TCNA: After decade of growth, ceramic tile market declines in 2019

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The Tile Council of North America has released its U.S. Tile Consumption Report.

Many key economic indicators were positive in 2019, according to the TCNA, as the U.S. economy experienced its tenth consecutive year of expansion on the heels of the Great Recession. However, the American ceramic tile market did not follow suit and declined for the first time in a decade, the report showed.

U.S. ceramic tile consumption in 2019 was 2.9 billion square feet, down 5.4% from the previous year.

Imports

The U.S. imported 2.08 billion square feet of ceramic tile in 2019, down 5.5% from the previous year (2.20billion square feet). Imports comprised 70.6% of 2019 U.S. tile consumption by volume, down from 70.7% in 2018.

Although China remained the largest exporter of ceramic tile to the U.S. by volume, its exports to the U.S. fell dramatically last year. This was due primarily to the effects of a trade remedy case filed by a coalition of several U.S. manufacturers, which petitioned the federal government to remedy unfairly dumped and subsidized ceramic tile imports from China.

Chinese imports made up 21.2% of total U.S. tile imports by volume in 2019. This was down from 31.5% in 2018 and represented China’s lowest share of U.S. imports since 2008.

Imports from Mexico comprised 17.3% of total U.S. imports in 2019, unchanged from 2018.

Spain surpassed Italy as the third largest exporter of tile to the U.S., making up 16.9% of U.S. imports by volume, up from 14.1% in 2018. The next largest exporters to the U.S. were Italy (15.9% import share) and Brazil (9.8%).

The five countries from which the most tiles were imported in 2018 based on volume were:

On a dollar basis (CIF + duty) Italy remained the largest exporter to the U.S. in 2019, comprising 29.6% of U.S. imports. China was second with a 20.3% share, and Spain was third with a 20.1% share.

The five countries from which the most tiles were imported in 2019 based on total U.S. $ value (CIF + duty) were:

U.S. Shipments

In 2019 U.S. shipments (less exports) were 863.6 million square feet, down 5.2% from 2018. This represented the lowest level of domestic shipments since 2015.

Domestically-produced tile made up 29.4% of total U.S. tile consumption (by volume) in 2019, up slightly from its share the previous year (29.3%).

In dollar value 2019 U.S. FOB factory sales of domestic shipments were $1.33 billion, down 4.0% compared to 2018.Domestically-manufactured tile made up 37.6% of 2019 total U.S. tile consumption by dollar value.

The per unit value of domestic shipments increased from $1.53/square-foot in 2018 to $1.55/square-foot in 2019.5

Exports

U.S. ceramic tile exports were 31.8 million sq. ft. (3.0 million m2) in 2019, up 6.8% from 2018. The two largest recipients of these exports were Canada (70.7%) and Mexico (11.0%).6

Economic Highlights:

New Home Starts

Total new home starts, which have risen each of the last ten years, were at their highest annual level since 2007 (1.29 million units) and were up 3.2% from the previous year.

Though still down considerably from the record high of 2.1 million starts in 2005, housing starts in 2019 were more than double their level at the beginning of the decade.

New Single Family Home Sales

An additional measure of the residential market’s strength, new single-family home sales were at their highest level in twelve years.

The 682,000 units sold in 2019 represented a robust 10.5% increase from the previous year.

Foreclosures

Another good sign for the U.S. housing market was that foreclosure filings, a key inverse indicator of the residential market’s health, fell for the ninth straight year and were at their lowest level since tracking began in 2005.

The 493,000 filings (0.36% of all U.S. housing units) recorded in 2019reflected a 21.1% decline from 2018.9

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