A few short years ago, tile from China was almost non-existent outside of the country, despite the fact that even then, China was the world’s largest producer of ceramic tile. However, China finds itself today as one of the top five tile importing nations serving the rapidly growing U.S. tile market. Judging from the recently held trade mission to China Ceramics City, the more than 100 participating Chinese tile producers and affiliates are eager to demonstrate they have the resources, capability and determination to earn the number one position.
Located in Foshan in central Guangdong province (once known as Canton), an hour from Guangzhou and a short hop from Hong Kong, China Ceramics City is an impressive five-story, 174,000 square foot structure that houses nearly 170 showrooms displaying an array of tile and sanitary ware, primarily from this region but also from other domestic and international producers. Foshan also happens to be the home of the ancient Nanfeng Kiln, the oldest continuously operating ceramic kiln which dates back more than 500 years to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
According to the U.S. China Ceramic Tile Association, the country’s ceramic tile industry:
- Supplies 12.7% of all U.S. ceramic tile imports;
- Fourth largest ceramic tile exporter to U.S.;
- U.S. imports from China increased 53.9% in 2006;
- Foshan accounts for 60% of China’s total output.
Keynoting the program was Rob Henry, president of the Robert F. Henry Tile Co. and vice president of the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), followed by a report by Phil Johnson, Group Publisher of TILE Magazine and National Floor Trends magazine on the U.S. flooring market produced by BNP Media’s Clear Seas Research division.
In the presentation by Miao Bin, Secretary-General of the China Building Ceramics and Sanitary Ware Association, “The Present Conditions and Future of China’s Ceramics and Sanitary Ware Industry,” Bin provided a detailed report of the growth rate and expectations of China’s tile manufacturing community. (See sidebar: “China’s Ceramics and Sanitary Ware Industry”).
Highlighting key research findings and data from recent Clear Seas Research Market Trends studies (conducted through National Floor Trends and TILE Magazine), as well as various housing reports and U.S. Census Data, Johnson’s discussion included up-to-date findings on dealer and distributor perceptions, as well as future expectations of Chinese tile. According to the findings, most U.S. dealers and distributors polled said they expected their purchases of Chinese tile to increase over the next several years. Also on the program’s forum was Billy Chu of Champion Building Materials who discussed environmental leadership in tile manufacturing. Chu pointed out that the operation of their CE-certified manufacturing included ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certifications.
One thing was made clear by the end of the first trade mission: the Chinese ceramic tile manufacturers wanted the U.S. delegates to understand that their products are developed with advanced technology, complete with quality controls and styling capabilities expected from the U.S. market.
Plans are already underway for the U.S. China Ceramic Tile Association 2008 China Mission. More information will be available as details are finalized.
For the complete story on this trade mission, and additional information, make sure to read the November 2007 issue of TILE Magazine.