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Most ceramic tiles trade movements are done via ocean freight. The United States is the world’s biggest importer of ceramic tiles. In 2015, US ceramic tiles imports and exports amounted to over 1.9 billion square feet. Of this, imports represented 97.88%. Despite this figure, the US is not the world’s largest consumer of ceramics, with countries such as China, Brazil, India, and Vietnam surpassing it. However, a massive 69% of its ceramic tiles consumption comes from imports, making it the most active market for ceramic exports.
For years now, ceramic tiles imports have been registering a consistent growth. 2015 proved to be yet another strong year of strong performance in the US. That’s largely thanks to an increase in the housing and construction markets, further boosted by falling interest rates and unemployment.
The housing market saw an increase in the number of home starts for the sixth consecutive year to 1.11 million units. That’s a 10.8% increase from the previous year. To break it down further, single-family new home starts increased 10.4% to 715,300 units. As for construction, total spending (both private and public residential and non-residential construction) increased 10.5% to $1.1 trillion.
Over the past few years, the use of ceramics has grown in popularity in comparison with carpet and area rugs. By introducing innovative products, manufacturers were able to stimulate demand. Furthermore, foreign manufacturers have also been working on expanding their production capacity.
Compared to other flooring products, ceramics also became relatively more price-competitive in 2015. The average value/square foot of a ceramic tile sold increased by roughly 0.9%. This figure for hard surface flooring products was 2.3%. The cost-effectiveness was also a result of a shift to low-cost producers in China. And as the US dollar became stronger, import prices fell.
The following infographic shows a summary of the main figures of US ceramic tiles imports and its performance evolution over the years.