Natural stone's authenticity helps growth

Natural stone’s authenticity helps growth

Thursday, April 04, 2019 By Ryane DeFalco from Floor Covering Weekly daily

Stone sales have been slow to grow over the past year, according to Catalina Research. But the authenticity of natural stone offers unique and unparalleled benefits. The qualities of natural stone, from its luxurious look to its durability, make the product unlike anything else in the flooring market.

What makes stone special
Natural stone is a distinct choice for consumers, as no two slabs are exactly alike. While many tile and resilient offerings mirror the looks of stone, nothing is comparable to the real thing, according to suppliers. In fact, when it comes to the look and feel of natural stone, technology has helped the category grow.

“Stone is experiencing innovations regarding how the material is finished,” said Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president, Dal-Tile. “There are new methods and techniques to create different textures, finishes and shapes, creating unique visuals that have not been seen in the market before.”

Bart Bettiga, executive director of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), said the stone market continues to evolve. “The ability to source high quality stone from more countries and quarries is bringing new colors and styles to the U.S. Market,” he told FCW. “Products are being offered in different thicknesses and sizes as well.”

Category faces competition
With recent advancements in technology, many other flooring categories are incorporating realistic stone looks into offerings. Tile and resilient products have expanded stone-look products that are available at a cheaper price than natural stone, creating competition.

But Mattioli shared that the stone category is looking to rival look-alike products that are taking share. “Stone tile look-alike products, such as tile, poses a threat to stone tile due to their lower price and no maintenance attribute. To overcome this, we are working directly with the quarries to find direct sources and lower the cost,” Mattoli shared. “The tariffs imposed on Chinese products also create a challenge for the stone tile category. In response, we have explored other countries to find new sources.”

However, Mattoli added that stone mosaics have helped the category stay afloat. “Stone tile sales for the first quarter have been soft. However, the stone mosaic category has seen slight growth over [the] prior  year. Stone mosaic is the stone category with the most potential,” Mattoli predicted. He added that white and gray marbles and limestones are still very popular with consumers. Mattoli also spoke to how black visuals are growing in popularity.

“We are seeing big interest in blacks. Black minimalistic stones with little veins are very popular,” he said. “Also, basalt and black slates are seeing a comeback due to their contemporary and sophisticated look.”