When Stone World first arrived at the Xiamen Exhibition Center for the Xiamen Stone Fair, the first thing we noticed was the huge area in the front of the exhibition center that is under construction. This site signaled that the exhibition’s recent years of growth and expansion are not ending any time soon. When walking through the halls, the need for such expansion is evident.

Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the exhibition, which was held from March 6 through 9, did not disappoint in drawing a large international crowd, especially from China. According to show officials, almost 144,000 visitors overall attended the exhibition, including more than 27,500 foreign visitors from 148 different countries. Just like last year, the halls were crowded and, especially in the main Chinese pavilion, it was literally difficult to get through the aisles. Some in the international hall, filled with stone from Europe, South America, Asia and even North America, said that traffic was not quite as robust as last year, but didn’t see much, if any, decrease in traffic there or anywhere in the show.

To get a feel for the growth of this show, consider that in its first year, 2001, there were only 125 stands occupying 4,000 square meters of exhibition space. By 2006, the space increased to 42,000 square meters and 550 exhibitors. This year’s show included 166,000 square meters of exhibit space and 2,000 exhibitors from 54 countries.

Exhibitors from China far outnumbered companies from other countries, but the international presence was strong and could be seen in all areas of the show. A few of the exhibitors that made the journey from the U.S. included Rock of Ages, Coldspring, Laser Products and Dakota Granite. Additionally, a variety of material from several quarries in the U.S. were displayed by their overseas owners, including RED Graniti (white marbles from Colorado, including Calacatta Lincoln), Bagnara (Silver Cloud) and Alabama Marble & Minerals (white marble from Alabama). Proving that there is a good reason to show these stones quarried in the U.S., Colorado Stone Quarries, a division of RED Graniti, recently supplied its material for a new Marriott hotel being built near the exhibition center.

While white stones were definitely a theme, as you would expect, there were many other products being showcased, including the semi-precious collection from Antolini, full ranges of Brazilian and Indian granite from a variety of suppliers from those nations, and many different manufactured quartz products showcased throughout the show. And the stones that were white weren’t just marble. There was also a selection of quartzites, granites and plenty of manufactured quartz throughout the halls of the show — all ranging from pure white to “having some white in there.”

A must-see event

When talking with several stone suppliers, they said they simply need to be at the Xiamen Stone Fair because “this is where the action is; economic growth, new materials, and all of my customers and competitors are here.”  In terms of the domestic economy, surprisingly, the Chinese are concerned about their growth rate because last year, their economy grew by only 7%. We heard this tentative fear from many of the Chinese and foreign exhibitors, and also from show management, whose goal is to achieve continued growth through the next decade. “We have so many exhibitors waiting to get a stand at our fair, with many Chinese companies on our waiting list and many foreign companies seeking to get into our fair as well,” explained Mr. Lai Guoxiang, show director. “Our expansion will allow us to meet this demand.” Their plan calls for three new exhibition halls and a total exhibition area of approximately 180,000 square meters in 2016.

Equipment and tooling are huge components of the Xiamen Stone Fair, with an entire building dedicated to tooling and areas inside and out contained large equipment for fabrication and quarrying. Several major quarriers were looking at large equipment investments, such as loaders, where the cost savings can be hundreds of thousands of dollars on Chinese machines. Most said that currently the savings don’t warrant the investment because the life of the equipment will not justify even the reduced costs. A major quarrier looking at these machines said some key components are not up to the quality level they need for the demanding job they perform.

Some tooling manufacturers and importers said they attend the show every year “to see what is happening over here. Sometimes there isn’t anything really that exciting, and sometimes I’m amazed that they are developing certain tools.”

Once again, Abirochas, the association of Brazilian stone producers, sponsored a special Brazilian churrascaria-style barbecue for the Brazilian exhibitors and their clients. Havaianas flip-flops were a nice gift for everyone who dined there. But more than the food, the Brazilians once again had a large presence at the show, with an organized pavilion showcasing their unique materials.

The Italians, not surprisingly, probably had the largest amount of exhibit space among foreign nations, with a contingent of stone suppliers and equipment manufacturers known throughout the world. Spanish companies were also represented in the international pavilion, although a leading Spanish stone quarrier, Levantina, strategically moved into the Chinese pavilion, specifically to market their own quarry of Crema Marfil to the domestic Chinese market.

Show management indicates plans to continue to expand its international educational seminars, which was already extended this past year to include sessions on design trends and international speakers. In conjunction with the stone fair, The World Stone Congress was held March 6 to 8 and included the Global Forum of Master Architects and a Stone Design Forum, among other education sessions. Along with expanded education, the show intends to offer more networking opportunities. Show organizers are engaging the U.S. and foreign countries, and they are marketing to this international market extensively in order to expand the international scope of the show. Stone Worldwill be there, and we hope to see you there in the future.