December 2023, from Hard-Surface Report

The General View: December continues the calming trend for U.S. hard-surface imports, with the $373.9 million in customs value showing a slight increase – 2.2% — in a year-over-year comparison. The huge annual and monthly drop-offs look to be over. While last December did trail November, the margin was within a seasonal year-end range of less than 3%.

The Expected: Quartz-surface-import levels in volume appear to be smoothing out the wild ride of late 2022 and early 2023, when an overall slowdown in imports and a huge pullback from India over fears of a massive increase in unfair-trade tariffs created some terrible year-over-year comparisons. The numbers swing to the positive in December, with the 15.8 million ft² coming through U.S. ports-of-entry beating December 2022 by 28.5%. Much of that comes from India, where its 5.1 million ft² for December 2023 is a massive 83% better than 12 months earlier.

The Unexpected: That dramatic increase in quartz-surface volume came at a cost – literally. In December 2023, the customs value-per-square-foot of imported quartz surfaces was $7.02. In December 2022, that per-square-foot value was $8.37. In 12 months, average value-per-unit dropped by 15.6%.

The Strange: In 2023, Turkey and Canada staged a virtual dogfight over which country would ship the most other-calcareous stone to the United States. Turkey easily led in the first quarter, only to be overtaken by Canada in early summer. A big surge by Turkey in December put its annual U.S. exports at 21,720 metric tons … with Canada falling only 333 metric tons short of the mark.

Next Month: December data for all sectors show a leveling-out of monthly product flow coming through U.S. ports of entry. The numbers aren’t as good as the 2021-2022 post-pandemic boom, but at least there’s a growth trend across the board – something that wasn’t happening, in natural stone anyway, in the years before COVID-19.