Although the refractories industry experienced additional consolidation in early 2002, the situation appears to be changing as the economies in several key markets--notably the U.S. and western Europe--begin to improve.
According to the U.S. Commerce Department, shipments of common and facing brick increased 1.2% in 2002 to 8.04 billion at a value of $1.72 billion, compared to 7.94 billion at a value of $1.68 billion in 2001.
After an extremely difficult year in 2001, many manufacturers serving the high-tech markets saw sales fall an additional 5-15% in 2002 as a result of continued weakness in the electronics sector, particularly in corporate information technology, semiconductors and telecommunications.
The year 2002 held many surprises for the ceramic tile industry. According to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and Customs Department, factory shipments plus imports totaled 2.63 billion square feet in 2002 - an increase of 15.7% over 2001.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, 6.4 billion square feet of flat glass were shipped in 2002 at an estimated value of $2.1 billion - up slightly (1% and 0.7%, respectively) from the previous year's levels.