Peter‘s Corner: The crisis in ceramics and engineered stone offers the best market opportunities for the natural stone sector, but only if the customer is better informed on the subject of stone care and cleaning

Peter Becker, editor-in-chief of Stone-Ideas.com.

The situation is dramatic for the ceramics industry. This is because energy costs have increased tenfold, as the president of the Italian association Confindustria Ceramica, Giovanni Savorani, said at an event to mark the opening of the major industry trade fair Cersaie in Bologna in September 2022.

In addition, there are increased prices for raw material.

As things stand, it’s not just a question of market share, but even the very existence of some producers: a ceramic that is not fired at over 1000 degrees does not have the special properties of a ceramic, and natural gas (or methane) is needed as an energy source because carbon dioxide is the only way to get a perfect white for tiles or sinks, for example.

Engineered stones or quartz composites can also only be produced with heat and additionally with pressure.

Based on these facts, it would be naive to hope that an open field for the stone sector is falling from the sky. After all, there is no energy crisis in China, India or Thailand.

In the high-price market segment, there will be opportunities for the stone sector only if it adopts the marketing arguments of the competitors. The ceramics industry has always argued in a very down-to-earth way: its materials are completely problem-free in terms of maintenance and cleaning. This also applies to engineered stones, which, by the way, have never been cheaper than natural stone.

The negative public opinion about the care and cleaning of natural stone is THE weak point of the sector.

A study by the German Natural Stone Association (DNV) had already shown this in 2018: at that time, architects were asked what spoke in favor or against natural stone as a floor covering. Positively rated in the answers was the beauty of the material, while price and maintenance were named negatively.

Here, the natural stone sector needs to rework and provide the customer with better information.

The timing is favorable: at the moment, in addition to the energy crisis, there is increased customer interest in natural materials and in domestic varieties.

The Covid19-pandemic has also shown that consumers see marble, granite & co as crisis-proof investments. Stones seem to be perceived by the public as precious metals: although they do not bring any speculative profit in the short term, their value remains secure and increases in the long term, for example in that a property with a natural stone bathroom or kitchen countertop can be sold at a higher price.

DNV-Study

(10.10.2022)