Peter’s Corner: some thoughts on 2023 and what lies ahead for the stone sector

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

As in “normal“ years, more marketing must be undertaken, and private households should be “infiltrated“ with product design

We do not want to participate in the predictions and speculations about the economic development in the coming year. Simply because (also) we do not know what is coming. On the one hand, there are numerous factors that do not bode well: the Ukraine war, inflation in Europe and the U.S., the energy crisis in Europe, the ongoing Covid disruptions in China (but which the government mitigated in December 2022).

In addition, everyday costs are rising, and some of the consumer barometers consequently show declining purchasing sentiment.

On the other hand, the global economy has weathered the covid pandemic well – there has been no recession in any country, contrary to what the augurs estimated in early 2020.

Currently, there are also some indications that consumption, which picked up again last year, for example in long-distance tourism, will continue in 2023. The construction industry could also benefit from this.

The private demand boom for natural stone to beautify apartments and houses could continue. In times of inflation, people living in affluence like to put some of their money into goods that are stable in value. The pandemic has shown that natural stone is considered a profitable investment.

Against this background, the only thing left for the stone sector to do this year is what has or should have been done for some time.

First and foremost is to promote natural stone. Recently, data from consumer surveys have become available, from which one can deduce where action is currently needed.

One aspect is to make stone visible in everyday life. After all, it is an old adage that stone sells when consumers see it or get close to it. We like to call this the “Verona effect“: those who have visited the old Italian cities are swooning over marble when they return. At least for a while, until the other vacation effect also fades away.

Natural stone has a magic (whatever it is), and it easily manages to make people fall in love with it. Only you have to see and experience it.

A proven way to promote lies in product design: it is about bringing usable everyday objects into homes, where every day they show residents what a beautiful material natural stone is. Such a strategy can be called “clandestine infiltration.“ relying on the magic of Marble, Granite & Co to permanently occupy the terrain.

However, the focus of this strategy must be on product design, i.e., on the usability of the objects. But what is usually shown at stone fairs under the heading of design is not usable for this purpose and therefore does not find its way into households.

Some associations have competitions where young designers or professionals are invited to produce ideas for product design with stone.

Consumer surveys, which we have linked below, also point to a good way of promotion. For example, a study by Marmomac revealed that private individuals see the most important uses for stone in their bathrooms and kitchens, but also for windowsills or stairs. The sector has known this for a long time, only – up to now nothing at all was to be seen of windowsills or stairs in presentations at trade fairs, instead, visitors see examples of bathrooms and kitchens with mostly only overblown gadgets.

It applies to the promotion by design: beside Haute Couture also the Prêt-à-Porter must be shown.

A look at the competition, engineered stones and large ceramics, shows how good marketing works: both industries show their materials in prêt-à-porter. There are also spectacular presentations, but only rarely.

And: the competition has been struggling for years to put on a “green“ cloak.

The stone sector actually has all the facts on its side here. But not all associations really take the issue seriously.

Finally: we have noticed a trend towards colored stone at the leading furniture or interior design trade shows.

Promoting this trend is important for the whole sector, not only for the companies that quarry and sell such stones.

Because, as mentioned above, stone has a certain magic, and this does not only apply to the material from one’s own quarry.

Which kind in the end the customer buys for his special wishes and according to his wallet depends on many other factors.

Or as stone people have often remarked: the competition is not the other stone companies – it is the other materials.

See also:

(08.01.2023, 01.08.2023)