Machinery: Andy Bell, proprietor of Stone Equipment International / National Masonry, comments

Andy Bell: "We feel that we have put solutions in place to keep our business stable in the Brexit transition period."

From the new premises of Stone Equipment International / National Masonry in St Helen Auckland, Co Durham, proprietor Andy Bell reflects on the UK stone market and how his company is helping stone processors.

We began to see signs of a slow down earlier this year, and it’s now clear to most that Brexit will effect everyone who is importing machinery or materials, so we were already looking at how to modify our sales strategy from the first quarter.

We are getting three or four calls a month from companies that have decided to cease trading and ask us to help with the sale of their stone equipment, machinery and assets in preparation for closure. This is bound to set the mood for our market's immediate future.

Most machinery companies will have seen a decrease in sales on new equipment, and we are no exception. People seem keen to buy but slow to commit. Fortunately, we can offer very good deals on part exchange. And in addition to catering for all price brackets on new machines, our used machinery department is doing very well – as tends to be the case when times are tougher.

We have been selling new equipment for the past 25 years and are fortunate enough to represent some particularly reputable brands. However, we are historically known for source and supply of used equipment and are often the first port of call for companies that have something to move on.

We have made this an integral part of our business over the years and now pride ourselves on the quality of our reconditioned units. Our dedicated reconditioning technician is set to be very busy well into next year as our reconditioned edge polishers often sell within an hour of being live on our website. Our customers know the quality of our reconditioning capabilities and that each unit is stripped right down, professionally blasted and painted and built back up from scratch. That gives our customers reassurance in what they are buying. This becomes ever more important in a difficult market.

Our tried and tested industry favourite, Marmo Meccanica, has continued to perform well this year from the entry level models up to the top of the range. The latest update to the LCV711 is the vertical LCV733 which is still a small a machine but uses support roller technology to polish island units of 3.5m x 2.5m. Not only does it eradicate the slab size problem but the pieces come off the machine with polished chamfers. We are due to install our first LCV733 in Warrington in September.

The latest additions to our Emmedue range are the Polar, a five axes machine with an XL blade for architectural jobs and the Emmedue Globo.

The Globo features a CNC head and saw head on one machine, which will make a real difference to the pocket and the efficiency of small businesses. The Globo really is our Brexit buster with the capacity to be fitted with two or more tables separated by a sliding safety door. In businesses with fewer men working this means that while one piece is being processed the other table can be loaded and ready to go, improving the workplace capability that can be essential for smaller operations. 

The Globo ranges from £160,00 to £230,000, depending on the specification, and really is a friend to SME’s that may struggle more when we leave Europe. This could be a game changer for many businesses who want to move forward without the expense of investing in two separate machines.

Emmedue have been installing this machine in Italy for years and with three full time engineers onboard, we are now in a position to be able to do the same and offer servicing and backup.

While many companies are battening down the hatches, our business has always grown with investment and we have continued to put resources into our newsletter, which is sent out multiple times a week as new machines become available. And it enjoys a 20% open rate. We have overhauled our data to ensure that the 2,300+ newsletter contacts are GDPR compliant and are delighted with the visits to our website with over 1,700 visitors a month and an average session time of more than three minutes. 

An integral part of our strategy for this year was our new website, which went live at the end of August. will still host information about our new machines and other products, but much like the name suggests, our new website will be dedicated to people that want to sell used equipment, whatever it may be. It's designed to be quick and user friendly so once the machine details have been entered by the seller, we can give a quick turn-around for a price and sale.

Sellers can upload video and images of the machine if they wish and we offer either an outright purchase or to act as a broker and sell the machine through the website on their behalf.

We get requests daily for all different brands of used equipment. These calls are logged so that anyone on our priority list will be on first refusal before the general availability newsletter is sent out. We have created a digital shop window for sellers that both facilitates a quick and easy sale and frees up space for a new machine in their premises. And it is a platform for buyers to search specifically for what they are interested in.   This saves everyone time and money and makes the whole process smoother and more productive.

We feel that we have put solutions in place to keep our business stable in the Brexit transition period, with our aim being to move more equipment nationally. We can cater for all budgets and brands and enjoy great customer retention from companies that may come to us for a used machine when they first start out, and upgrade their equipment with a part exchange with us as their business develops.

We are fortunate enough to have the full support of our suppliers, EmmeDue and Marmo Meccanica, and we have no doubt that these brands will continue to be popular, despite restrictions that may be imposed on our exit from Europe.