What began as an article on how the coronavirus was affecting the natural stone industry and published below on 12 March, is now being converted into a BLOG, updated frequently, in the form of comments by industry professionals on the current situation as they see it on that day. There is too much uncertainty everywhere to go beyond this.
7 April, 2020
Giovani Araldi, Santo Antonio Granite, Brazil
It is time to review overhead costs, sales strategies , re-budget , re-think and re-invent our business model . Every sector is facing serious problems affecting our daily business – Brazilian export oriented factories are facing an unprecedented situation – suddenly most orders are on standby or cancelled , some customers are asking to extend payment terms from their suppliers, and ordering only that which is extremely necessary for the builder programs. Unless the U.S. government implements a positive agenda to incentivise and boost the economy and the construction industry, we in Brazil may facing the toughest times. U.S.A. is the main market for Brazilian stones.
In the other hands , new possibilities are coming up to change our sales platform , such as on-line sales inventory , virtual show-room tour , video conferences and social media tools to improving our copy writing , branding , BI data analysis among other technologies to reach out to our audience. This is not the time to complain but to act: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade” … or caipirinha! "
6 April, 2020
Anders Leidefalk, Scandinavian Stone, Sweden
No lockdown yet, we are working in the office or, in our case, working in the quarries is OK as long as one does not show any symptoms.
We see a drop in new orders from some markets especially Poland where we have heard cemeteries are closed. Not even work on the monuments is possible which leads our customer to stop production.
But our domestic market, especially for building products, is still quite OK so we deliver stone every week to masonries around Sweden.
Shipments to some export markets in Europe is still taking place but in slower pace.
We have run our quarries so far full time and are open for business. But that said, in this situation we take it week by week and it might be that we may also need to reduce activity.
3 April, 2020
Dariusz Duda, Focus Stone, Poland
While the lockdown is not as total as in south European countries, business activity is reduced, perhaps around 30% of normal. Supplies from other countries is currently a problem so companies are selling from their stocks. Some containers are stuck in the ports because the Polish buyer has not made payment, perhaps waiting to see how the situation develops.
25 March, 2020
Haseena Zaki Chakkiwala, Quality Marble Exports, India
From 25th of March, the Indian stone industry, as every other Indian industry has suspended entire operations owing to Government directives to contain the pandemic. This includes quarry activities, processing facilities, allied logistics, administrative offices. The initial spurt in demand for Indian stones owing to disruption of Chinese supplies was diluted as the target markets themselves got locked down. Staffers working from home are floating enquiries, with the knowledge that production and supply worldwide will occur only once the crisis is over. The world is on a standstill. Construction and hence stone trade can wait, humanity has to go on, safety first is the current mantra.
23 March, 2020
Jeffrey Matthews, Trade Intl, USA
Projects are still working but limitation is there on the number of workers available. Many companies in general may not weather this medical emergency and don’t have the reserve finances in place to help them. Most stone offices and showrooms are now closing for lack of customers and the stay at home rules are forcing it to happen, as well as financial concerns related to afford remodeling is also taking a toll.
Carmen Maria García Sanchez, Marmoles Sol, Spain
First, all our support to all in this tough situation, all of us are in this together. We will see a complete change in our industry and in the economic situation. For now the orders have been paralysed for floorings, and the order for slabs will gradually come down which means in a week time we will have very little work in our industry.
21 March, 2020
Claude Gargi, Pierre Actual, France
Step by step the French stone industry is stopping its activities. It is difficult to know what to do because the Governement asks people to stay at home but also wants that the companies continue to produce and install.
20 March, 2020
Rakesh Sharma, SK Intl, India
It is a global problem. One should be careful about being healthy and keeping family and friends healthy as well. Businesses are badly affected and looks like the worst is still to come. Global economy will be in a bad situation. One has to be careful and keep low for the time being.
Heikki Palin, Palin Granit,Finland
The quarries in Finland are working. Self inspection of blocks has increased compared to before. Chinese block inspectors have started applying for visas.
12 March, 2020
To say that the coronavirus (also known as Covid-19) has dramatically changed the outlook for the world economy would be an understatement. For all the uncertainty about whether it will spread or not in the next few weeks, it has already changed the prospects for stone companies all over the world. We asked industry professionals from several countries the following question:
"As of mid - March, how is the stone industry around you being affected, and how do you see the prospects going forward? "
Below are their replies:
Ali Sayakci, Sayakci Stone, Turkey
We are seeing the first lights of recovery from the Chinese market. Because of travel restrictions most of the market is on halt. India has started to slow down. If the situation triggers a global recession or a credit crunch things will worsen starting from the West.
Fanel Videanu, Theda Mar, Romania
Romania seems not affected at all so far. However, the volatility seems high and rapid changes might be seen.
Francisco Segura, Piedra Paloma, Spain
For now the demand continues to be good, but we think the market will fall before summer.
Herwig Callewier, Brachot Group, Belgium
The business in the BRACHOT group is not that much affected yet as we mainly work with materials that we hold in stock. For the Chinese materials, we always put more stock at the end of each year as we know that during and up to one month after Chinese New Year the supplies are weak. Of course this year, we will run out of stock on certain fast-selling Chinese products.
The situation in China seems to be coming back to normal (except for the Hubei materials such as TALILA GREY and ARDESIA NERA where production is still on hold): most factories have started production again but there’s a lack of labor. I suppose a lot of migrant labor have not returned to their previous employer which causes big disruption.
