For the last 6 weeks we have been "touring" our "European" suppliers, from Turkey over France to Italy to Spain. The main objective was to get a good overview of what is happening in each market. We come back with some very interesting conclusions, not the least of which is that the perception of ceramics needs to change completely.
Who is Guy Royaux?
Guy Royaux is managing director of wholesaler Tyles and occasionally gives his personal view of the ceramics sector through Polycaro
A first obvious message: the perception of "a tile must be cheap" urgently needs to be adjusted. In recent years, ceramic tile has too often served as a cheap solution for flooring. This image has unfortunately also been adopted by the project market, DIY stores, architects, developers, certain building material stores, etc. No factory (even in Brazil) wants to focus at all on 60x60, let alone smaller. They will still produce them, but at a certain price, not at a loss anymore.
We, as wholesalers, importers, sellers of tiles, retailers, agents, prescribers, flooring contractors, architects, and contractors all have the task of starting to turn the perception of ceramics around and start justifying its price. Ceramics should not and will never be cheap again, but still affordable if you put it in the right light and have the right information of the product. Something we have been competing for for years. But if we do this right, everyone will reap the benefits.
A private person who buys tiles once doesn't know at all that the tile he likes costs 55 euros today and only 40 euros last year. No, he chooses the tile within a certain budget and with a certain look. Another conclusion after our European tour, is that prices are not going to go down anymore (unless the energy tax or other tax that was created, would go away). We have to get ready for a new world, but therefore not a worse one, on the contrary.
Arciblansa: a unique visit
The most touching story we experienced last week was that of the "Terre de la Guerre" or war clay. The factories we visited allow highly exceptional visitors, because this is the heart of the system, the lifeblood of ceramics.
After much insistence and thanks to our good relations with the people of Peronda, we were given the unique opportunity to be able to visit Arciblansa. Few will ever have heard of the name Arciblansa, but they are responsible for more than 30% of the supply of raw materials for making ceramic tiles. Their clay is even exported to Italy.
To give you an idea of the size, this factory exports 1 million tons of clay annually.
In this factory you will find more than 30 blends of clay. And so now in those 30 blends is the Donbass clay or the "Terre de la Guerre". What until recently seemed like something banal and that nobody asked much questions about, is more than ever a hot topic. For the industry, it is of vital importance.
Nobel Prize for Ceramics 2022
The last boats were still delivered at the end of March, good to complete the year. What will happen after that, we don't know yet. Is the sector going to stand still? Absolutely not! Are any producers going to have difficulties after the summer? Absolutely not! Producers have been working for several months to start testing alternative clays, either through their own labs or through the University of Castellon, division of ceramics, to develop new formulas. This seems simple, but it is not. The clay has to "grab" with the current enamels. The person who solves this will win the Nobel Prize in Ceramics 2022.
It's certainly not all doom and gloom. And yes, there are new collections coming out at Cersaie 2022. The industry is too strong to fall silent. But we are all going to have to adapt to the new reality. And it's the responsibility of the entire chain to bring the ceramic story correctly to everyone who comes into contact with ceramics.