A new record of professional visitors from 143 different nations was recorded at the 48th edition of Marmomacc, which took place from September 25 to 28 in the historicstoneworkingcenter of Verona, Italy. As always, the event was a world focal point for the industry, with displays of stone and technology as well as a broad cultural program bridging the design community and the trade.

In terms of visitors, the share of foreign operators visiting the halls grew by 6%, reaching a total of 55% of the 56,000 visitors overall. The nations with the most visitor representations were Germany, India, Spain, Turkey, France, the U.S., the U.K., China, Russia and Brazil.

Trade visitors from the U.S. represented the sixth largest contingent. The presence of more American buyers convinced a number of exhibitors to consider also showing their machines or materials at two Marmomacc network shows in the U.S. in 2014:  StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas in Las Vegas (January 28 to 30) and in Miami (October 19 to 22).

The four days of the event welcomed well over 1,400 exhibitors from nearly 60 countries with new entries from Singapore, Slovenia and Ireland; there were 16 international group delegations, with the return of Palestine and the debut of Tunisia, and 44 official trade missions from 44 countries.

A broad exhibition

As usual, Marmomacc served as a platform for stone suppliers to unveil the very latest in materials to the international marketplace for the very first time. Visitors saw new varieties of granite, marble, onyx and other materials. This included many exotic materials, and they came from locations around the world. Among them were semi-precious stones and backlit onyx panels.

In addition to natural stone, visitors to Marmomacc could find quartz surfacing innovations, including products with a distinctive stone look.

Stone could be found in a broad range of formats at Marmomacc, including slabs, tiles, mosaics, blocks and architectural works such as customized cladding and three-dimensional pieces. (Editor’s Note: Please see “The ‘Stone Fashion Show’ at Marmomacc” for a photo roundup of some of the specific stone materials that were on display in Verona.)

In terms of technology, companies introduced several new innovations at Marmomacc. These included upgrades to equipment such as CNC stoneworking centers, edgers and bridge sawing machinery.

Equipment for quarrying technology was also on display in Verona, and in a positive sign for the economy, a number of machines on display were proudly marked to show that they were already purchased by leading stone producers around the world.

Technology upgrades were also found in terms of stone treatment and adhesives, and many of the companies taking part in Marmomacc were offering products that were environmentally friendly.

Positive results

Universally, show organizers and exhibitors were pleased with the results of the event. “The results of the 48th Marmomacc confirm the validity of the show’s unique formula combining business with product culture, design, training and constant innovation,” said Ettore Riello, President of Veronafiere, which runs Marmomacc. “All this is equally hallmarked by Marmomacc’s increasing internationalization; its initiatives abroad interpret and promote the excellence of the Italian stone industry — as highlighted during the visit by the Deputy Minister for Economic Development, Carlo Calenda. Further proof of our role as a global hub is that, despite continued economic and financial difficulties, nearly three-quarters of the world’s countries — 143 out of 205 — decided to attend the event. We must also highlight the importance of the first official visit to Italy by the Egyptian Minister for Industry and Trade, Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour.”

Optimism was also expressed by Giovanni Mantovani, CEO and Director General of Veronafiere. “During Marmomacc 2013, the central concept of highly qualified trade visitors was upheld, not the least through the selective efforts of Veronafiere’s international network of representatives who followed up specific programs of B2B meetings with exhibitors in the course of the event,” he said. “We finalized a great many international agreements, in particular the launch of a new collaboration with Egypt that will be completed with the debut in 2014 in Cairo of MS Africa & Middle East. We also unveiled a partnership in the stone industry in Palestine and implemented ongoing operations in Brazil with the two most important trade fairs in the sector. Our activities also continue in North America, alongside Hanley Wood, as well as in Middle East markets. We are also developing initiatives in Eastern Europe, especially in Russia. Evidently, the international market is working and we will have to focus on this fact for the future. It was precisely from abroad, in fact, that we recorded an increase in qualified operators and this testifies to the fine work carried out to promote incoming attendance.”

On the machinery side, Flavio Marabelli, Honorary President of Confindustria Marmomacchine, said: “The exhibition generated very positive results and was especially encouraging with regard to maintaining certain markets and developing others, both for materials and technology. I saw good signs from Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Asia as a whole for technology, while for materials there was promising feedback from Gulf countries and the recovery in the U.S.”

