Zou Chuansheng: China’s natural stone branch must devote more attention to its more demanding private clientele

Zou Chuansheng.

Former CSMIA President calls for more advisory expertise and more service

Zou Chuansheng was President of China Stone Material Association (CSMIA), China’s natural stone trade organization for over two decades before retiring due to old age. But he carries the stone branch in his heart. He recently published an article in the associations’s magazine „Stone” analyzing the current situation on the local market. We publish a digest of his views with kind permission of the author.

Zou writes that the hay days of mammoth building projects such as airports and hotels in China are a thing of the past. Possibilities for growth in the stone branch are still open in the private sector though, particularly where high-end furbishing for villas or apartments in new building complexes or modernization.

Zou backs up his assertions with facts and figures: he ascertains that from January to November 2016 the big stone companies in China (i.e. those with a turn-over of more than 20 million RMB = ~2,5 million €, ~3 million US-$) were looking at growth of +6.3 % and an increase in profits of +3.0%.

Growth in the stone branch lay well above the Chinese GNP in the past. But last year the figures were reversed: the 6.3% stood juxtaposed to +6.7% GNP over-all.

Zou sees this as an indication that the stone branch is not paying the needed attention to private customers. He backs up his thesis with facts: e.g. the big player Best Cheer saw sales of a mere 5% to private customers.

Two key aspects determine how the branch can win private clients: more service and more marketing.

He submits that companies still grapple with the small volume of individual contracts coupled with a higher demand of consultancy.

Between the lines Zou expresses his doubts that the stone branch can cope with the needs of discerning customers.

As far as marketing is concerned, Zou ascertains that many companies have already set up showrooms to display their wares and examples of implementation of stone and related products. But such presentations are usually far removed from megapolis like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou or Shenzhen.

Companies often live by the idea that the showroom is the foyer to the factory’s production site.

Zou not only points out that the ceramic industry successfully represents its wares in such megapolis.

Keeping the customer at a distance, literally and de facto also makes it impossible to „promote stone consumption as a social behavior”. With this he means that it is not possible to demonstrate marble and granite’s „green” aspects convincingly.

It is high time for the stone branch to turn to the private customer, Zou affirms. Companies must put their heads together to develop „a platform for home decoration”.

Our annotation: Zou’s statement of the need to learn how to deal with demands of discerning private customers implies a hidden opportunity for exporters from Western countries shipping high-end stone to China. E.g. producers of special machinery have long since offered training for craftsmen and their business partners.

Download article (Chinese)

Photos: CSMIA

„Stone“, cover March and August 2017.

(11.09.2017, USA: 09.11.2017)