Ceramics: following an exceptional 2021, it is difficult to make forecasts for the current year | by Andrea Serri
The national statistical survey of the Italian ceramic industry provides an overview of the previous year’s results and offers interesting insights into the underlying trends. However, given that the results are determined by a combination of medium to long-term structural factors and highly variable cyclical dynamics, it is difficult to use them as a basis for future projections.
2021 was a very positive year for the ceramic tile, sanitaryware, tableware, refractory materials and brick and roof tile industries. All segments experienced growth, albeit at different rates, bringing the Italian ceramic industry’s total sales revenue to a record figure of €7.5 billion, more than two-thirds of which was generated by exports all over the world. This new milestone was the result of a gradual increase in sales throughout the year driven by the globally recognised value of Italian ceramic products. Moreover, this strong growth (+15.4% in tile sales alone in 2021) was maintained for a substantial period of time beginning in the early summer of 2020. Extending the analysis to the international context and to alternative materials, it is clear that the popularity of Italian ceramic products is structural in nature and not just a short-term trend.
At the same time, however, this growth in demand is accompanied by almost universal increases in the costs of natural gas, packaging and logistics, which are having a significant impact on companies’ margins. These increases are not only unexpectedly severe but are also particularly difficult to accept given that in many cases they are driven by financial speculation, draining businesses and the labour market of the resources necessary for future investment.
The unpredictable course of the war coupled with recent interest rate decisions make it difficult to predict future demand patterns and will force companies to improvise. While this is not an easy business approach, the Italian ceramic producers do have one extremely important advantage: their well-established ties with the global distribution system, which have been further strengthened by their decision to continue operating despite the current difficulties in order to meet the strong market demand.