As I walked around two of the major international trade fairs earlier this year - Coverings in the U.S. and the Vitória Stone Fair in Brazil - major exporters were telling me that sales to the American market had decidedly increased for the first quarter of 2010.
Over the past few months, my travels to international trade shows have given me the opportunity to sit down with some of the world’s major stone producers to gauge the current market conditions. Not surprisingly, many of these suppliers are based in Brazil. And for the first time in awhile, their mood is upbeat.
Each May, Stone World publishes the year-end summary of all stone imports into the U.S., which are recorded by the U.S. Department of Commerce. For comparative purposes, we also publish the year-end statistics from a year before.
Each and every year, the number of deaths and serious injuries caused by improper slab handling is at a point where I am compelled to dedicate an entire column to the subject. Frankly, one death per year is too many, but it has been far more than that, and it appears that this is a subject that continually requires revisiting.
In this job, I spend a lot of time talking to stone industry members. These days, of course, much of the discussion is about the economy, and how soon it will be until we really see a difference out there. It is a tedious, but necessary chore - sort of like brushing your teeth. You do it every day because you need to, but it’s not all that remarkable.
For as long as three years now (depending on where you’re located in the U.S.), most conversations among stone industry members have begun and ended with a discussion of the economy - specifically how bad it is and whether or not it is ever going to recover. And while we have a long road ahead of us until we’re all the way back, all indications are that the worst is behind us.
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.
With the issue that you currently hold in your hands, Stone World Magazine officially marks 25 years of covering the international stone industry. I’ve been with the magazine for 17 of those years, and if I could have written this column two and a half years ago, I’d be able to say that it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.
Although I am in contact with individual stone fabricators on an almost-daily basis, I don’t often get to sit in a room full of fabricators outside of the trade show circuit. And since the last major U.S. trade show was Coverings back in April, I was eager to gauge the collective viewpoint of the stone fabricators who gathered in my home state of New Jersey last month for a segment of the Marble Institute of America/Stone World Industry Education series.
Like pretty much everyone else out there, I am at a loss as to when we will truly be out of this recession. Two years ago, when it became clear that there was trouble on the horizon, the general consensus was that we would see some sort of downward financial “adjustment,” but it likely wouldn’t be long term - and certainly not this severe.