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After reaching a record level of 3.32 billion sq. ft. in 2006, U.S. tile consumption declined in consecutive years (2007-08) for the first time since 1990-91. This downturn in the tile market comes on the heels of more than a decade of growth.

Total U.S. tile consumption for 2008 decreased 21.5% (vs. 2007) to 2.10 billion sq. ft. - approximately the same consumption level as 1999. 

Year

U.S. Shipments
(in thousands of sq. ft. 

Imports Exports Total Consumption % Change in Consumption from Previous Year
2008 465,990 1,685,532 50,512 2,101,010 -21.5
2007 545,007 2,178,258 47,478 2,675,787 -19.3
2006 629,672 2,732,199 45,107 3,316,764 1.8
2005 658,198 2,638,359 37,022 3,259,535 3.5
2004 695,386 2,488,181 34,727 3,148,840 11.8

 Imports:

The majority of the consumption decrease came from imports, which fell 22.6% from 2.18 billion sq. ft. in 2007 to 1.69 billion sq. ft. in 2008.

Although imports continue to make up a significant portion of U.S. consumption, import penetration decreased each of the last two years - from an all-time high of 82.4% in 2006 to 80.2% in 2008 - the lowest import penetration has been since 2004.

In 2008, Mexico surpassed Italy to become the top tile exporter to the U.S. (in sq. ft.), constituting almost a quarter (24.9%) of U.S. imports. This was the first time a country other than Italy has held the top exporter position (in sq. ft.). In $ value, Italy retained the top exporter position.

Approximately two-thirds (66.1%) of U.S. imports in 2008 (in sq. ft.) came from three countries: Mexico, Italy and China.

The top five countries from which tile was imported in 2008 based on sq. ft. were:

 

Country Sq. Ft. 2008 Sq. Ft. 2007 2008/2007 % Change 2007/2006 % Change
Mexico 419,437,556 439,945,248 -4.7% -2.7%
Italy 385,829,947 523,623,382 -26.3% -20.8%
China 309,388,713 351,285,136 -11.9% 1.4%
Brazil 163,690,919 297,835,862 -45.0% -30.8%
Spain 122,820,007 215,157,211 -42.9% -37.8%

The top five countries from which tile was imported in 2008 based on total U.S. $ value (including duty, freight, and insurance) were:

Country Tot $ Val 2008 Tot $ Val 2007 2008/2007 % Change 2007/2006 % Change
Italy 712,177,454 889,642,881 -19.9% -14.5%
Mexico 271,111,707 262,877,966 3.1% -4.5%
China 233,701,821 225,580,029 3.6% 4.6%
Spain 166,538,897 256,022,948 -35.0% -30.5%
Brazil 115,877,348 185,877,442 -37.7% -30.7%

U.S. Shipments:

U.S. shipments were at 466 million sq. ft. in 2008, their lowest level since 1986. Although this total represented a 14.5% decrease from 2007, it was not nearly as large as the 22.6% decline imports experienced.

Exports:

On a positive note for the industry, exports rose 6.4% in 2008 to their highest level ever (50.5 million sq. ft.). Most of these exports (in sq. ft.) were to Canada (53.6%) and Mexico (17.6%).

(Source: U.S. Commerce Dept.)

Outlook:

"Though our industry has been greatly affected by the economic and housing market crises of the past two years, we are hopeful falling interest rates and tax credits for potential homebuyers will be positive steps towards an economic recovery," said Andrew Whitmire, trade data analyst for Tile Council of North America. "In spite of the many challenges, ceramic tile, with its great value, beauty, and durability, remains an excellent choice for consumers. Not to mention, tile's inherent green aspects will boost interest in tile in the future, as consumer demand for environmentally-sustainable products continues to grow."