Since this week, we feel the impact of the Italian lockdown: most of our suppliers are still working but it is difficult to find transport companies to collect our orders. We have increased production in our Belgian and South African facilities. We also fear a shortage of tools and abrasives due to the problems in China and Italy – this could affect our own productions all over the world.
Most of our customers still have good order books but it is clear that the corona crisis will also hit the real estate business, which will lead to a serious slowdown of the building industry in Europe. For the time being, the investments that have been decided in our group such as the refurbishment of our Head Office in Belgium, the new Stone Gallery and the renovation of our Paris depot, still go ahead as planned. We have to see how big the impact of the corona crisis will be on this year’s turnover and results before we change our investment plans.
Jeffrey Matthews, Trade Intl, USA
Travel and trade shows have been reduced to a standstill. Most people are canceling meetings. Many meetings are moving to conference and video conferencing and many large corporations are telling people to work from home, if possible.
Economy is slowing down and recession here is imminent. To what degree depends on how the Fed handles it. Stock market is off 15% and all profits for the year are lost. Construction is still moving forward and now with the Fed new interest rate, which it has lowered, this has given added incentives for home sales to increase. Commercial construction is still moving forward, no real affect yet, but time will tell. Most things are still too new with this virus.
It is too soon to really tell how this will affect the stone industry.
Kaliannan C, Metal Management, India
Block exports to China and Italy have been affected and slab exports to Europe are also affected. US is OK so far. Monument business is also OK. As far as inspectors is concerned, self inspection is going on and there is no effect of virus , but buyers visits are getting postponed.
Kalit Bhandari, Shree Rishabh Marmo & Granite, India
Exports are being affected badly due to fall of demand from Europe and especially from China. Most of the projects are suspended. Logistics is another issue as there is uncertainty in sea and air cargo.
Mikhael Selezniov, Vozrozhdenie, Russia
Russian stone market is different from the rest of the world. We use stone mainly in road building and city amenities and the main Customer is the Russian state. So in my opinion there will be no direct impact in this sector.
Traditionally Russia imports high value tombstones from China. Now it is become more problematic. Deliveries are postponed and price is higher (because of the exchanging rate of ruble to $). Importers will feel this inconvenience. For the local quarry companies and processing companies working in the funeral sector this is a chance to strengthen their position, at least in 2020. Many Russian customers try to buy tombstones before June because of the Russian Christian Orthodox tradition. But if the prices go up maybe people will prefer artificial materials.
In the Premium segment slabs and finished products made of precious and semi-precious stones come not only from China but from different countries. But this sector is not so big in Russia.
Russia is not a stone export oriented country. That is why it will not feel the effect of lack of ships and containers to China or other countries.
Who will feel the effect?
Companies which purchase machinery and tools from China are noting the delay in deliveries. Since the consumption of tools is not going down Russians will try to find alternative suppliers, maybe even from Russia. The prices will probably be higher. So the situation can be good for domestic producers and alternative suppliers.
My opinion that the direct impact on stone business is not so evident in Russia at least for now. In the future we will probably feel both impacts, negative and positive. The situation is not dramatic.
Patrick Perus, Polycor, Canada
So far this has not affected us in a meaningful way. But the US is just at the beginning of the pandemic, so who knows what will happen. Your guess is as good as mine. We expect a severe and short downturn, hopefully followed by a catch-up phase.
Paulo F. Giafarov, DGG Stones, Brazil
As of now the local market is not affected. The exporters continue to get orders for now though I have heard of US customers asking their Brazilian suppliers to keep the orders on hold. However, the situation could change soon. If people in USA stay at home and do not go to the warehouse to buy slabs, business will come to a halt.
Pawel Bereza, Pamir, Poland
Till now the stone industry in Poland has not been affected and it has been normal activity. We shifted our suppliers to Spain because of lack of supplies from China. But now there is uncertainty and it is too early to make predictions.
Saket Hans, Ohm Int'l, USA
Business will get affected. It hasn’t started to as yet, but am sure that there are events happening in the background which will affect our future business. The panic in the market is bound to cause issues. I predict a short but steep global recession. We cannot afford it to last long, but hopefully it’s long enough, and yet short enough, to clean the marketplace. But it will come. The length will depend on the governments and how disciplined the people are. There will be collateral damage too. Overall, it will be a bad year. Our business, like a bunch of others, depend heavily on travel. With no travel, the effects will show up in the short and long term.
Yasser Al Ajmi, Al Ajmi Marble, Oman
Coronavirus with its new version is hitting hard most of the industries. As natural stone industry we are not far away from these industries and the fact is that the fast reactions to the spread of coronavirus holds most of the key. All plans are on hold for now. In the beginning of the coronavirus issue during Feb 2020 I thought that the this issue would increase the demand for other materials out of China but the fact is that coronavirus is a global issue and it has hit everybody.
There is some light down the tunnel. Some steps must be taken. You have to make the maximum use of these measures. Go back to your factory and do full major maintenance. Look at your old stock and review it. Do not travel and stay with your employees. Run company at minimum cost.
China has started managing the coronavirus and South Korea is on its way. We must salute them and learn from them. I am hoping that summer will come back normally and the sun will rise shortly. It is a matter of weeks or months.
By the way buy some shares. It is an excellent time to do that.
Z. Safarikova, Kamen Engineering, Czech Republic
We are working as usual till now. Difficult to say what will be happen in future Yesterday we loaded a truck in Italy and hopefully it will arrive tomorrow or on Monday. Italian companies are still working but it is possible that they will stop working from next Monday. The situation is changing very quickly.