Because I don't sell machinery and I don't sell stone, my assessment of a trade show comes from my conversations with the people who do. To a man, everyone I spoke with was upbeat, and many of them didn't even wait for me to ask how it was going. More than once, the greeting I received was, "Pretty good show, Mike, don't you think?" Even yesterday, one of the exhibitors led off an e-mail to me by calling StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas "the busiest show in years." One of my favorite moments of the show came just an hour or so before it ended -- and the exhibit hall was still crowded, which is somewhat rare of a trade show as it winds down. I was talking with a machinery supplier and commented on the "sold" sign on one of his machines, saying, "Nice, you sold this?" His response was, "Actually, we sold five of this, and three of the other one."
No one was saying that three or four years ago. That's for sure. Beyond the exhibit halls, I was present at both open "Fabricator Forums" at StonExpo, and both had excellent attendance. Even with an ungodly 8 a.m. starting time, the Countertop Installation Forum had a nice crowd on hand -- and this was in Vegas, mind you. So is the positive outcome of StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas a foreshadowing of things to come? Obviously, no one can really say for sure. But in what I view as a good omen, one of my colleagues was corresponding with a stoneworking professional who said he spent nearly a quarter-million dollars in technology since the show, so maybe this is the wave that will take us out of this mess.
I'm headed to Brazil in a few weeks, and because they view the American market as their top export target -- and they are the world's leading exporter of granite to the U.S. -- I would imagine that the conversations I have down there will be quite interesting. As always, you can expect to hear about them in future print and online editions of Stone World.