Stone Column: Italy looks toward the U.S. market
Boasting one of the highest concentrations of stoneworking firms in the world, the Carrara region offers a broad cross-section of stone suppliers. During my visit to the region (which coincided with the CarraraMarmotec trade fair), I had the opportunity to visit international block traders as well as fabricators of high-end design products, custom architectural work, tiles and slabs.
It is interesting to note that despite the fact that the Italian companies we have covered are from different sectors of the stone industry, virtually all of them point to the U.S. market as a growing consumer of natural stone. Despite a recessed economy, the per-capita stone use in the U.S. has been increasing on a continual basis. As a result, the fabricators in this report have geared much of their production to the U.S. market, working with prestigious American architecture firms and developing product lines that fit the tastes of American designers. And while the U.S. is primarily an importer of finished and semi-finished stone materials (such as slabs), the block traders are also aware of the increase in American stone consumption. As a result, they are carefully cultivating and maintaining relationships with firms in Italy who process blocks into products that are exported to U.S. firms.
Given the fact that so many producers in Carrara are looking to the American marketplace (including companies that had previously done business strictly within Europe), the region holds a unique, new interest to U.S. stone importers and distributors.
This is important to consider as the industry debates the viability of the CarraraMarmotec trade fair as annual event. Even though there have been suggestions that the fair become a biennial event, alternating with Stone+Tec Nuremberg, there is still a benefit to visiting the Carrara region on a yearly basis that goes beyond the trade show itself.