There was evident optimism among the exhibitors as well, including Italian and foreign companies. Among these, there was an impressive turnout from Turkey, by now one of the leading countries in this field. “The situation is not the same as before the crisis, but compared to last year I can say that it has slightly improved,” said Erdogan Akbulak, member of the Board of Directors of IMIB, the government association that organized the impressive group attendance by Turkish companies at Marmomacc. “I spoke with some of our exhibitors, and they emphasize that the visitors they met were all highly professional. I am fairly optimistic, especially with regards to certain markets, such as the U.S.” 

Italian stone processors were also happy. “We see the worldwide market restarting now — mainly North America and the Far East,” said Francesco Antolini of leading stone producer Antolini Luigi & C. “The European market is moving more slowly; Italy, Spain and Greece are still tough. The Eastern bloc countries are buying again. Brazil has grown for us. I can say that 2009 was the worst year, and it has been climbing since then.”

Carlo Varni, Sales Manager of Franchi Marmi, echoed these sentiments: “We are satisfied; the market is definitely picking up, especially the American market, although I also saw positive signs from areas such as Asia,” he said. “Nonetheless, the strongest signal for us as producers of processed materials came precisely from the U.S. The recovery is confirmed by attendance at the show by many U.S. buyers.”

Roberta Zanet of Marmi Bruno Zanet, was also pleased. “Our assessment is very positive because we have seen a strong recovery,” she said. “We worked well, especially on Far East markets, and we also saw a good recovery in the U.S., where a good number of important architectural projects are underway. Brazil is a fundamental resource for materials for us, and it will be all the more so thanks to the initiative launched there by Marmomacc.”

There was also optimism among companies in the technology sector. Gianbattista Pedrini of Pedrini S.p.A. said: “We expected a good show and it certainly was. The problems we have in Italy are absent abroad, and as a result we can fortunately export between 85% and 90%, so this year we should post the same turnover as before the crisis. This year we invoiced 25% more than last year thanks to foreign markets that have already begun to recover, such as Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia and even China. They are looking at Italian machinery to improve the quality of products intended for export.”

These feelings were also confirmed by Benetti Macchine: “The impression is better than in other years: turnout was high, and visitors came with specific and well-defined interests and not just to gain an idea of the market. We work in the quarry world, and in this area we saw a revival both abroad and in Italy. And there was even some demand for projects in new countries.”

Igino Bombana, owner of Tenax Spa, summed up: “This year was positive for us; if we look at the market in general, I can say that Italy performed quite well, but abroad things were much better albeit with differences from country to country. Brazil, India and Turkey are fundamental for us, and where we also have our own local offices, we recorded excellent results.”

Focusing on design 

As always, design was an important focus in the exhibit halls as well. Hall 7B featured a number of exhibits, installations and conferences, under the “Inside Marmomacc” banner, including a section dedicated to the winners of the Marmomacc International Stone Architecture awards.

The four days of the exhibition saw Hall 7B transformed into “Inside Marmomacc,” a venue for exhibitions, installations and international conferences dedicated to the use of stone. Inside Marmomacc was also the stage for numerous awards and honors: the XIII edition of the International Stone Architecture Awards, celebrating the best architectural projects involving the use of stone, and the Best Communicator Award for exhibitors distinguished by the quality and originality of their stands.

The Master of Stone Award was made to Daniel Avital of Fervital and Nassar Ali Nassar of Nassar Store Group; the Women in Marble Award went to Patrizia Dottori.

Cultural projects were particularly distinguished by the installations in the Marmomacc & Design “Fluid Stone” exhibit, which involved young under-30 designers capable of interpreting stone materials using modern media tools. “The concept of fluidity, on the one hand, means alleviating the [traditional] image of marble,” stated the organizer of the event. “And, on the other hand, interpreting it as the material of becoming, where all opposites find their own expressive harmony: empty and solid, lightness and gravity, vertical and horizontal, nature and culture.”

There were also exhibitions of prototypes by students of the Faculty of Architecture, Ferrara, and students at the Brenzoni Art School; the Bathing in Light exhibition of works from Turkey; the rotating disks with marble tiles in Opus Motus; the two different Stone & Luxury SPA installations representing the relationship between man, water and stone; the Structural Stone event for the design of prototypes and design themes for stone architecture and many others.

In addition, there was impressive participation by architects, engineers and designers at the course and educational activities promoted by the Stone Academy involving 20 Italian and international universities, this year joined by Schools of Architecture in Florida and Ljubljana.

Even after closing its doors, Marmomacc will continue to live in the city until the end of October with Marmomacc & The City, an exhibition of stone sculptures and installations in the streets and squares of the historic centre of Verona.

The next edition of Marmomacc will be held in Verona from September 24 to 27, 2014.