Despite high quality local production, customers prefer imported roof tiles

In Prum Nitolaka’s Angkor Pich Roof Tile Shop Thai tiles sell best
In Prum Nitolaka’s Angkor Pich Roof Tile Shop Thai tiles sell best. Tile shoppers demanding imported products or mostly wealthy. REBECCA HELIOT

Despite high quality local production, customers prefer imported roof tiles

While Boreys, residential developments and commercial facilities continue to increase, so has the demand for roof tiles as the industry diversifies and local production increases, local manufacturers and distributors said. The increase in both the demand for local and imported building materials is just one indicator that illustrates how the construction sector in Cambodia has remarkably recovered after the global financial crises in 2008.

Hout Chea, director of Hout Chea Construction Material Supply Company, said that overall roof tile demand saw an increase of 50 per cent in the first quarter of 2015 when compared with the same period last year.

Hout deliniated his consumers as such: “We have 30 per cent of our clients buying tiles to use for their homes and 40 per cent are Borey owners. The other 30 per cent are condo and apartment owners.”

Hout’s company specializes in importing high quality roof tiles made in Malaysia, which feauture modern glazed clay and cement tiles, he explained. He added that the imported products are comparable in price to locally manufactured products since quality production standards have raised. But with production levels by local manufactures increasing, Hout explained how there has been a narrowing of the market.

“Due to the increasing competition, it narrows the market, but we still have clients coming to us [for imported products],” he said.

Prum Nitolaka, owner of Angkor Pich Roof Tile Shop, said competition had increased mainly because more companies offering construction materials were adding roof tiles to their product portfolio and hence entered competition with specialized roof tile shops.

“A lot of people buy [roof] tiles, and a lot of shops sell roof tiles now, so the competition has [risen],”he said.

In his shop, Prum sells his Cambodian tiles for $4.90 per square metre, while his Thai tile sells for $5.90 per square metre. The Thai tiles made from “elabana” sold most, he said. While many of the big orders come from engineers and condo or house builders, private people came in to buy one piece, two pieces, 100 pieces or sometimes even 1000 pieces.

Prum added that mostly wealthy and middle-class customers sought out his shop and asked for imported tiles.

Sean Chanladet, owner of the White Elephant Tile Factorty along National Road 2, said his factory now produced 6000 roof tiles per day.

The increase in production, he explained, was because the supply did not meet demand during the dry season, when construction developments peaked.

“Our products cost higher than some imported products because our tile quality is high, but some people don’t know about the quality so they think imported tile products are better,” he said, explaining consumers’ preferences for imported goods.

“If we buy an [industry] standard machine, we will produce higher quality tile than imported tile [at a cheaper cost] since our transportation costs are less,” he said. Although roof tile--whether that be of clay, cement or a hybrid product that uses glazing procedures to increase the longevity and durability--can withstand the elements once they are installed, they can be damaged during the transportation process, causing one more reason to raise the price on imported tiles as sellers have to pass on the loss they incur onto the customer, he explained.

“Importers generally have to compensate their prices for imported tile that is [damaged] or cracked during transportation,” he added.

Ou Chomnet, director of Phnom Penh-based Chomnet Company, which produces Triangle brand tile, said his factory can produce 60,000 tiles a month. He also imports ceramic tiles from China to supply the market.

Since the products are well-known, the company’s sales increased from 10 to 15 per cent in the first quarter of 2015, he said.

Imported tiles sold out faster than local tiles, despite their higher prices, he explained. According to him, imported products cost $8 per square metre of tiles while local product only costs $6, he said.

“Normally clients prefer to use the local products because of its affordable price, but wealthy clients prefer to use [imported] tiles,” he said.

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