Ceramic tiles speak Italian in Brussels | by Barbara Benini
Salvatore Carrelages, a leading Belgian ceramic tile distributor, is a family business founded by Italians that speaks volumes about the inventiveness, courage and spirit of initiative of our fellow countrymen around the world. The company’s founders, the Fascianella family, originally hailed from Sicily. We spoke to Fabrizio Fascianella, one of the three children of the founder Salvatore, who told us about the company’ s history and described the current state of the distribution system and the construction industry in Belgium.
Mr. Fascianella, it’s fair to say that your company has distant origins.
That’s right. My father was just 16 when in 1963 he left Sicily to seek his fortune in Belgium. He began working as a mosaic installer, initially as an employee and later self-employed. In the space of just a few years, he started a family and set up his own small tile business in the Brussels region. He laid the mosaics and my mother Rosa sold them. It was a very informal business as the products were sold in the hallway of our home.The turning point came in 1989 when the company took part for the first time in Batibouw (Belgium’s leading construction exhibition, Editor). The company was unable to keep up with the rapid growth in demand, so in 1992 it moved into new premises with a showroom space of more than thousand square metres. More than ten years later, it opened a second showroom in Rhode-Saint-Genèse, a town between Brussels and Waterloo in Flemish Brabant, where visitors get a welcome surprise. Alongside the ceramic products, we have set aside a space in the showroom for traditional Sicilian products (wine, olive oil, pasta, etc.), my father’s other great passion. He owns several vineyards in Sicily and imports his regional specialities directly to Belgium under the Alta Mente Natura brand name, allowing a pleasant Italian breeze to blow through the showroom.
What was your last turnover?
We posted revenues of around 6 million euros in 2020.
How many employees do you have?
We employ about 20 people at our two showrooms in Brussels and Rhode-Saint-Genèse.
What is the state of the distribution system in Belgium and what are the biggest problems you face?
The distribution system is divided into two main segments: showrooms for private customers and small businesses; and wholesalers who in turn supply to smaller retailers such as building materials merchants and property developers. The biggest problem we face is the fierce competition and pressure on sales prices. End customers are not always well informed and sometimes compare us with online sales outlets that offer aggressive discounts but do not respect the distribution channel.
What are the strengths of the ceramic materials distribution system?
The distribution system is a highly structured sector made up of true ceramic professionals with dedicated tile showrooms who not only sell products but also offer end customers an installation service.
What is the state of the Belgian property market and what are the prevailing trends?
The construction industry is going through a relatively positive period in terms of both new construction and renovation. There is an old saying that Belgian are born with a brick in their stomachs! In general, Belgian customers allocate a large budget when choosing tiles for their homes.
Given the trends in the property market, what are the prospects for the ceramic industry and what are your distribution strategies?
Ceramic tiles are extremely popular in Belgium due to their technical characteristics such as ease of maintenance and durability. However, the surfaces to be tiled tend to be smaller than in the past because tiling is mainly reserved for kitchen floors, bathrooms, hallways, dining rooms and, increasingly, for outdoor surfaces such as terraces. Thanks to the technical qualities of ceramic such as durability (especially for floors in public places) coupled with technical advances that allow ceramic tiles to adapt very quickly to changing tastes and colour trends, I believe that tile can still look forward to a bright future. Our company’s strategy is to stay ahead of the curve in terms of product quality by offering a wide range of brands and having a team of sales consultants capable of creating exclusive spaces.
How do you expect your sector to develop, particularly in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic?
I remain optimistic. However, the rising prices across all real estate sectors risk putting pressure on the budget for tiles as it is one of the last products to arrive at the building site.
Main Italian brands distributed by Salvatore Carrelages :