Crosby Tiles keeps ahead of the curve by being transparent with clients and staff, while emphasising knowledge and training.
At a time when businesses often keep and withhold information, Perth-based Crosby Tiles has always been about providing more information to its clients, not less. This means customers can have a full understanding of the tile products available and the suitability to their needs.
As a result, training and staff development are very important elements to the Crosby brand, according to managing director Peter Carter, who also serves as president of the Australia Tile Council.
“To do that, we are always sharing information with our staff both formally and informally and the flow is both ways,” he explains. “With some of the most experienced tile professionals in Australia on staff, Crosby’s are often the go-to point for anyone in the building industry looking for advice.
“Additionally, many of our consultants have a designer or decorator background or training. Our biggest asset is the length of time our staff have been with us as there is no substitute for experience.”
Peter is also unafraid to re-invest in his business even when the market is down in terms of trading. He believes the market in Perth is at its lowest point in the last 40 years. “Unemployment is at an 18-year high and housing prices are the lowest in the country (the medium price in Perth is $472,000),” he said.
“Housing starts are down over 55% from their peak four years ago and 2019 is proving to be extremely challenging for anyone in the building industry.
“Sales volumes, prices and margins across the industry have fallen dramatically over this period. Current forecasts are for a long, slow climb back commencing sometime in 2020, but forecasters have been saying that for two years now. It is unlikely prices and margins will ever get back to what they were before the market crashed.”
Despite the current state of the market, Peter has led Crosby Tiles through its recent showroom renovation in the suburb of Osborne Park and the tiles it has to offer.
In addition to products that cater for the mainstream tile market, it has now developed a unique range of designer-led products that gives the company a strong competitive advantage. Not known for stocking boutique ranges in the past, “clients are very surprised by how many and variety of these type products we now have as well as the value in the prices of these products,” said Peter.
Crosby Tiles primarily services residential builders and home renovators and has a growing clientele for its expanded designer range of tiles.
With well over a hundred tile shops of some sort in Perth, Crosby’s has managed to remain the largest tile distributor in Western Australia by staying ahead of the market and creating unique points of differences all the time, explains Peter.
“From the design and layout of our showrooms to the way we display products; all are underpinned by an impeccable level of service and desire to look after our customers.
“Additionally, we only deal with suppliers that can provide high quality products the way we want them, and meet levels of service that allow us to satisfy the standards our customers expect of us. Those supplier relationships have been built over many, many years and have become integral to who we are and what we do,” he said.
Some of the major suppliers that deal with Crosby’s include Savoia, Mirage, Refin, Lanka, National Ceramics and Southern Cross Ceramics.
“We believe we are quite unique in this space. We deal with a minimum number of suppliers to maximise our position with each. And it’s not all about the price, even though our selling prices are some of the lowest in WA,” said Peter.
“Quality, reliability, level of service and flexibility are all crucial elements our suppliers must have, to do business with us. Along with being on trend or ahead of it.
“We buy from Italy, Europe, Asia and most importantly we are great believer in supporting Australian products with around 50% of our products supplied locally.
“We are one of the few companies that hasn’t been intoxicated by Chinese products and prices. Whilst the average tile shop in Perth has over 60% of its product sourced from China, Crosby’s is just 12% because we only deal with Chinese companies that fit our demanding criteria and the customer must always come first,” he added.
The team at Crosby’s travel the world at least once a year to update its range with all the latest trends, colours and designs.
In store sales
Crosby’s philosophy does not involve having specific “sales” or similar promotions because Peter believes it offers the best value products to its customers, “all day every day”. However, there are always extra special deals on discontinued lines available for people who looking for a bargain in the stores.
The business has also tailored its website to service its two main types of customers. Firstly, designers and specifiers and secondly, the general public who are seeking a more conceptual or coordinated format.
Crosby’s has not added an ecommerce component to the website because it has found that tiles are not the type of product that is bought online, according to Peter.
Crosby Tiles was the first tile company of its kind in Australia and was first established in Perth in 1922.
“When we first moved to Osborne Park in 1975, it was considered a long way from Perth, and there was no freeway. The area was transforming from market gardens to an industrial estate,” explains Peter. “Osborne Park is now a massive retail area and there are 25 tile shops just in our block, which is only one square kilometre in size.”
Located in the municipality of Stirling, the most recent census data in 2016 indicates that it is a suburb with over 4,000 residents with a median age of 33 years. It is mainly urban but close to the coastline too.
Crosby Tiles is a proudly Western Australian owned and operated company with two outlets and widely recognised as the state’s leading ceramic tile merchant. When asked what makes the WA market for tiles unique, Peter responds by saying:
“Its isolation. It is one of the purest markets in Australia regarding quality of tile and size and high standard of tile stores.”
After 40 years in the tile industry and from his vantage point as head of the Australian Tile Council, Peter has seen the industry grow from its infancy of supplying just a small range of product in limited sizes, colours and finishes mainly to bathrooms, to a multi-billion dollar industry that covers a myriad of sizes, colours, finishes and textures for almost any wall or floor application.
He remains optimistic about the industry and manages Crosby Tiles as an evolving entity that is always turned towards the future.
Pictured: Peter Carter is an industry stalwart. He is managing director of Crosby Tiles and sitting president of the Australian Tile Council.