J P Kennedy on statistics and sabbaticals

April 2019

“Well it has been a while since I have provided despatches from Ireland. Generally the Irish economy continues to perform strongly, along with the Irish Construction industry, which is predicted to grow by 10% during 2019.

Residential house building is also picking up some momentum, with an estimated 30,000 plus units to be built during 2019. Retail is also showing some consistent growth, although not at the same levels as the general economy and the construction industry, with value growth for 2018 running at 2.5%, and this year Retail sales volumes are running flat.

So this brings us to Brexit.  Well, where does one start or finish, and I certainly do not want to set off any diplomatic incident, as the TSJ is a cross country journal!  For what it is worth, my assessment is that it will be a ‘no deal’ exit, which will lead to some short term turmoil, but - like most things that history teaches us - we will all adjust, find work around solutions and get on with things. On a personal level I am sorry that the UK decided to leave the EU.  It is my philosophy that we should always be working hard, towards the centre and a balance.

So, what are the tile trends in Ireland?  Grey is still the on trend colour, and we see darker shades of grey becoming more popular.  Wood-effect tiles continue to show consistent growth, and are being used in the main living spaces as well as bathrooms.  The tiles, they are ‘a getting bigger’ and the range and colours is really impressive from all the key manufacturers, and we see this trend growing strongly.

For sure, there remain challenges around price and logistics, the installation challenges, but as the correct tools become more accepted and tiling contractors become for experienced and, therefore, more comfortable, and more profitable, this will also support this exciting new area of potential growth.

Colour is coming back, and in the last six months, the explosion of bright colours in unusual combinations, has been great to see, perhaps an antidote to the ‘50 shades of grey’.  On a downward side, sales of natural stone continue to struggle, and are being impacted by the increasing technical brilliance of ink jet printing and the super large format porcelain tile.  It is difficult to see how this beautiful part of the industry can be turned around.  It may well be an increasingly smaller niche of the tile industry.

On a more personal level, the last while has not been a great one for myself.  I suffered the devastating loss, last year, of Sandy, my wife, who battled a long and incredibly brave fight against cancer, and unfortunately none of us are alone in facing these greatest of ‘life’ challenges.

I have made the decision to take 12 months off the career/work path and focus on some extensive travel, and to complete my MBA in Technology Management.  As a result of this, I will be leaving the great TileStyle team at the end of March 2019.

So, I will be ‘off the grid’ for a while and will return, I hope, with a renewed sense of purpose in April 2020.

A big congratulations to all the finalists for this year’s TTA Awards, and I have no doubt the night will be a fantastic success, as always.

And we should all remember, while there can only be one winner, it is genuinely the taking part, and putting ourselves out of the comfort zone and pushing on.”

JP Kennedy is Managing Director of TileStyle, one of Ireland’s leading specialists in tiles, stone, bathrooms and wood for the retail and commercial sectors. Contact JP at jp@tilestyle.ie.

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