying their product offerings.
Editor Note: This is a snapshot of a new comprehensive study examining the retail market for ceramic tile and stone/marble. The conclusions are based on the opinions, preferences and purchasing behavior of U.S. flooring retailers/dealers and have been compiled from an in-depth study conducted by Clear Seas Research, a division of BNP Media.
The study targets 5,000 U.S. flooring retailers/dealers of which 3,500 are active, qualified subscribers to TILE magazine and 1,500 are active, qualified subscribers to National Floor Trends magazine. A total of 472 survey questionnaires were completed by retailer respondents. TILE and National Floor Trends are both BNP Media publications.
For more information on obtaining the complete report or any specific aspect of it contact Kelley Trost at (248) 786-1616.