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So what did I accomplish on these trips (other than achieving Silver Elite status with United Airlines)? Well, if everyone I spoke with on these trips is to be believed, it seems that 2013 is off to an incredible start compared to the past half decade.
At the Vitória Stone Fair in Brazil, suppliers were overwhelmingly positive in discussing their business over the first two months of 2013. Virtually all of them said that business was significantly better than it was at this time in 2012. I should point out that many Brazilian suppliers were actually positive early last year as well, but the fair was a month earlier then, so they were really only talking about January at that time. Now we are looking at a two-month sample; again, it is early, but it is nice to hear about two months of consistency.
One major supplier of exotics actually told me that sales are up 70% over last year, and the only slowdown was a temporary lack of containers at the Vitória port. Now THAT’s not something I was hearing a year ago.
Apparently, many of these suppliers are feeling very confident for the remainder of the year. Going beyond general conversations, I can tell you that my Stone World colleague,
Alex Bachrach, was signing more advertising contracts in Brazil than we’ve seen in years. Personally, I always find this to be a good sign…
After my return from Brazil and one glorious day at home in New Jersey, I found myself on a plane to Mexico, where I spoke at the Cosentino 100 event. There, I was able to mingle with a virtual “who’s who” of American stone fabricators from throughout the country. In casual conversations during the event as well as during three hours of panel discussions with these fabricators, I asked them about their business performance — now and in the near future. Across the board, the responses I received were extremely upbeat. They said that business so far in 2013 has been solid, and they expected that success to continue for the remainder of the year. Moreover, they said they are planning to invest back into their businesses to support the increases in volume that they are anticipating — putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak.
As I said, these fabricators in Mexico were some of the biggest heavy hitters in our industry. They spend a lot of time on business planning and projections, so if they’re saying that business will be on the rise in 2013, I would tend to believe them.
This month, we find ourselves at Coverings, where I can again get a first-hand account of where we stand as an industry. Let’s hope the news continues to be positive.