The conference began with the upbeat presentation of “Ceramic Tiles of Italy -- Creatività Infinita” for promoting Italian ceramic tiles in the domestic market and the video “Le città di Otello,” featuring several dozen outstanding projects in Italy and worldwide.
A distinguished panel presented the long-awaited results of export figures (first half of 2011) and Ceramic Tiles of Italy’s initiatives: Franco Manfredini, Chairman, Confindustria Ceramica; Gianluca Marvelli, Chairman, Assobagno; Gian Carlo Muzzarelli, Emilia-Romagna Regional Minister of Industry and Green Economy; and Vittorio Borelli, Chairman of Promotional Activities, Confindustria Ceramica. Armando Cafiero, Managing Director, Confindustria Ceramica, moderated the discussions.
According to the results presented, Italy enjoyed a 23% market share in volume quantity. In terms of value, Italy holds 61% of the market share, noted Manfredini. During the first half of 2011, exports were 4.6% higher than the same time period in 2010 within the European Union. However, in the U.S., the value/growth of Italian tile exports had dropped 10.1% from 2010.
Anti-Dumping MeasuresIn addition to the improved export figures, the panel discussed several topics, including the highly charged Anti-Dumping Measure, of which Manfredini said is taking great measures against China by way of tariffs and taxes. The imposed measures will expire in five years.
“We are for globalization, but we can’t turn a blind eye to behavior and conduct that will breakdown the economy,” said Manfredini. “The market must be guaranteed fair competition. The one who wins the competition should be judged fairly and not just the factor of who makes a cheaper product, or hiding from end-users who made the product, and where it originated.” Manfredini proposed a quality seal of some type that would obviously distinguish which tile was produced in Italy.
Decline in U.S. tile distributionDuring the press conference, it was clear the declining distribution of tile exports concerned the panelists. To shed some light on this fact, we spoke with Donato D. Grosser, President and Chief Consultant of D. Grosser and Associates, Ltd., whose firm provides international clients with specialized assistance in entering and increasing their presence in the American market, including trade associations, manufacturers, exporters and importers.
“There is less business in the U.S. because people are making less money,” said Grosser. “From 2008 to 2010, 15 to 20% of small distribution channels closed, and there is nothing for them to do to recoup their losses. Larger companies with larger pockets haven’t or aren’t going to close because they can afford to wait this current situation out.”
Some areas in the U.S. have been affected more so than others. “Areas that have taken the largest hit are Nevada, Arizona and California,” said Grosser. He added history may repeat itself with California, “In the recession of 1989, California was the first to feel the impact, but also the first to recover. California may be the first to see the end of this recession as well.”
The key to staying afloat - even if a business is well-capitalized - is to “shorten the time of going through capital instead of wasting it away,” said Grosser.
In summary, Grosser suggests distributors and retailers take a good look around them to see what tactics can be employed to survive this recession. “Home centers have barely declined -- they’ve remained flat. Why? Because they haven’t opened any new stores, nor have they closed any. When the economy changes, people will open new stores, yet remain careful in their spending. For now, the key to staying afloat, even if a business is well-capitalized, is to shorten the time of going through capital instead of wasting it away.”