Beginning to see the light

This year´s PIEDRA exhibition, held from 5 - 8 May in Madrid, was a lot smaller than previous editions but still with plenty of interest on an international scale.

With 191 direct exhibitors in Hall 9, the overall atmosphere at PIEDRA 2010 was nevertheless positive with a feeling that 'the worst is now behind us'. There had been 420 direct exhibitors in four halls in May 2008 and 536 exhibitors in May 2006. Since those happy days the Spanish stone industry has been hit by a 'triple whammy' - a virtual standstill in new construction, the world financial crisis, and the reluctance of many Spanish banks to extend credit. As Manuel Sanchez Perez, President of the Spanish Natural Stone Federation ( FDP ), noted in his address to the exhibitors and visitors to PIEDRA 2010, 'The economic crisis that is affecting Spain should give the domestic stone industry cause for reflection and encourage companies to introduce new promotional strategies for a sector of the economy that is based on a wealth of geological resources and high levels of technological and professional know-how'.

Positive factors
With all companies in the sector, large and small, having to appraise promotional budgets very carefully, it is not so surprising that some industry majors chose not to book a stand in Madrid. Levantina and Ingemar from Spain, for example, whereas Cosentino ( under the name Silestone by Cosentino ) did have a stand. The major diamond toolmakers whose products are vital in the extraction and processing of stone are likewise choosing to exhibit at only the biggest stone shows - today that means MARMOMACC in Verona and Xiamen in China.

With the proviso that the global financial system remains far from stable, the Spanish natural stone industry has positive factors working in its favour. Several materials are world renowned and buyers can rely on an assured supply from companies with an impeccable pedigree. Marble, limestone, granite, slate and sandstone are extracted from active quarries. At one time PIEDRA was regarded by some as a ´purely regional exhibition ´ however this is certainly not the case. At PIEDRA 2010 over 80 exhibitors came from outside Spain, including 8 from Germany, 27 from Italy, 2 from France, 25 from China, 2 from Brazil, 5 from India, 10 from Portugal, 3 from Turkey, 3 from Egypt, 1 from the Netherlands and 1 from the UK.

As at previous editions, various supporting events took place during the duiration of PIEDRA 2010. These included the International Architecture Award staged by Fair organizers IFEMA and the FDP, whose purpose is to recognise the use of Spanish natural stone in both Spanish and foreign projects. The Grand Projects 2010-2011 Architecture Forum was another key event. PIEDRA provided the setting for meetings and conferences that tackled some of the key issues within the industry, such as approving new standards whose drafts had been submitted to the CEN/TC 246 Committee earlier. This was the first time that such a meeting had been organized outside Italy. It should be mentioned also that PIEDRA 2010 took place simultaneously with VETECO International Window, Curtain Walls & Structural Glass Exhibition.

Some opinions
According to LITOS, a leading Spanish stone trade journal with an international circulation, 'There is a feeling of optimism in the stone industry. Demand is picking up everywhere in the world'. However for Spain the journal notes also that 'The construction industry is still practically dead and many banks are not even fulfilling the basic functions of a financial institution'. A spokesman for the Spanish diamond toolmaking company DiamStone thought that it would take another two years before there would be a significant upturn in their sales on the domestic market. However the representative of Dr Fritsch's powder sales division reported ´ reasonable sales in Spain and Portugal. We have faith in the future for both these geographical markets'. Spanish granite company Granilouro has bucked the trend and has enjoyed great success in paving projects in Madrid and elsewhere. With Polywire machines from Pellegrini Meccanica already installed, a year or so ago Granilouro took delivery of a slabbing machine from Barsanti of Italy that has 80 diamond wires. What happens at CARRARAMARMOTEC will be the next market indicator.

Paul Daniel