Italian manufacturers benefit from strong focus on technically-advanced products

Italian manufacturers benefit from strong focus on technically-advanced products

June 2018

TSJ reports that the latest statistics for the Italian ceramic tile sector indicate a sustained recovery after the damage caused by the 2008 global financial crisis driven by deep investment in cutting-edge production technology.

Figures from Confindustria Ceramica indicate that the Italian ceramic tile industry closed 2016 with a further upturn to return to pre-crisis turnover levels.  The 147 companies in the sector generated a turnover of more than Euro 5.4 billion, up 5.9% on the previous year, and little short of the Euro 5.5 billion recorded in 2008.

The level of investment by Italian ceramic tile manufacturers remains high, reaching Euro 400.4 million in 2016; the third consecutive year of double-digit growth and corresponding to 7.4% of annual turnover.  This demonstrates the Italian tile sector’s strong focus on product innovation through the application of advanced production technologies.

Total Italian tile production stood at 416 million sq. metres in 2016, with sales of 414.5 million sq. metres.  Exports, at 85% of total sales, account for the lion’s share of tile manufacturers’ revenues and grew, in volume terms, by 4.8% to reach 331.7 million sq. metres.  This equates to earnings of Euro 4.6 billion, up 6.3%.  The best performing export markets in 2016 were the USA, UK, Germany, and France. 

Overall, Italian exports to Western Europe reached 167 million sq. metres in 2016, or 50% of total Italian export sales; up 5% year-on-year.

In 2016, Italian-owned production facilities located in the USA and Europe produced 85 million sq. metres of tiles, up 3.2%, and generated a total turnover of Euro 855.6 million, up 8%.  79.5% of this total was generated by sales in the factory’s host country.

According to Prometeia’s forecasts, the Italian tile sector is expected to continue to grow from 2017 through 2018 in both the domestic and export markets.  All geographical areas are forecast to see positive growth in sales, buoyed by a predicted 4% annual growth in world consumption.

This optimism was borne out by the latest statistics unveiled by Confindustria Ceramica at its end of year conference.  This stated that the Italian ceramic tile industry closed 2017 with growth in investments, stable national production and strong export dynamics. 

The preliminary figures show that the recovery has further strengthened in terms of production and total sales volumes, which both stood at around 425 million sq. metres in 2017, up 2.3% on the figures for 2016.

This strong performance continues to be driven by exports, which have risen to 340 million sq. metres, up 2.6%.  Sales in Western Europe also rose by 2.6%.  In 2017, the greatest growth was seen in Central and Eastern Europe, with the Balkans and the Far East also performing strongly.   For 2018, Prometeia forecasts further export growth of around +3.4%, with the biggest increases in demand expected in the Gulf States and Eastern Europe.

Confindustria Ceramica’s Chairman, Vittorio Borelli, observed that it is now essential to focus more strongly on new - or at least less traditional - markets, which offer promising growth margins at a time of slowdown in the historically strongest markets such as the USA and Germany.  The weak Dollar, higher oil prices and protectionist policies have resulted in a slight worsening of the global scenario, says Borelli, “but not to the point of undermining our competitiveness and world leadership in terms of export value.”

Borelli believes that global non-residential building offers good prospects for further growth, especially given Italy’s steadily growing output of large size tiles and ceramic panels and slabs.  This product category has been the focus of much of the huge technology investments made by the sector’s companies, which were more than Euro half a billion in 2017.

Results from the 30 largest groups or companies, published in the annual study by Tile Italia and Tile International and based on 2016 figures, show that the Concorde Group remains at the top of the rankings with a turnover of Euro 727 million in 2015.  This figure excludes the operations of Novoceram in France, Italon in Russia, Landmark in the USA, and the Italian companies Meta and Svimisa that produce ceramic bodies and raw materials, respectively.

