Hot Stones Today & New Trends for 1995
Originally Published in 1995
In surveying numerous distributors, contractors, and sales representatives throughout the United States we have concluded that the market is definitely changing and trends, whether short or long term, are taking place. Rather than approach an issue of this type by area, we will state general results that may vary from region to region. Trends are normally established in key strong stone areas initially such as Florida, New York, California where the high use of stone and number of stone companies is most evident. Eventually trends move to the outlying regions.
COLORS IN DEMAND
When speaking of stones in demand one can either think of them as names of specific stones or as generally what colors are selling the most. It is evident from this survey that the most popular colors in demand today are beige neutral colors, black, green, yellow beige, wavy granites or mahogany granites with movement (especially for kitchen countertops).
This general color demand can relate to all dimensional stones. Specifically if we are to look the most popular stones we would see consistency in sales in the following types:
Blacks: Black Absolute, Zimbabwe, Cambrium, Indian Absolute
Greens: Ubatuba types, Verde Lavras, Verde Fonteine
Yellow/Beige: Amarello’s, Juparana’s
Mahogany: Lilla Gerais, Dakota Mahogany
Or Wavy Granites from Brazil or India
Blacks: Negro Monterrey, Negro Marquina, Chinese Black
Greens: Taiwan types, Indian Green, Guatemalan
Yellow/Beige: Crema Marfil, Botticino’s, German Jura stone
Yellow/beige: Spain, France, and Portugal are among the strongest sellers. Some of the domestic limestones are starting to become popular such as Weber, Mankato-Kasota, Halquist, Vetter, Beisanz, and even Indiana to name a few. However, thin tile and affordable pricing are factors in the growth of these domestic stones.
In slate it is the black and green slates in the U.S. and from Brazil, India, Italy, and Spain that are most important. The green stone from England is also popular. The U.S. slates are starting to increase but require more promotional efforts.
The Rustic Look
In looking at the trend in stone it appears that rustic is in demand. This can mean taking sawn stone and putting acid wash on it or perhaps just going to a honed marble or limestone. For example, the so called Saturnia or cross cut travertine from the Rome area of Italy is now very popular and is now in demand from any country producing travertine. It is being used in tiles of 18″ x 18″ x 1/2″ size up to 24″ x 24″ x 3/4″ size for all commercial and residential purpose flooring in either sawn rustic finish or honed and filled. Now it is being demanded in vanity tops. For the past several years the furniture industry has reflected this design trend in the need for rustic bases and tabletops in all products not just stone.
Rustic marble is in demand by designers and architects for commercial and residential flooring. To this end it allows more products which do not polish to enter the market place as long as the color is sellable. Granite is now being specified honed or for exteriors flamed finish. This trend shows why in many cases limestone is hot and many countries have expanded to sell this natural product. France, of course, leads the way but due to their higher end niche other countries such as Portugal, Spain, Bulgaria, Italy and so forth are all fighting to introduce their limestone. Other countries will follow suit and during the next few years we shall see many new limestone’s enter the market.
Granite is hot but not so much for commercial as it is for residential use both in tiles and now in kitchen countertops. The wave for residential use of stone from medium end price units to especially the high end residential is what is keeping many stone companies in business. Wavy granites for countertops are especially in demand. Marble is coming back for the countertops and we shall see an increased demand for this. Residentially buyers are mixing stone with ceramic and wood which allows generally more sales for stone, which would have been predominantly ceramic. The problem may be, however, as buyers will find out, how do they maintain this mixed product?
Rustic stones can be seen on the increase and will continue to increase which is why more and more buyers are looking at slate, quartzite, sandstone, shellstone or anything that will give that natural look. A good example of use of rustic is the guillotined travertine being used on the J. Paul Getty Museum, a mega project in Los Angeles, for about 1 million square feet. Some suppliers are even pushing the rustic tumbled marble, which can be seen on the Verona Fair exhibition floors.
Some specialty areas are seeing increased demand for patterned floors in lobbies and homes with logos. Many times this is water jet cutting. Some special patterns in borders of different colored stones are also being designed versus the traditional floor in just 12″ x 12″ tiles.
THE GENERAL 1995 OUTLOOK
The main market in sales for stone presently and foreseen for 1995 is still residential with a steady smaller use in office buildings and space, remodeling of offices-banks-hospital renovations, shopping mall and store floors, and minor governmental type commercial projects.
As far as country trends it appears that countries such as India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico and especially China are becoming much stronger in their presence of stone in the market and it is foreseen that their shares shall continue to grow. This only reflects the declining sales of Italian products to the U.S. market as these other underdeveloped countries technology expands thus increasing competition with Italy. Further, the price of stone products from these countries is very favorable. We should also look forward to seeing other countries enter the market place such as Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia, Vietnam, Chile, and Uruguay.
The market still seems to be very price conscious. We should see prices further reduced in the U.S. market even though generally we will see European stone costs increase this next year. The U.S. market is overloaded with suppliers, importers and distributors which increased tremendously during the 1980s and early 1990s and this has caused so much competition that we question how profitable it is for many companies to stay in business. We shall see many companies therefore close during the next several years and some old line companies get sold or unite with ceramic or other hard surface (conglomerated stone, wood flooring, terrazzo, foreign investment) companies. We shall also see more movement by foreign companies to set up warehouses, offices and sales representatives in order to do business more directly in the market place. There is still a cash flow problem in the market, which affects all companies with slow payments. Many buyers are shopping stone more and more, which also reflects the market education on stone. Even for the typical small jobs suppliers are going to get shopped for lower prices, which in the past was not so advanced or serious as it is today. It will become more so in the future.
THE CONSTANT NEED FOR MARKETING
Generally across the United States we have found stone buyers who say that they foresee in 1995 an increase in stone sales from 10 to 25%. Normally these are serious and good companies who keep up with the market demand and adjust to its needs. We have also found some of the more questionable companies who do not foresee increases when asked what is new in stone they say “nothing”. This reflects the situation that if a company does not survey its customers and change its product mix to reflect the market demand or does not adjust pricing to compete in the market place or does no promotion of its company, than we do understand why it will not foresee an increase in business. The recession by far is not gone. It lingers with us and the market will be slow in its recovery. The world dimension stone forecast for this decade is a steady yearly increase of 5% to 6 % (as reported by Societa Editrice Apuana 1993, p. 84.)
Obviously, there are segments of the market which legitimately will not see a marked increase in stone and are still heavy hit by the recession but they appear to be holding their own. Let us hope that they too will see the light at the end of the tunnel.
SURVEY USAGE RESULTS
In general, the usage of dimensional stone can be foreseen as:
21.2% cladding or walls
12.2% kitchen and bathroom vanities & tiles
4.0% furniture (commercial & residential)
The balance 11% is a mix of interior and exterior uses such as patios, columns, fireplaces, signs etc. These percentages are our conclusions also supported by the Italian Society Editrice Apuana, 1993 survey. We do not foresee any major changes in 1995 with these uses or percentages. We are seeing a shift in the market with more and more ceramic type distributors, retailers, and mass merchandisers ie. Home Depot adding stone tile to there sales and this will increase the demand for stone in the coming years.
The one disturbing trend that we do see is that as prices are being lowered on the retail or wholesale market so is the so called quality or selection of stone. We are going to see a lot more commercial select stone being sold due to its lower pricing than ever before. Many buyers are not willing to pay the high price for first or select stone. However, the cliché of “you pay for what you get” will hold true and begin to haunt a lot of people in the coming years.