I was talking about the current business situation with a colleague lately, and they came up with a very succinct way of solving the economic crisis, which I have decided to make the headline of this column. It sounds simplistic, but it is 100% on point. This statement is particularly relevant in the stone industry right now, and the positive results of our latest survey of stone fabricators will hopefully serve as a precursor to it actually happening. Our annual “Fabricator Market Forecast,” which begins on page 58 of this issue, has been conducted by the Market Research Department at BNP Media (Stone World’s parent company) for well more than a decade, and the feedback we received this year is more positive than it has been in years.

I strongly encourage you to read the full report on page 58, but here are some highlights:

• A total of 56% of fabricators saw their business grow during 2011. In 2010, only 30% said they saw growth. Meanwhile, 25% of respondents said that business held steady in 2011, and only 19% of those polled said that business declined for the year.

• A total of 51% of respondents said the stone market will increase in 2012; 43% said it would stay the same; and only 6% said there would be further declines.

• The vast majority of fabricators (83%) predicted that the market for stone will increase over the next five to 10 years, with another 17% stating that it would remain stable. Almost no one (1%) predicted a decline.

• A total of one in four fabricators (25%) said that they did not make any spending cuts in 2011 (in 2010, that figure was 16%). Whether it was personnel, equipment, stock or facilities, cuts in 2011 were significantly down from the previous year.

• More than half of the fabricators we polled (56%) said they would be spending on equipment this year.

• More than one out of six fabricators (17%) said that they would be investing in a CNC stoneworking center this year, and they expect to be spending a mean dollar amount of $175,000.

• Perhaps considering the increased emphasis on shop safety, 37.7% of respondents said they would be investing in material handling technology this year, with a mean value of $24,630.


Now, fabricators saying that they will invest in technology is not the same as them actually buying it. But considering the other positive factors — business growth in 2011, short-term and long-term optimism, etc. — I have a strong feeling there will be more spending among stone fabricators in 2012. Hopefully that starts at StonExpo later this month. See you there!