Second is Iris Ceramica Group with Euro 530 million; followed by Finfloor Group with Euro 406.8 million, and Panariagroup with Euro 377 million.  Closing this top segment of Italian groups are Casalgrande Padana at Euro 278.4 million, and Cooperativa Ceramica d’Imola at Euro 248 million.

Marazzi Group should also be mentioned in this first group of companies, although their figures are included in the overall financial results of Mohawk Industries; the American giant that also owns Emilceramica and several USA-based tile manufacturers.

Other major players include Faetano-Del Conca Group at Euro 163.8 million, Gresmalt Group at Euro 117.2 million, Gold Art Group at Euro 117 million, and Rondine Group at Euro 108.7 million; while ABK Group and Industrie Ceramiche Piemme both posted revenues of Euro 104 million.

Currently one of the best performing companies is Laminam, which following 27% growth in 2015 with 36% growth in 2016.  La Fabbrica, Ceramica Fondovalle, and Polis all recorded 20%+ growth year-on-year.

Quality not quantity
Perhaps the best indicator of the aims and achievements of the Italian tile manufacturing sector is its performance in the USA.  Having once been the dominant player, Italy is now just the third largest exporter of tile to the USA at 35.2 million sq. metres in 2016, representing 18.1% of total USA imports.  China, at 29.4%, and Mexico, at 23.3%, lead the way in volume terms

However, when it comes to value, the picture is dramatically different.  Here, on a Dollar basis, Italy remained the largest exporter to the USA with sales of $747.8 million, or 33.7% of USA imports by value. China was second with a 26.6% share, and Spain was third with a 13.9% share.

In 2017, the average values of tile imported to the USA stood at $11.4 per sq. metre.  The average price paid for Italian tiles, at $21.2 per sq. metre, was almost twice this figure.  Only Portugal at $14.6 per sq. metre, and Spain at $13.9 per sq. metre came close.  For China and Mexico the figures were $9.7 per sq. metre and $5.9 per sq. metre respectively.

These figures show that Italy’s strategy of concentrating on the high end, added value, sector of the market is clearly paying dividends.  
In the UK, AMA estimates that Italy accounts for 19% of UK tile imports by value, occupying second place behind Spain at 39% and ahead of Turkey, at 16%.  In 2008, that figure was 29% against Spain’s 35%, with Turkey at just 9%.

Product highlights
AVA – La Fabbrica
Extraordinary Size is a collection of ultra-large 6mm and 10mm thick porcelain stoneware tiles that is ideal for projects with specific technical requirements such as lightness and strength.  It is particularly useful in large-scale projects.

Offering a new dimension in porcelain stoneware for contemporary architecture, Extraordinary Size fine porcelain stoneware tiles are offered in modular sizes up to 1,600 by 3,200mm, to offer maximum visual impact, making the collection suitable for the most daring and futuristic projects.

Suitable for any environment, whether on the wall or floor, these porcelain slabs are also ideal for the construction of curtain walls and external cladding.  The tiles are ideal for outdoor use, offering frost-resistance and stability over time.

The technical characteristics of the porcelain stoneware, the beauty of the graphics and the lightness of the slabs also make them ideal for furnishing exclusive yachts or luxury cruise ships.  What’s more, with these extra-large slabs, fabricators can make kitchen worktops and surfaces, bathroom and bedroom furniture of any shape.  The unrivalled technical characteristics of the porcelain stoneware delivers virtually zero water absorbency, and also provides high resistance to chemicals, scratches and heat.

Ceramica Bardelli: Altaeco
Tekne is a collection of double-fired ceramic wall tiles with an on-trend matt finish.  The range provides a modular system of four geometric relief decorations that offer  variable optical effect according to the light.

The range is available in four colours, in a 8 by 200 by 200mm format.  Completing the range are solid-colour base tiles that co-ordinate with the decors.

Havana, one of the most iconic cities of the world, inspired this CIR range that pays homage to the Cuban capital’s colonial past and the warmth of it’s people, dance and music.  This porcelain stoneware collection offer an intensity of colour and shade that is quite unusual in today’s tile market.

