An alliance between manufacturers and distributors | by Simone Ricci

The NAXB purchasing group was set up in 2008 to offer the Scandinavian market a wide range of ceramic products. Last year it purchased 1.5 million square metres of tiles

Vincenzo Pisani, you are one of the co-founders of NAXB, an organisation that acts as an incubator for Italian ceramic manufacturers and local Scandinavian distributors.
Our project was launched back in 2008 in response to the international crisis and the emergence of new non-European players in the global marketplace. Our business model is based on a sharing economy in which every decision is agreed on by all parties involved. Our strengths lie in the diversity and transparency of every operation with respect to both our suppliers and our members.
The members of our purchasing group include six of the Scandinavia’s top distributors: Interkakel (Sweden), Interni Kakelstudio (Sweden), Modena Group (Norway), Alfaborg (Iceland), Colour Ceramica (Denmark) and RTV (Finland), plus other small one. As a result, we currently serve a total of 78 points of sale which sold just under 1.5 million m2 of tiles last year through the NAXB network. Our suppliers are ceramic tile producers who become an integral part of our strategies. Rather than manufacturers or distributors, we are an organisation that develops business tools for both our members and our suppliers based on cooperation between all parties involved.

How does the purchasing group work? What kind of products do you buy?
Along with our board, we have a 5-person product team that is constantly engaged in looking for new products. Each year before Cersaie it organises a meeting with key suppliers to evaluate their latest offerings. Each year the same product team presents products manufactured under the NAXB trademark, in other words products that are not part of the suppliers’ ranges but which are produced on a third-party basis by the suppliers themselves. This requires the use of dedicated, easily recognisable packaging and merchandising.
The Scandinavian market has a preference for traditional grey colours and relatively small sizes for residential and commercial projects (10×10 cm, 20×20 cm, 20×40 cm, 30×60 cm and 60×60 cm), although we are actively promoting large sizes and a 2 cm thickness, especially amongst private consumers. The DIY (Do It Yourself) we compete with in the market are becoming increasingly competitive in terms of the services they offer and the variety of their ranges.

How would you describe the average Scandinavian consumer?
Private consumers are very knowledgeable and demanding. They look for quality and service, they are prepared to follow new trends and they use the internet to gather information. They have a lot of confidence in tile layers, who are an extremely important figure in this market. Indeed it is often the tile layers themselves who are the end purchasers of ceramic tiles. The price factor makes a 50% contribution to the choice of products.

Does Italian ceramic tile enjoy an advantage compared to its main competitor materials in the Scandinavian market?
The main competitor materials are wood, concrete and natural stone. Italian ceramic tile enjoys great prestige and appeal amongst both retailers and end consumers and has good margins for growth, especially with respect to carpet and resilient floor coverings. Ceramic tile produced in Sassuolo has instant style recognition that naturally pushes up the final price, although some small sizes are becoming increasingly difficult to find amongst Italian products.

What is the state of the property market in Scandinavia?
Strong migration to cities has driven growth of the residential property market, which has now reached an all-time high and is valued at around 2% of global construction investments. There is a very real risk of the real-estate bubble bursting.


November 2017