The power of trendsetting and cultivating relationships | by Brittney Harmond
With over 900 employees across more than 50 facilities, Olympia Tile is the largest importer of tile in Canada and a leading supplier in the U.S. Ceramic and porcelain tile accounted for 75% of Olympia Tile’s total sales in 2020, with Italian tile accounting for 55-60% of that. With this in mind, we are pleased to celebrate Olympia Tile’s outstanding achievements and valuable contributions to the industry by presenting them with the Confindustria Ceramica 2021 North American Distributor Award. We spoke with Senior Vice President George Gal, who received this award at Cersaie 2021.
What are your company’s guiding principles?
At Olympia Tile, we work to ensure the best service to our clientele by keeping large inventories of the vast range of products we market. We aim to be “avant-garde” and trendsetters by marketing and constantly sourcing new products. This policy is facilitated largely by Italian tile manufacturers, whose technology and innovations are excellent.
Who are your main clients and what types of projects do they work on?
Our main clients are tile contractors, tile retailers, and flooring contractors. A large part of our extensive marketing efforts lies in visits from architects, designers, real estate developers, and owners. This allows them to see our products firsthand and specify products for their many projects, which encompass the residential, commercial, and institutional sectors.
Since its establishment in 1956, Olympia Tile has become an international leader in the ceramic tile industry. How does this affect your influence over trends and client demands in the market?
Over its long history, it has been a fundamental principle of our company to deal fairly, correctly, and collaboratively with all members of our organization, and most importantly, we maintain excellent relationships with our suppliers. This, in turn, has resulted in the most distinguished tile manufacturers preferring to give our company exclusive rights to market their new and sought-after products. This affects our markets greatly due to the high technological capabilities of the Italian industry, who we consider the primary trendsetters in the tile industry.
COVID-19 has affected the tile and design industry in many ways. What are some of the challenges your company has faced and how did you overcome them?
The greatest challenge for our company has been COVID-19. Seemingly, the pandemic triggered unprecedented and drastically high ocean freight rates, which significantly impacted the import and distribution of ceramic tile.
Olympia Tile has grown significantly over the years and is now the largest importer of tile in Canada and a leading supplier in the U.S. How does Italian tile perform in each of these markets? Do you see any overlapping trends?
The Canadian and U.S markets are very similar with many overlapping trends. In our particular case, we are a Canadian company that began importing tiles in 1956 and has developed since then in terms of our marketing ability. We have also grown much further than any of our competitors, from the size of our organization and operations to our relationships with our suppliers and customers. This, in turn, has enabled us to be trendsetting leaders in the industry. In the U.S., it is different in that we started operations only several decades ago, by establishing local facilities in various regions there. Since then, we have continued this process of opening outlets by establishing showrooms and warehouses locally in a constant fashion.
In terms of our product mix, including Italian tile, it is very similar in the U.S and Canada. Of course, all the advantages of quality, innovation, etc. that we encounter in Canada, we see in the U.S. as well.
What do you love most about the tile industry? Are there specific qualities you look for when sourcing new tile products? Is sustainability a contributing factor?
We love the aesthetics provided by tiles, as well as their functionality. Since its use dating back to antiquity, the endurance of ceramic tile has never been matched. In present times, it is still a product that is easy to maintain, ideal for cleanliness, and environmentally friendly, among many other desirable properties.