Suitable for use on either walls or floors, these porcelain tiles have practical uses and could be used to create a stand out look for areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. In total there are five sizes (400 by 400, 200 by 400, 200 by 200, 100 by 200, and 60 by 270mm), six shaded colours (cohiba, havana sky, sugar cane, tropicana, malecon and mojito), and numerous decorations and mixes, reinterpreted in a modern style.  The South American atmosphere will translate into eclectic floor and wall surfaces that provide a welcoming atmosphere for commercial and residential spaces alike.

Blustyle Ceramics
Country is a visually-striking wood-effect tile, deliberately aged and care-worn, that conveys an appealing and natural look.  There are three strong colour options in hues that articulate the collection, including Aspen Creek and Vermont.  The graphic richness and production technology create a porcelain tile that offers great aesthetic realism and high technical performance.

Terre di Romagna is a through-body coloured porcelain tile range that comes in 600 by 600mm and 300 by 600mm formats in two finishes: natural and antislip.  

The colours -  white, rosacotto, tobacco, grey and mud - are warm and natural. This collection is perfect for outdoor as well as indoor spaces, and is produced using the latest generation of digital decorating technology.

Decoratori Bassanesi
The Lights of Venice range features processing techniques that accurately reproduce drawings that refer to the classical world and richness of Venice.  Iridescent materials create unexpected surface effects that change colour depending on the viewpoint.  
Lights of Venice Collection is available in 600 by 600, and 300 by 600mm, in 12mm and 4.8mm thicknesses.  The colour options are red, blue, green, mud, grey, graphite, white, and ice.

Design Tale Studio: Ceramiche Refin
Created for DTS by Giulio Iacchetti, the Labyrinth collection from Refin comprises two families, Angle and Mirror; both designed to allow the user to build their own labyrinth by personally deciding how to lay the tile form.  Through simple changes of Labyrinth modules, installation allows a graphical development without borders, giving a sense of infinity.

Etruria Design
In Etruria’s Art Deco range, colours are mixed to the three-dimensionality of the material, creating an explosion of decorative possibilities where each element contributes to virtually infinite design solutions.

Milestone highlights the appearance simple and natural limestone; a stone that is rich and structured in its natural state.  The different faces of the stone achieve fluid movement and harmonious looks that enhances the natural look of the stone.  Emilceramica’s Milestone is thus versatile stone-effect tile: timeless and suitable for many different environments.

Ceramiche Lea - Panariagroup
The Naive Slimtech range comprises ultra-thin laminated stoneware modules with thickness of only 5.5mm.  The calibrated 3,000 by 1,000mm slab formats are produced without the use of moulds and subsequently cut to the required modular formats.  Naive Slimtech is a solution that combines aesthetics with unparalleled technical performance.  The resultant range is strong and durable, easy to cut in any form, and suitable for a wide range of wall and floor applications.

Painted is the new glazed stoneware range with a stripped wood effect by Saime Ceramiche.   It is available in three colours (white, grey and dark) in a 150 by 900mm format, in both a natural finish and a grip surface for outdoor paving.

Bits & Pieces explores the art of decoration from ancient Rome.  In the range opus incertum and lapis porphyrites are reinterpreted by Gordon Guillaumier according to contemporary technologies, retaining the charm of the original despite the use of mass production technology.

Digital Tweed claims to be the connecting element between fabric and porcelain, resulting in a range full of graphic games and texture effects.  The range comes in six colours: beige, grey, ivory, jeans, smoke and walnut.   It is available in two sizes: 600 by 600mm and 300 by 600mm; plus Rainbow and Patchwork decors in 600 by 600mm.

Rivamancina draws inspiration from the artisanal communities that used to populate the banks of canals.   The result is a source of artistic inspiration, where time appears to stand still.  Using the historic traces of these working communities, Tagina has developed a large collection that can be adapted to customise interior spaces with a durable material that is easy to maintain.

Further Information
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