Stone Column

Absolute zero?

March 1, 2009
/ Print / Reprints /
/ Text Size+

OK, so “absolute zero” is actually a scientific term unrelated to the business world. These past few months, I often feel like it is the level of business in today’s stone industry - or perhaps the latest closing figure for the stock market (as in “The Dow closed today at absolute zero.”)

Seriously, when I ask people what kind of business people are doing, many of them say, “Absolutely nothing. No one is coming to the phone, and no one is buying anything.” So does that mean that people walk into their office, sit down and fruitlessly attempt to sell stone until 5 o’clock every day? I know business is bad these days - extremely bad - but has it reached the point of “absolute zero?”

Each month, Stone World publishes the monthly stone import statistics recorded by U.S. Customs. For the second half of 2008, they were typically down by 20% to 30% each month compared to a year earlier. For example, in November of 2008 (the most recent month recorded), the U.S. imported $94.04 million worth of granite - down from $123.48 million in November of 2007. This marks a decline of 23.8%.

In the category for marble in the same month, the decline was even greater. The U.S. imported $96.65 million worth of marble in November in 2007, but only $69.2 million this past November - a dip of 28.3%.

These are disturbing figures, especially when you consider that annual growth for the stone industry routinely topped 30% per year until only a couple of years ago. Moreover, based on conversations I have had with major distributors, the decline in stone imports to the U.S. is expected to worsen for the first part of 2009.

We all know that business is terrible, and that this recession is unlike any that most of us have seen in our lifetimes. If you pick up a newspaper or turn on your television, this will be made abundantly clear. You don’t need me to tell you this.

What I want to know is this: Who bought the $163.24 million worth of granite and marble in November? Better still: Who is buying the granite countertops I see being driven up and down the highways every day? And on the international front: Who bought the containers of granite I saw being loaded in the stoneworking plants in Brazil last month? I assume they’re on the way to someplace, right?

I know I am simplifying things, but the fact of the matter is that while granite and marble imports have significantly declined, they currently stand at levels that are very similar to 2004. And as I recall, no one was jumping out of windows back then.

I realize that our collective business has taken a huge step backwards, and no one wants to regress five years in a relatively short amount of time. Moreover, the playing field is more crowded at all levels - quarries, slab producers, fabricators, distributors, etc. - so there are more people looking for a slice of a much smaller pie. All of this can be devastating for individual firms.

As I said, I know things are bad out there, but my point here is that the industry hasn’t hit “absolute zero” - nor will it. Distributors (and some fabricators) are importing stone, and homeowners are buying granite countertops.

On the machinery end, fabricators are buying new equipment. In this issue of Stone World, we are rolling out a new section entitled “Technology Investments” (pages 108-109), where we feature stoneworking companies around North America that have added new technology to their operations. In contacting different vendors to participate in this feature, it was refreshing to see that the response we got wasn’t: “Sorry, we didn’t sell anything to anyone.”

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Stone World 

Recent Articles by Michael Reis

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

The Stone Fashion Show at Marmomacc in Verona

As usual, stone suppliers from Italy and around the world relied on the Marmomacc fair to showcase some of the latest stone materials to the international marketplace. The following is a look at just some of the stone materials on display in Verona.

Stone World Magazine

Stone World September 2014 cover

2014 September

In this issue of Stone World, we have a Report from Europe, which includes a series of articles about the quarries and stone processing operations that SW editor Jennifer Adams visited as part of the Marmomacc Stone Academy.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Contemporary Stone & Tile Design Magazine

CSTD Fall 2014 cover

2014 Fall

In this issue of Contemporary Stone & Tile Design, we take a look at the latest developments in TPT, with a feature article and you can read more comments from Waldrep on this subject as well as other industry professionals.

Table Of Contents Subscribe


Are you aware of the new stone standard – ANSI/NSC 373 Sustainability Assessment for Natural Dimension Stone?
View Results Poll Archive

The Stone World Store

How to Polish & Restore Marble Flooring

This video will show you step-by-step how to resurface and polish marble flooring from grinding and removing lippage and scratches to achieving a highly reflective polish.

More Products

Stone Guide

2014 Stone World Stone Guide

The directory for Stone, Equipment and Supplies - the single information resource readers turn to.

Stone Industry Education

stone industry educationStone Industry Education is sponsored by Stone World Magazine and Marble Institute of America. The SIE events will help you: strengthen your skills, build your business, and  increase profit in your shop.  Check out to register for upcoming fabricator and installer seminars.


facebook logo Twitter  YouTubeGoogle+