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A successful combination of French service and Italian inspiration

by Roberta Chionne

There’s a little bit of Italy in the French company Ceramica, winner of Confindustria Ceramica Distributor Award 2015. And not just because the company’s name and the motto “Ispirazione Italiana” (“Italian Inspiration”) proudly refer to its Italian origins, but also because 65% of total revenues from tile sales in 2014 were generated by products manufactured in Italy.

Magazine Pontault Combault

Philippe Guenoun, the name Ceramica reveals the Italian origins of this company of which you are the sales director. Could you tell us how the business came to be set up and how it developed in France?
Ceramica was set up in 1977 as a small Italian tile business in Champs-sur-Marne by the siblings Lucia and Enzo Fusaro who had left their native region of Apulia in Italy. This initial step was followed in 1983 by the purchase of a larger building and the construction of a marble workshop in Chelles. In 2001, the opening of a showroom in the 12th arrondissement of Paris enabled the company to increase its sales and establish itself in the Parisian market. In 2007, a third store was opened in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, followed in 2011 by the purchase of another much larger outlet in the Seine-et-Marne department with an 800 m² showroom and a 2500 m² covered warehouse. In 2014 a fifth 452 m² point of sale was opened in the 7th arrondissement, at the centre of the famous Parisian Golden Triangle.

Enzo and Lucia Fusaro. Philippe-Guenon

What are the main characteristics of your showrooms? And how did you choose your motto, “Ispirazione italiana”?
We attach great importance to the image of our showrooms, so optimising products and their layout in our outlets is crucial. For this reason, we showcase our products using boxes that we change regularly to keep ahead of trends. The assortment must tell a story through the choice of colours and materials, and there is a dedicated space for each product.

Which services do you consider most important in terms of customer relations? Have your goals changed over time?
The service we consider most important is to provide advice and support for customers’ projects, as this is a key step in achieving their future goals. We are strongly focused on customers’ needs, offering a high-quality service and personalised advice.

What products do you offer and who are your customers? How many of them are professionals and how many private individuals?
To meet our customers’ demands more effectively, we offer a wide range of products, including tiles (earthenware, porcelain), natural stone (marble, granite and stone), bathroom furniture, sanitary fixtures, heated towel rails, taps and accessories. We have a diverse and essentially French clientele, consisting of couples, seniors, homeowners, decorators, architects, artisans and managers. Professionals account for about 70% of our turnover, private individuals 30%.

What are the fields of application of the ceramic tiles that you distribute? Large public buildings, private buildings, other segments?
We have a very varied clientele and are consequently involved in all kinds of projects. We’ve had the opportunity to design projects for the Louvre Museum, the Palais Garnier Opera House, the Restaurant l’Arc, the Gare de Lyon and Hôtel Le Bristol, as well as for celebrities such as Sophie Marceau, Emmanuel Petit, Djibril Cissé and Yael Naïm.

Showroom Ceramica

Have the demands of customers changed over time, particularly in view of the crisis?
The demands of private individuals have changed significantly since the onset of the crisis. Homeowners are no longer content with anonymous and standardised services. They value their standard of living, they are interested in modern materials and new techniques, and they are looking for a complete, personalised service. Most choose to follow trends and prefer to furnish their homes using large-format tiles.

What do you see as the factors benefiting Italian products?
“Made in Italy” stands for design, innovation and quality. Italy is always a step ahead of other countries and remains the dominant player in this sector. Italians are at the cutting edge in ceramics and in all aspects of interior decoration and design. Often other foreign producers draw inspiration from their ideas and concepts and propose them themselves.

What advice can you give Italian manufacturers to make their products more attractive?
One piece of advice we can give is that they should innovate constantly and offer a wide range of products catering for everyone’s tastes.

What is the state of the French property market in the current difficult economic situation?
The property market in France has been contracting for several years now. Supply is adapting very slowly to demand following an increase in prices per m² and selling times are growing longer from one year to the next.

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