Each fall, the tile industry gathers together all of its latest designs and innovations at the industry’s largest trade show, Cersaie. This show is a pivotal event for the industry, as it shows the direction the ceramic tile industry is taking, in terms of design and marketing strategies. With more than 1,050 exhibitors, Cersaie is by far the largest display of tiles and related products in the world, and the range of products on display simply has to be seen to be believed. Sadly, many of the boldest designs from Italian, Spanish and other international manufacturers never make it across the Atlantic to the United States, but those designs will have a considerable influence on fashion trends worldwide throughout the next year.

Given the current economic trends, it could prove to be a challenging year for those in our industry, to say the least. The housing market, which has keeping the U.S. economy out of a recession for the past six years, has been slowing steadily throughout the past year. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the housing market index has reached its lowest level since January 2001, when the economy was in recession. Increasing mortgage rates and tightening lending standards, as well as flagging consumer confidence levels, are primary factors in this downturn. Add to this oil prices that are hovering near record levels, and you have a very worrisome economic outlook.

As those in the industry prepare for the coming year, the big question is whether the ceramic tile industry will continue its growth despite the slowing housing market, high transportation costs, low consumer demand, and myriad other challenges.

Based upon past performance, it seems likely that while growth may be less than in previous years, the tile industry is unlikely to fall significantly any time soon. Many homeowners who refinanced during the mortgage boom took advantage of record low rates to add value to their properties by remodeling kitchens and bathrooms. This has led to tile’s market share gain in the flooring market.

All things considered, there is reason for optimism as those in the tile industry prepare for another challenging year. The innovative new designs and technologies on display at Cersaie are a strong reminder of the incredible innovation and creativity of the tile industry, which will continue to thrive in the coming years.

In the next issue of TILE Magazine, we will present our annual Tile Industry Market Overview, in which we will examine the trends in our industry during the past year.