A rendering of Champion’s new factory which is set to open this year in China.

Ever since it was founded in Taiwan in 1972, Champion has taken many steps forward to solidify its local leadership and expand its global presence. In 1997, the company opened its headquarter facility in Shanghai. With the strong brand recognition and market acceptance, demand increases significantly, which leads to Champion’s second factory, established in Penglai in Shandong Province in 2002. The 3rd plant in China with investment of US$75 millions is now in progress, which is scheduled to produce glazed porcelain tiles and glass porcelain tiles in 2009

Champion is one of the few top Chinese manufacturers producing high end tile, where it operates 15 subsidiaries and over 500 showrooms nationwide. It is supported by a global sales network reaching 25 countries and regions, including the U.S., Europe, Japan, Korea, Middle East, Australia and Africa. It was also named Asia’s 500 Most Influential Brands in 2007 and 2006. As the company works to expand its presence in the U.S. we spoke with Champion’s management to understand more about the company’s direction.

What sets your company apart as a flooring manufacturer?

We were founded on a philosophy based on “honesty and trustworthiness.” We are committed to manufacturing only high quality tiles and building long lasting relationships with our clients. We also practice environmental protection in all our factories. Our products are of superior quality, surpassing some high level European factories.  We offer competitive pricing on polished tiles, gres porcelain tiles and rustic tiles to replace the natural stone and other flooring materials.

For our Green factory in Penglai, we made a significant investment to minimize its environmental impact. This includes complete water recycling, air purifying and other ways to avoid pre-consumer waste to ensure a healthy work place for Champion employees. Our Penglai factory is the first “Green factory” recognized by the government in Asia. Our product has also been chosen for 2008 Beijing Olympic projects, including Beijing Capital International Airport, National Stadium and Laoshan Velodrome.

How important is the U.S. market to Champion and what is your strategy for increasing your profile in America?  

The U.S. is the biggest tile market in the world and no supplier would neglect its significance. We believe Champion has what it takes to successfully compete in this market. Working with our agents and distributor networks, we can provide top quality products and exceptional service. We are also continuously working to research and develop new products. Our long-term strategy includes offices and warehouses both on the East and West Coasts of the U.S. to enhance customer service. We would also like to build a greater presence in the residential market.

What steps are you taking to address environmental concerns in the manufacturing and marketing of tile? 

Champion is the first to be awarded ISO 14001Green Environment Protection in the industry in both Taiwan and China. All our clients are impressed by our ‘Green’ factory. We use only equipment with lower energy consumption, clean energy and complete recycling system.  Our complete product lines are 3C certified-radiation free products.

We are working on getting SCS certifications to encourage architects and designers to specify our products. Clients who use Champion tiles in their projects will get points from USGBC on LEED certification, which will increase the value of these “Green” homes.

Over the past year, the U.S. flooring market has been challenging. How have the changes in market conditions affected Champion?

The sub-prime mortgage storm has certainly affected the market and people are struggling. At Champion, we believe there is still a demand for excellent quality and excellent service. The issues are mostly affecting the residential market. The commercial market is stable and continues to expand. As the cost of manufacturing increases, Champion sees an opportunity to expand its market share in the U.S. Those not able to compete will be at a disadvantage. 

What do you feel is the long term outlook for Champion and the tile market overall?

Champion is committed to building brand recognition while establishing added sales channels. We also know that customers want more than nice designs and looks. There is greater demand for tile that is functional, intelligent and unique. For example, Champion Anti-Biotic wall tiles, Self-Clean external wall tiles & façade system.

Champion will continuously research and develop technical products to satisfy the demands of environmental protection, economical use of energy resources, as well as creating a healthy living environment. This is Champion’s 35th year; we will always respect to insist on honesty and high quality, which are the highest principles to follow.

We are heading for an ongoing and long lasting business.

What do you feel will be the future role of China in the U.S. flooring market?

China is already among the world’s biggest tile manufacturers and has many competitive advantages. However, the only way to remain strong is consistently update the look and technology. These has always been Champion’s focuses. They're what sets us apart since we started in Taiwan. Without these two qualities, manufacturers with low end products will be finally pushed out by smart consumers.