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Industry Interview – Folex

In this industry, it’s often easy to focus exclusively on the manufacture of tiles – or beyond that on the practical matter of fixing them. But this ignores several key steps in between, particularly in how customers decide between the plethora of options available. Folex is a company that specialises in display boards and marketing materials to help suppliers present tiles in the most efficient, appealing way possible. CEO Vicente Ferriol joined the company in 1995, nearly 30 years ago, following in his father’s footsteps before him. There have been many ups and downs throughout his lengthy career, “like a marriage,” he says. “But it’s been a very good journey, to be honest.”

This month, TSJ spoke with Ferriol about Folex’s place within the tile industry and its recent investments in new premises and machinery totalling nearly $5m.

Back in 1995, Ferriol started at Folex on the commercial team for the domestic market in Spain, however he soon moved to export as well, before eventually rising through the ranks to become CEO. Today, the company employs around 60 workers directly, as well as some 20 people contracted as agents and distributors. Although it’s largely focused on the European market, it supplies to more than 40 countries in total, with customers in Central and South America, the United States and Canada, as well as Africa.

Folex’s main product is its display sample boards for ceramic tiles, constructed from MDF and designed bespoke for each individual client. Alongside these boards, the company also produces binders and folders for tile samples as well as brochures. Altogether, it offers a complete suite of products to showcase and ceramic (or indeed carpet and vinyl) tiles, depending on a client’s specific needs.

Those clients can be quite different across international markets. For example, in Europe – particularly in countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy – there are many more tile factories, whereas the UK is more focused on distribution and retail. Ultimately, Ferriol says: “Anyone who can sell a tile is a potential customer for us.” And this wide net approach has yielded significant success for Folex. According to the CEO , the company is one of the largest manufacturers of display sample boards in Europe.

Of course, pure volume is only one measure of success. Ferriol says the company places far more focus on quality than quantity, investing in technology to improve the functionality and properties of its products. For example, back in the 1990s, the sample display boards were “very simple,” showing only the product and perhaps a company logo. Now, Ferriol says: “It’s totally different.” The vast majority of sample boards the company produces now feature roomsets to display the tile in context, while also including useful information about the product.

Better boards
“There is an evolution,” Ferriol explains. “Now the final customer – the distributor, or the shop, or the warehouse, or the tile factory – wants to show all the information about tile in the sample board. It’s a very important marketing tool.” There are a few reasons why the sample board works so well as a marketing tool, according to the CEO. It’s cheap, it’s simple, and crucially, it’s easy to transport. This is especially important in the context of ever-increasing tile dimensions, with large formats clearly proving attractive to the architectural community while introducing new challenges for retailers and fixers alike.

“The size of the tile has been increasing year after year , 25 years ago the size of 60 X 60 cm. was big , but now we have tiles sized 120 X 120 cm and even more. So , In FOLEX we have thought new ways to show those new big sizes in our sample boards. . Suppliers still need to show customers the product in person though, and this is where the sample board offers an advantage.

With the board, suppliers can cut a tile into a more manageable size of 30x30cm, offering the customer a direct, tactile experience, while using roomset photography to show how it will look in a finished installation. This can be taken even further, if necessary, with multiple 5x5cm samples on the same board. Fortunately for Folex, Ferriol says: “The trend for small sizes, for the 20x20cm and 10x10cm, it’s coming back.”

The perfect fit
It’s easy to imagine online suppliers, with the ability to show hundreds of products at the
click of a mouse, posing a problem for Folex, but Ferriol doesn’t see it that way. Echoing a
very common sentiment, he says: “In my opinion all the marketing tools and ways to sale have to live together , but FOLEX has been investing in other ways to show the ceramic tiles. It has been a long way the last 25 years. The display sample board is a great tool with a very reasonable price”.

Beyond this personal logic though, Ferriol explains, Folex simply isn’t operating in the same market as most online suppliers. “We produce specific products for each customer. We’re like a tailor. The tailor makes a jacket just for you, right? So that’s what we are – we produce exactly what you want, with your image, your wording, your logos, specifically for you.”

It’s hard to argue with this approach, given that Folex is currently in a position to invest almost $5m in new facilities and machinery. In keeping with the company’s philosophy though, this investment is less aimed towards increasing overall production and more focused on quality. “With the new investments,” Ferriol says, “we will be able to double our capacity. But to be honest, I do not want to produce double. For us, the quality of printing is the most important thing, we have to invest in the best and most modern technology for printing the best quality product.”

Part of this commitment to quality is ensuring the company remains sustainable in the long-term. With that in mind, Folex does its best to be an eco-friendly company, procuring all of its raw material from Europe and, of course, manufacturing solely on the continent too. “All the materials we use meet EU regulations – and the regulations in Europe are very, very strict, in comparison with other continents,” Ferriol points out.

Sticking together
Of special interest to TSJ, however, is Folex’s presence in the British market – particularly in the aftermath of Brexit. Fortunately, the political schism hasn’t affected the Spanish company’s outlook as much as one might guess. “Brexit did not affect us because our end customers still need to buy our sample boards and promote it out. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Europe or not, you need to sell your product.”

Indeed, the UK is an important and valuable market for the company, and one which Ferriol has no intention of leaving. “The United Kingdom was the first market Folex exported to. And I want to point out one important thing: the British customer is a very, very serious customer. A very honest customer. They know how to do business.”

The company’s latest investments signal Folex is just as serious as its customers. In fact, not even a once-in-a-generation pandemic was able to derail its plans: “Even during COVID, we didn’t stop investing,” Ferriol says. “When you invest in a business, you invest in the future of the company.”
UK & Ireland Agent
Geoff Snape, 07860 523866 [email protected]

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