Champion Building Materials’ Ocean Stone

Tile of Spain's Vogue

Our exclusive survey finds: Solid majority say they actively pitch the category; market evenly split between foreign and domestic; residential sales still dominate; 40% of sales for non-floor areas.

At a time when flooring shoppers are being tempted with a growing assortment of hard surface options designed to mimic genuine tile and stone products, consumers still seem to want the real thing. Retailers report that it is an area of flooring that remains rock solid. They predict it will continue to grow over the next year. 

Marazzi's Square Mosaic stone

NFT’sexclusive survey on tile and stone reflects a clear sense of enthusiasm for this well-entrenched area of flooring. When asked to rate the importance of the category on a scale of one to five, (with five meaning “very important.”) more than 60% rated it a four or a five. Asked how frequently they recommend tile/stone products to customers, nearly 90% said “always” or “often.” The results also indicate that sales, overall, are evenly divided between tile products and stone products.

Still while the survey indicates there is consensus on a number of big picture issues, other areas-like the preferred tile size-are not as easily gleaned. But when asked about their expectations for tile sales in 2008, more than 60% of respondents predicted an increase while a small minority-5%-said sales will dip. Expectations for stone flooring were not quite as rosy but still upbeat: About 55% said it will increase next year while about 7% said sales next year will be off.

Another area of agreement could be seen in the ranking of manufacturers in the category. Far more than any other band, Dal-Tile was identified as the No. 1 seller by retailers in both the tile and stone segments. Nearly 40% of those responding said Dal-Tile was their No. 1 stone brand and about 25% said it was the top brand in tile. Still there is no shortage of brands vying for attention. All told, the more than 400 participants in the survey collectively identified about 50 companies in each segment as their No. 1 seller.

Survey respondents also said that price is now the No.1 factor that determines if a ceramic tile manufacturer or brand makes it to their showroom. Design and style, which ranked as the top consideration a year ago, slipped to second on the list this year. Other factors prominently mentioned were: quality of the distributor, quality and durability of the product and customer request.  Far less important were ease of installation, marketing support and such manufacturer incentives as rebates.

There also appears to be a modest amount of interest in tile and stone products that are touted as environmental friendly. Nearly 90% of the respondents said that requests for “green” products (including installation products) came from fewer than 25% of their customers. Also, while large formats flooring tiles are becoming more widely available, they still account for only a small segment of the market. More that half those participating in the survey said 12” by 12” tiles remained most popular among their customer base. The slightly larger 13” by 13” tile was the No. 1 request for about one-quarter of the responses. Only 2% of those surveyed said the large size 20” by 20” tile was their top seller and 12% said it was 18”by 18.”

Other highlights of our exclusive survey:

• One-third of respondents said they averaged more than $25,000 in tile sales each month. About the same number of participants said their monthly tile take was below $5,000.  

• About 65% said ceramic tile occupies no more than 25% of their merchandising area; about 34% said it accounted for less than 10% of their display area.  

• Although the survey was sent to stores (and contractors) specializing in flooring, it is clear that many are reaching beyond their core area to generate ceramic tile sales. Respondents said that nearly 40% of ceramic tiles sales were destined for walls, countertops and other non-floor areas.

• While imported tile product held a slight edge over domestic product in the survey conducted a year ago, the more recent poll indicated a 50/50 split between the two.  

• The tile market is overwhelmingly skewed toward residential consumers. Respondents said that 80% of their sales came from homeowners and 20% was for the commercial market. The finding represents a slight fluctuation from last year’s survey when participants said it was 82% residential and 18% commercial. 

About the Survey

The preceding 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 was mailed to 5,000 U.S. flooring retailers/dealers of which 2,500 are active, qualified subscribers to TILE magazine and 2,500 are active, qualified subscribers to National Floor Trends  (NFT). A total of 449 survey questionnaires were completed and returned for a response rate of 9%. 

This in-depth research study provides up-to-date information on the retail market of ceramic tile/stone sales, brand awareness/preference and color/style trends. The full and complete report is available from Clear Seas Research. For information about ordering or to find out more about Clear Seas Research services contact Sarah Turner at