Sales of ceramic tile in the United States grew by 8.76 percent in 2003, continuing a pattern of sustained growth that is likely to continue for some time to come, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce. These figures are featured in detail in TILE Magazine's first annual "Tile Industry Market Overview," which can be found in this issue. The information presented in this article highlights the amazing amount of growth the ceramic tile industry has enjoyed in the past decade. During this period, ceramic tile consumption in the U.S. more than doubled, from 1.18 billion square feet in 1993 to 2.87 billion square feet in 2003. So far, ceramic tile sales for 2004 are reported to be going well, and total sales for the year will likely show a growth rate similar to last year's rate.

The statistics undoubtedly point to a bright future for the ceramic tile industry, but statistics do not tell the entire story. To find out what those in the industry have been experiencing, we contacted a variety of manufacturers, and industry experts, and their impressions strongly reinforced the positive picture that the statistics portray. Everyone we spoke with was highly optimistic about ceramic tile sales, during the past year, for the rest of this year, and the foreseeable future. Despite the many challenges of the past three years, from political uncertainty to increasing fuel prices and the falling value of the dollar relative to the Euro, the ceramic tile industry has remained surprisingly resilient.

The primary factor driving the growth of the U.S. tile market has been the strength of the residential housing market, both in new construction and in remodeling. New housing starts and existing home sales are predicted to maintain their record levels for 2004, according to information from the National Association of Home Builders. Consumer demand for housing is also predicted to remain very strong, driven by interest rates hovering near an all-time low point. Builder confidence has increased sharply in the first quarter of this year, and consumer confidence has also increased. All of this information further supports the strength of construction-related industries such as ours, and should further boost our confidence in the strength of the ceramic tile industry.

Preparing this first annual "Tile Industry Market Overview" has been a very educational experience, and we hope that the information we present here will boost your confidence and help you to understand this diverse and constantly changing industry better. Special thanks to Bob Daniels and Shannon Woodmansee of the Tile Council of America for their assistance in preparing and analyzing the data for this special feature. Your input is vital in making TILE Magazine your complete source for the information you need, so please take a moment to write or e-mail us and let us know what you think.