Stone Column

Legitimate signs of life in 2010

In this issue of Stone World, we present our annual Fabricator Market Forecast (page 34), where hundreds of stone fabrication professionals from around the country offer their predictions for the coming year as well as their expectations for the long-term. Moreover, this study gauges how stone fabricators plan to spend their money in 2010 - in real dollar amounts.

Perhaps surprising, the fabricators we polled are relatively optimistic about the coming year. While the full report on page 34 is a must-read for anyone in the industry, the following is a brief summary of the results:

• 45% said the stone market will increase in 2010; 40% said it would stay the same; only 15% said there would be further declines

• Looking five to 10 years down the road: 83% said the stone market will increase; 11% said it would stay the same; only 6% said it would decline

Fabricators gave a number of reasons for their guarded optimism, mostly citing an improving economy and housing market - particularly with regard to models. “Customers will remodel the homes they are living in and make them more comfortable, especially kitchens,” stated one fabricator.

A number of fabricators also said that business simply “can’t get any worse” than it was in 2009. “I have a gut feeling that things have hit bottom and will begin to pick up in the second quarter of 2010,” stated one respondent, while another commented, “I believe that people have been sitting on their money because of the economy, and after three years of that, some customers will need to update their home or just fix it up to sell.”

Going beyond opinions, the Stone World Fabricator Market Survey asked industry professionals how they planned to invest this year. About half of the fabricators polled said they are planning equipment investments in 2010, and highlights include:

• One out of 10 fabricators will buy a CNC machine this coming year, expecting to spend close to $200,000.

• One out of 10 fabricators will buy a waterjet this coming year, expecting to spend close to $185,000.

• One out of five fabricators will buy a bridge saw this coming year, expecting to spend close to $80,000.

• One out of five fabricators will buy a polisher this coming year, expecting to spend close to $50,000.

• One out of six fabricators will invest in air/water treatment, expecting to spend more than $20,000.

• One out of three fabricators will invest in handling equipment, expecting to spend close to $35,000.

Based on these survey results, it is clear that although 2010 will not be a return to the glory days of 2006, there should be quite a bit more activity in the industry. Some folks out there are planning major investments - many for the first time in several years. The general consensus seems to be that consumers are emerging from their “cocoon of fear” that has hampered our industry for several years, and fabricators are preparing themselves for an upswing in business.

There are plenty of other positive indicators in our survey that I don’t have room to mention in this column - which is why you need to read the report on page 34 - and the majority of them point to a rebound (of some sort) in the coming year.

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