On July 26, 2023, the first Super Anti-Slip Tile Category Development Forum was held at the China Ceramic Headquarters in Foshan, Guangdong. This should be the first domestic forum featuring anti-slip tiles as the protagonist, and may be considered the symbolic beginning of the anti-slip tile racetrack in the architectural ceramics industry.
After the racetrack is opened, will anti-slip tiles really become the next big thing in the architectural ceramics industry? I will explore this through three questions.
Table of Contents
Question 1: What is the background of the formation of the anti-slip tile racetrack?
According to WHO statistics, around 600,000 people die globally each year from slips, making it the second leading cause of accidental or unintentional death, following road traffic injuries. The number of disputes caused by wet and slippery ground is also astonishing, reaching nearly 80,000 cases annually in China alone.
It must be pointed out that 60% of slip accidents happen at home and in its surroundings. Therefore, solving the anti-slip issue of ceramic tiles, the main material for ground decoration, is crucial for many families.
Based on this demand, the architectural ceramics industry has already given birth to anti-slip tiles. In China, the origin of anti-slip tiles can be traced back to the 1990s; in 2013, companies like Mona Lisa and Hongyu launched anti-slip tiles; between 2015 and 2016, Golden Lion King, Overland, Dongpeng, and Deer Tile also introduced anti-slip tiles.
However, the domestic anti-slip tile market has always been lukewarm, perhaps related to the need for national standards for anti-slip tiles. It wasn’t until a few years later that the national standards were introduced:
“Anti-Slip Ceramic Tiles” (GB/T 35153-2017) was released on December 29, 2017, and officially implemented on November 1, 2018.
“Ceramic Tile Anti-Slip Grade Evaluation” (GB/T 37798-2019) was released on August 30, 2019, and officially implemented on July 1, 2020.
In contrast, Western countries have long had clear regulations on tile slip resistance, with different places using tiles that adhere to different anti-slip standards. China only introduced this testing equipment once the National Key Laboratory of Building Sanitary Ceramics Testing imported anti-slip testing devices from abroad around 2006. Initially, the introduction was to meet European and American requirements for anti-slip standards in Chinese ceramic tile exports.
After the national standards were introduced, it coincided with the outbreak of COVID-19. During three years of pandemic control, long periods of home confinement heightened people’s awareness of health and environmental protection, emphasizing using environmentally friendly and safe building materials in home decoration.
Under this background, many brands in the architectural ceramics industry began to take new actions, either introducing new anti-slip tile technologies or positioning new anti-slip IP brands.
In 2022, Hongyu, a company deeply involved in the anti-slip tile field, achieved a significant breakthrough, and its innovative “Wet-State Anti-Slip Ceramic Tiles” received a positive market response.
In 2022, New Regal, one of the earliest brands to develop anti-slip tiles, realized a full-line upgrade by adding unique anti-slip factors to the tile surface to satisfy different scene requirements. Entering 2023, it was fully upgraded to “New Regal Super Anti-Slip Marble Ceramic Tiles.” It achieved three innovations in super anti-slip technology. The company also launched a three-year brand strategy focused on “super anti-slip.”
On April 16, 2023, Huida held the 2023 Huida New Product Appreciation and Brand Strategy Summit with the theme “For Tile Anti-Slip, I Choose Huida,” defining the strategy to build anti-slip IP and become the No.1 brand in anti-slip.
Question 2: Why has it taken until now to form a anti-slip tile racetrack?
Although the need for ground slip resistance has existed for a long time, the development of the new racetrack is only now taking shape. This is because anything has a development process. As mentioned earlier, the increasing aging, the three-year epidemic, and technological advancements have made this possible.
However, that’s just one reason. Another more critical reason is that many ceramics companies mainly focus on anti-slip tiles to create brand differentiation.
To put it bluntly, facing increasingly fierce market competition and industry reshuffling, many mid-tier ceramics brands are trapped between top-brand brands and non-brands (more flexible in operation but lacking brand recognition and influence, and thus no brand burden). Up than no scale and brand advantage, down than no price advantage, survival is tough.
Suppose they do not focus on and cultivate specific areas, walking the path of “SRDI” – Specialized, Refinement, Differential, Innovation – and instead compete head-to-head with high-end brands in scale and branding, or anti-brands in price. In that case, they will be disadvantaged and face elimination.
Conversely, top-brand ceramic enterprises with scale advantages and flexible anti-brand enterprises are not suited for the anti-slip racetrack either. So we only see some high-end brands releasing anti-slip tiles but antie positioning their whole brand as anti-slip; we see anti-brand enterprises latching on to anti-slip tiles but won’t spend energy to build anti-slip IP.
From this perspective, mid-tier ceramics brands taking the lead on the anti-slip tile racetrack have made an inevitable choice under severe conditions.
Question 3: Why did the industry choose the anti-slip tile racetrack?
We usually classify tile attributes as decorative and functional. However, this classification could be more rigorous, as decorative properties are also a function, and it’s the most basic function of tiles. In this sense, tile functions can be divided into primary and derived functions.
The primary functions include aesthetic appeal, pattern, specification, size, etc.; corresponding wear resistance, bending resistance, stain resistance, and safety are secondary functions.
Derived functions include negative ion tiles, heating tiles, formaldehyde-removing tiles, air-purifying tiles, energy tiles, cockroach-repellent tiles, etc. They are based on derived functions rather than core tile functionality.
Then back to the question: why did the architectural ceramics industry choose the anti-slip function over others?
Theoretically, the derived functions are niche rather than common needs, with high technical difficulty and testing challenges. They can often be replaced by the primary functions of other products (for example, an air purifier is more direct and effective than air-purifying ceramic tiles), so the market capacity is inevitably limited.
The consequences can be imagined if too many ceramic companies crowd into these racetracks. The functions racetracks were formed many years ago. However, after so many years, they have yet to allow any ceramic company to change its fate, let alone evolve into an industry trend.
On the contrary, the anti-slip tile racetrack is quite different, corresponding to the safety aspect of tile’s primary functions. As consumers pay more and more attention to home space health and safety, the anti-slip function of tiles becomes essential. As long as companies continue to make breakthroughs in anti-slip technology and the government provides policy guidance and system support, the anti-slip tile racetrack could become a real trend, potentially fostering a market worth tens or even hundreds of billions.
If this day does come, or even before it arrives, neither top-brand ceramics enterprises nor anti-brand ones can focus and cultivate like mid-tier brands.
In conclusion, the decision of mid-tier ceramics brands to choose the anti-slip racetrack is correct. How difficult this task may be or whether it can be successful depends on their focus on core competencies.
All of this remains to be tested over time!