Published in February, 2007
Ask any businessman in the stone industry from any country the question "Is stone a luxury product?", and the most likely answer will be an immediate "Of course, yes!" But it would be an automatic reply done without any reflection, almost as if the person was programmed to give this answer. Ask further: "Is natural stone being sold like a luxury product?" Once again, almost unanimously, in every country, the answer will also be an immediate "No, it is not".
Now ask a third question: "Why is natural stone not being sold as a luxury product?" This time there will usually be a long silence and the answers will vary too. Some will confess they do not know the answer. Others, after some reflection, will confess the fault is of the stone industry itself, it does not know how to do so. A few, very few, will even say "There is no need for it".
Ask the question: "Whose responsibility is it that natural stone be sold as a luxury product?" One gets interesting answers. The small workshops tend to say "The responsibility lies with the big companies. It is they who have the resources to make an effort to present natural stone in a better light. We, the small companies, have no money for all this". In others, total abdication of responsibility. The big companies think differently. The answer is in the direction of "The responsibility is of the small workshops. They, after all, are in direct contact with the public; it is they who deal with final buyer, not us.
Therefore, it is they who should take care to present their products in a favourable way, enhancing the positive image that the general public already has of natural stone. We, the big companies, mostly do not deal with the final buyer, only in the case of big projects." Another abdication of responsibility.
Some people, both from big and small companies, will also say "The responsibility is of the associations". Another abdication of responsibility, to say the least.
There is, in other words, a complete lack of dialogue in the stone industry, everywhere. There is no debate, no discussion, no common sense of defining whether natural stone is a luxury product, how natural stone is positioned as compared to the alternatives in its different applications, what is it that constitutes a luxury product, whether there is even a need for marketing it, for selling it as a luxury product.
Is it not time that we began this dialogue, this debate, in a serious way? Or should we wait until there is a real crisis, and the companies, both big and small, are lacking in orders?
Opinions on this matter are welcome.