Exhibitions : Marmomacc, Verona

This year saw the 50th of the annual Marmomacc exhibitions in Verona, Italy. It is firmly established as one of the world’s Big Four stone exhibitions and Europe’s main showcase. Once again it included a handful of British exhibitors.

Three of Britain’s main stone producers have become regulars at Marmomacc, held annually in Verona, Italy, and were back there again this year from 30 September to 3 October.

Burlington, from Cumbria, with its slates and limestones, led the way. Then Albion Stone, with its Portland limestone, and Forest of Dean Stone Firms, with its Forest Pennant, started exhibiting three years ago. Now one or two other British stone producers are also thinking of exhibiting at what is Europe’s main exhibition on the World stage.

The three exhibitors at the exhibition again this year say attitudes towards seeing the Union Jack of the United Kingdom in the stone halls has changed from surprise when it first appeared to taking more seriously now the idea of using British stone.

Nick Horton, the Managing Director of Forest of Dean Stone Firms, says his stand in Verona has always resulted in more sales, although until now they have been largely for projects in the UK. This year the company has introduced flame finished Blue Pennant paving from a new bed in the quarry.

In the past year marketing expert Holly Rogers has been recruited by Forest of Dean and Nick says the company’s aim at Marmomacc this year was redirected.

“This time I went with a more open mind and came away heartened, really. Chasing the dream of selling 10,000tonnes to China probably isn’t the way forward. The exhibition has crystalised my thoughts: the Mulberry-Burberry route is the way we want to go.” He means he wants to sell the stone as a luxury British item to customers in countries such as the USA and Japan, where a quality product from Britain has a perceived value.

Albion Stone Managing Director Michael Poultney says of Marmomacc: “We perceived there was a difference in visitors to the stand this time. There seemed to be more coming along with genuine interest, live projects or serious pricing enquiries. I think people were being more judicial with their time.”

Burlington Stone has a representative in the USA and already exports about half the stone it sells, mainly to the US, Middle East, Far East and Europe. It was showcasing its range of 11 stones in various finishes.

The company’s Sally Finney told NSS: “We find exhibiting at the Verona show an ideal platform from which to meet a lot of potential new international customers, along with having the opportunity to meet up with a large number of our existing customers from around the world.”

John Nolan’s Generix Facades rainscreen company, which recently took over the assets of stone processor Renaissance Stone Fabrication in Redditch, Worcestershire (see NSS September issue), also had its own stand in Verona as it aims to expand its business overseas. John says there was a lot of interest.

And, of course, there were UK representatives on the stands of manufacturers of quartz and other engineered stones, including Stephen Pike from the Marble & Granite Centre on the Lapitec stand.

Also in Verona from the UK were the representatives of the companies which sell imported machinery to the stone sector in the UK and Ireland.

One of them, Carl Sharkey, who heads Breton UK and Comandulli UK, also had his own stand there again as Laser Products Europe, which was looking for more customers in Europe for the American digital templaters that continue to grow in popularity.

Although a lot of stone processing machinery has been sold in the UK in the past year or so, and sales continue to be strong, the rest of Europe is not investing heavily, leaving the manufacturers tending to consolidate rather than innovate.

Cobalm, sold by Waters Group in the UK, had joined other CNC saw-makers by adding vacuum lift and another of the Waters Group marques, Montressor, was debuting an innovative water saving device on its Lola and Livra edge polishers. By adding air to the water the amount of water needed is reduced by about 40% to 60L/min.

Other than that, the main developments to be seen in Verona were previewed in the September issue of Natural Stone Specialist.

The UK representatives of the machinery manufacturers also seemed to be in the mood to consolidate. In the past few years they have often returned from Verona with new agencies or products, but after all the jostling they seem to have been generally content this year to reaffirm their existing relationships.

Only Stone Equipment International reported a major new agency after the show. It has now entered the water management market for the first time with the products of Italians Dal Prete (more about that in the water management report that starts on page 20 of this issue). And it has entered the market with a bang, having already sold its first system during Marmomacc to established customer Steve Buck of Marble Ideas. He was in Verona to buy his fourth four-axes Emmedue from Stone Equipment International. Andy Bell of the UK agents then showed Steve the water management system from Del Prete.

Steve told NSS: “I signed up for Del Prete and it’s going in in two weeks – there’s no messing about with me!”

Last year, D Zambelis took on board Italmecc water management systems and in Verona the company introduced new equipment that is now available from Zambelis. Again, more about that from page 20.

One new agency concluded before Marmomacc was that of Sasso by Pat Sharkey Engineering. Pat and his son Neil are already enjoying some considerable success in the UK with the marque and the K900 bridge saw with a lathe on the Sasso stand in Verona is now in the UK. It has been sold to Ian Lowes of Old Carlisle Stone Company in Wigton.

It is hoped to organise a demonstration day at the Old Carlisle Stone Company soon so that anyone else interested in buying the machine will be able to see it in action there. If you are interested email Pat or Neil at info@patsharkeyengineering.co.uk.

Pat told NSS there was in Verona also further keen interest in (and sales of) the dust extraction equipment supplied by Sigma Group.

And he was called to the Nuova Mondial Mec stand many times during the show to talk about the bench saws and monoblocs – Mondial Mec was one of very few companies showing simple bench saws.

“We have sold an abundance of Mondial machines over the last two years, with a real rush this spring,” said Pat. “With UK customers arriving at the Mondial stand in Verona, we were happy to conduct negotiations.”

On the Denver stand, where the new five-axes Tecnika was being introduced, Mark Brownless from UK agent Accurite, said: “There’s no doubt about it, people are spending on machinery in the UK.”

But there was a general feeling among the Brits in Verona this year that the exhibition was a bit quiet, especially on the final day (a Saturday) when it is opened up to the public. Italy is still suffering from the effects of its debt crisis, so perhaps the general population has little interest in seeing what it is not going to buy.

On the other hand, there was also a feeling that trade buyers were still out in force on the Saturday, whereas in the past they have tended to stay away at the weekend. Perhaps there is a bit more urgency among buyers. Certainly some of those from the UK were complaining about the difficulty of finding time to attend because they are so busy. Several said they had gone looking for new stones that would enable them to offer something unique to the market.

If it seemed as if there were fewer visitors, it has to be remembered that Marmomacc is a big show – there were 1,524 exhibitors on 77,000m2 of stands – so perhaps it is deceptive. The organisers say the exhibition attracted more than 67,000 visitors this time, 3% more than last year. They came from 150 countries.

The exhibitors also came from all over the World – 57% of them (9% more than last time) from outside Italy, with debuts from Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Cameroon, Venezuela and Georgia.

For the second consecutive year, Marmomacc was held in conjunction with Abitare il Tempo, Veronafiere’s event dedicated to contract, design and interior decor sectors.

Giovanni Mantovani, the CEO and Director General of VeronaFiere, said of Marmomacc afterwards: “The show achieved extremely high levels of internationality on all fronts, with significant increases even from geographic areas where we have already been directly and continuously active for many years.”

The next edition is scheduled 28 September-1 October 2016.