What tile and stone products are being sold? Why are they being sold? What will people want next? These are but a few of the questions answered in Floor Trends’ 2013 Tile & Stone Market Study. The report, done by BNP Media’s Market Research Division in conjunction with Floor Trends, helps clear the muddied waters of the tile and stone retail market with some solutions—or maybe it just reaffirms what you already know.
Whichever category you fall into, the primary objectives of the study were to: understand retail business activity, ceramic tile and stone/marble sales trends and expected growth in the next one to two years; understand the most important product attributes influencing ceramic tile selection; and understand the important factors driving manufacturer/brand selection.
The first thing that jumps out about the study is the percentage of floor space given to tile versus the space given to stone products. Tile is given 11 percent less than stone (18 percent versus 29 percent) despite the fact that tile generates $355 more per month in average sales. An explanation for this discrepancy in floor space might be twofold: Stone products receive more value per sale by $53 than tile, and 70 percent of respondents also expect sales of stone products to increase, versus an expected increase in tile by 58 percent. So, in essence, stone products are given more emphasis due to their higher rate of return and what many expect to be an added interest by consumers.
As for what stands out regarding overall sales in stone and marble, well, there really isn’t a clear winner. Granite, at 24 percent, does come out on top, but travertine (21 percent), mosaic (19 percent) and marble (17 percent) are all right there in a pretty tight race for first. Even slate comes in at 12 percent, but limestone is bringing up the rear at 6 percent. (See chart 1.)
The continued stagnation of new construction could be the primary factor behind residential replacement projects dominating stone sales at a whopping 58 percent. Given the news in the past few months regarding increases in residential construction starts, 2013 could see an increase in sales of stone for new construction beyond last year’s 23 percent. In fact, 70 percent of respondents expect sales to increase for the upcoming year. However, expectations seem to be tempered as only 13 percent expecting a significant increase, while most (57 percent) expect only a slight increase.
What concerns will consumers of stone products have? Mostly ones centered on care and maintenance. Questions about how to clean and reseal stone products popped up the most, while some consumers focused on stone’s durability and wear.
As mentioned at the start, tile still tends to draw more monthly sales. What are people looking for? Respondents say that 57 percent of ceramic tile sales are from floor tiles, overall. (Coming in second, at 17 percent, is wall tile.) According to the study, 12” by 12” floor tile is the way to go—and it’s not even close at 52 percent versus 26 percent of sales coming from the second-best floor tile size, 13” by 13”. With wall tile, the 6” by 6” variety sold the most at 38 percent with 4” by 4” in second at 22 percent. (See chart 2.)
Like with stone, sales of ceramic tile are expected to increase—but only slightly. Driving the expected increase is having the right color choices and selection on hand for customers, followed closely by having products that meet customer expectations for price and durability. Brand name is the least important attribute for sales of ceramic tiles, according to the survey, with only 12 percent of respondents saying it’s important. (See chart 3.)
Sellers of porcelain tile could have a leg up on the competition if, as the study suggests, porcelain is the most anticipated style of the future. Currently accounting for more than half of all tile sales (57 percent), more than 50 percent of respondents expect it to be dominant this year with earth tones and naturals/neutrals being the most anticipated choices for color. The most popular size has a tie between 16” by 16” and 18” by 18” (22 percent each), with 12” by 24” being solely a write-in candidate but receiving 12 percent of the vote.
Even though glass tile is sold by a majority of respondents (76 percent), it represents a negligible share of their overall tile sales. Like ceramic and porcelain, glass tile sales are expected to increase slightly. About 53 percent expect an uptick, while 47 percent don’t expect any change from last year. Sales of glass tile are expected to predominantly stem from residential replacement projects, and of those sales 87 percent will likely be mosaic glass tile if last year’s trend remains.
After installation, ceramic tile products tend to receive more concerns from consumers than their counterparts. Questions and complaints regarding maintenance—such as keeping grout clean, sealing and durability—are apparent. Additionally, consumers need to be better educated regarding shade differences.
Whether it’s in the Midwest, South, Northeast, West or a U.S. Territory, most respondents (75 percent) are ordering their products via phone. (See chart 4.)The importance of phones might also help explain that while 50 percent of those taking the survey promote flooring via the Internet, only 4 percent use the Internet to directly sell products. And a sizable group, 48 percent, do not sell or promote flooring via the Internet. (Those numbers don’t add up to 100 percent due to rounding.) Ceramic tile is more likely to be sourced domestically, while stone is slightly likely more to be imported.
There you have it, results on Floor Trends’2013 Tile & Stone Market Study. Your results may vary. Be sure to share your experience with us at www.floortrendsmag.com.