UK tile manufacturers under pressure, says AMA

British tile manufacturers will struggle to remain competitive post-Brexit unless they move their manufacturing bases into Europe, AMA Research has claimed.

According to the Floor and Wall Tiles Market Report – UK 2017-2021, imports take the lion’s share in the tile market, accounting for around 70% in 2017, with European manufacturers dominating import supply.

However, despite the fact that the cost of products imported from Europe may increase, the AMA believes this is unlikely to reverse their dominance in the UK market.

“International trade is a key element of the market given the low number of UK-based volume manufacturers but high levels of demand,” said Jane Tarver of AMA Research. “Sterling exchange rates are therefore likely to continue to have an impact on pricing into the medium-term as imports become more expensive. However, the ‘openness’ of the UK market to tile imports is unlikely to be reversed into the longer-term given the limited UK manufacturing base.”

On the whole, the tile market remains relatively optimistic with the market forecast to grow by 7% between 2017 and 2021.

It anticipates modest growth in the medium-term with growth rates slowing to 2% between 2016 and 2017.

Key factors that have impacted the market over the past two years include strong demand from both the contract and residential end-use sectors, as well as design and innovation trends that have added value to products.

Returning confidence in the housing market has positively impacted the tile market, as well as the trend for “improve not move”, which is seeing consumers trade up to higher value products, particularly in flooring.

However, the continuing trend for upstands and painted walls in kitchens for new houses has, to some extent, limited the potential growth of wall tiles.

Ceramic and porcelain tiles dominate the product mix, with natural stone accounting for around a fifth of the value share and other sectors making up the remainder.

Consumer demand for durable, hard-wearing and easy-to-maintain flooring has benefited the porcelain tiles sector in particular in recent years.

A degree of polarisation at the lower end of the market is still evident, with white and single-coloured ceramic tiles remaining popular.

However, in the mid-to-upper sectors of the market, there is high demand for more decorative ceramic products, as well as natural stone and stone- and wood-effect porcelain tiles.

Innovations in production and printing have allowed manufacturers to easily replicate the appearance of natural materials.

New technologies have also meant that production turnaround times have been improved, resulting in suppliers being able to offer limited runs of higher value products aimed at the upper end of the market.

Patterns and shapes remain a key element of the market with ‘random lay’ decorative tiles for both walls and floors increasingly offered by suppliers.

Going forward, the floor and wall tiles market is likely to see continuing competition from other surfacing materials, such as waterproof panels – including thin porcelain panels, LVT – as well as the use of prefabricated bathrooms/wet-room pods used in the contracts sector.

  • Main image: British Ceramic Tile Alfred floor tiles in Beige
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