The 2019 edition of the Marmomac fair in Verona, from 25 to 28 September, was held against a backdrop of not only an environment of deep unease at the growing market share of artificial stone at the expense if natural stone, but also clear signs of a global economic slowdown underway.
There is always a certain predictability about the Marmomac fair- a very large number of companies exhibit in the same pavilion as always and with the same stand design, with only minor modifications. This predictability, in fact, extends even further- most of the stones being exhibited are the same as last year (and the year before that), and usually are in the same finishes. After all, in the natural stone industry one cannot expect to see too many new stones, year after year.
Marmomac Verona 2019 - Designs
The question then arises in the mind of the serious visitor, client, buyer who potentially is planning to come to the fair - does he or she really need to walk a lot and tire himself/herself to see the same old stuff? The buyer, nowadays most of the time returning from the Cersaie fair in Bologne, where he/shehas done most if his/her business,and with perhaps a few hours scheduled for the natural stone part of the business at most, is probably reflecting- "Do I really need to exhaust myself walking so many kilometres just to see the same thing? I already have a line of sellers from everywhere outside my office everyday".
In other words, not only have consumer preferences changed, with natural stone being often considered somewhat old fashioned, the exhibitors, by and large, have just not made the same effort to innovate and do things really different to attract people. The buyers know this. And they are giving their answer by giving the industry the shoulder. That is why so many exhibitors of stone seemed dissapointed at the end of the fair.
In the machinery section of the fair, however, there was much more dynanism. Why so, if the world economy is slowing down? Quite simply, at least in Europe, and also USA, there is a severe shortage of skilled labour in the workshops. It is a structural shortage, not a temporary problem that will go away soon. Therefore, the European and American fabricators are seriously investing in the new generation of machinery that substitutes the expensive manual labour. For the fabricator it does not matter whether he is working with natural or artificial stone, investment in the new generation of CNC machines and others that give a higher quality end product, at a faster rate, and thus makes all the sense in the world.
That, in essence, explains Marmomac, Verona of 2019. Yes, there were some fabulous designs and awesome creative efforts, new textures and finishes too, and the video accompanying this article has tried to capture at least some of them. But unless the industry does serious innovation, the game is over for many.