Ceramique Internationale eyes growth as it marks 45 years

Cameron Fraser (left) and Peter Vann (right), directors of Ceramique Internationale in Leeds
Cameron Fraser (left) and Peter Vann (right), directors of Ceramique Internationale in Leeds
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Its ceramic tiles can be found in Rudding Park’s £9m spa, the London Underground and bars and restaurants all over the country.

Ceramique Internationale, an importer and distributer which celebrates 45 years in business this year, is predicting further growth as it edges towards its target of £4m turnover by 2020.

The company employs 17 people and its 4,500 sq ft showroom and warehouse in Leeds distributes wholesale products to hundreds of secondary retailers across the North and Midlands, as well as working on high-profile commercial projects across the UK.

The business has been owned and run together for the past 25 years by childhood friends Peter Vann and Cameron Fraser.

Mr Fraser said the secret to its success is not selling its products. “We don’t try to sell anybody anything. We listen to what customers have got to say, whether it’s an architect on a high profile scheme or a customer coming into the showroom. If we listen well enough we’ll come up with the right solution and we end up getting an order.”

Mr Vann added: “It’s important that we impart knowledge about the product, explain why something is £50 a sq metre and something is £15 to make people understand the value of the product and then they can choose how much to spend.”

The directors are bullish about Brexit and how it will play out, despite both voting to remain in the EU.

Mr Fraser said: “We have weathered various financial crises over the years and, quite frankly, are welcoming the challenges that our politicians are currently presenting.

“Not everyone can say the same - in recent months two high profile national companies in the tile sector, a manufacturer and a distributor, have gone into administration, and there may be others to follow.

“Our investment in the company over recent years and the uniquely long and very strong relationships we have with our key European suppliers means we are already well ahead of the game to ensure we continue to innovate and offer all our customers the very best products and the most reliable service.

“Our business ethos has three cornerstones - reliability, value and knowledge. We work with the very best tile manufacturers in Europe – the majority in Italy - so innovative quality products, backed up by outstanding customer service and the knowledge of a long-standing workforce is a formula for success.”

Looking ahead, the directors said a key driver for the tile market will be house refurbishments.

Mr Vann said: “It’s a completely separate and large animal to the new build and commercial markets and so we’re going to be following that market to a degree.”

Ceramique Internationale started life as a tile fixing company in Bradford in 1974 then owned by Robert Ibbitson, who quickly recognised greater profitability in importing and selling tiles and so joined forces with two factories in France.

Mr Fraser joined the business in 1982, while Peter Vann, who had met Mr Fraser at Ilkley Grammar School at the age of nine, joined the business as a partner in 1994. The current workforce of 17 people offer more than 300 years of combined service.

The Leeds warehouse holds well over 100,000 square metres of tiles in stock at any one time, comprising the latest fashions in floor and wall tiles, mosaics and associated products.