I have been saying for what seems like forever, "we have re-entered the stone age." I'm talking about natural stone of course. Natural stone is millions of years old and has been used for thousands of years by man for various uses from weapons, tools, shelter, communications, art, and building materials. But in the most recent decades stone has exploded in its use as a preferred building material.
As old as stone is you would expect there to be more information about this industry. Until recently there has been relatively little statistical and marketing trend data available to help companies intelligently navigate their businesses through business threats and opportunities.
During the U.S. economic boom of the late 1990’s a trend began for using natural stone in residential construction. Whereas Americans were accustomed to seeing stone used in commercial applications, it was not as commonly used in middle-class homes.
Thanks to advancements in technology and improved methods of transportation, natural stone became more widely affordable and available to the public in the 1990’s. As a result, imports of stone increased and prices became more competitive and even more affordable to consumers. Eventually demand increased as people started asking their architects and contractors to put stone in their bathrooms instead of ceramic tile, and they wanted granite counter-tops in their kitchens.
As companies scrambled to get in on the action, I was regularly contacted by foreign producers that requested my consultative services to conduct product feasibility studies and business plans. In researching the data from various governmental agencies and other sources, I was surprised to find that there was little information about natural stone.
I saw an opportunity in this lack of information and I decided to take advantage of it. I contacted research expert and a peer of mine at the Floor Covering Institute, Stuart Hirschhorn, whose market research firm, Catalina Research, specializes in research for the construction material and building equipment sectors. Catalina research has provided vital statistical data for the ceramic tile industry and the overall floor covering industries for years. We agreed to collaborate on a report for the U.S. and Canadian markets, and thus was born the Stone Product Industry Report.
The Stone Products Industry Report
In July we celebrated the release of our third report, Natural and Manufactured Stone Product Industry Report 2010. It provides the most current statistics on granite, engineered stone, marble, limestone, travertine, sandstone, slate, manufactured stone (precast concrete), and other rough and fabricated dimension stone products. In addition, the report takes an in-depth look at the state of U.S. construction market and analyzes the potential uses of stone. Each section delivers meaningful data that assists stone industry executives to identify opportunities and to avoid potential pitfalls so they can grow their businesses and plan for the future.
The data for the report is collected from U.S. government agencies, proprietary research sources, industry surveys, and competitor intelligence sources in an organized and comprehensive way. Valuable information is offered on U.S. and Canadian production by stone types, shipments, exports, trends and forecasts; U.S. imports by countries of origin and stone types; stone quarry, processor and fabricator revenues, operating costs, capital expenditures, profitability and competitive environment; industry capital expenditures and machinery costs; U.S. economic factors affecting stone demand; U.S. construction of residential and non-residential buildings and household demographics; U.S. stone sales by end-use market and application. There are also sections specific to products such as counter-tops, engineered stone, pre-cast concrete stone, stone flooring, and more.
One of the key ways of gathering information about product trends was by conducting an online survey among leading U.S. importers, distributors and fabricators. Since the first report release in 2003, my company has created the survey sent it out to 2500+ industry leaders every other year through a web-based program. The results give us vital insight that we cannot otherwise collect, and adds a level of detail and credibility to the report.
Developing Strategies in Construction Markets
Research reports contain timely data that allows users to evaluate market size, growth potential, end-use markets, factors driving demand, profitability, market share, and the competitive environment. These reports are useful tools when developing strategies to take advantage of the current recovery in the residential remodeling market and the future rebound in new residential and non-residential construction markets, and to determine how to improve operating efficiency.
My advise is to you is to think outside the box. If the information you need is not readily available, don’t give up – the answers are there, you just need to find the right source to help you. A good place to start is calling upon resources within your industry such as the consultants at the Floor Covering Institute. I assure you, if we don't have the answer at our fingertips, we know who does.
Donato Pompo is founder of two well-known flooring industry companies focused on improving everything about ceramic tile and stone flooring and the businesses that produce and sell them. They are Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC) and the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS).