Cullifords looks forward to another bumper year for stone

James Semmens (left) and Oliver Webb

James Semmens (left) and Oliver Webb are looking forward to another bumper year.

Cullifords is a supplier of natural stones from markets all over the world. Specialising in marble, granite, quartzite, travertine, onyx and slate, it has earned its reputation as a specialist in the stone business over more than 50 years.

Boasting a stock of more than  3,000 materials at its Kingston-Upon-Thames yard, Directors Oliver Webb and James Semmens work to the same philosophy that Oliver’s uncle, Simon Sands, and Gerald Culliford did before them, bringing some of the world’s finest quality and most interesting stones to the UK and providing in-depth expertise and a first-class service to its customers.

Despite the effects of the pandemic and multiple lockdowns, Cullifords had its best ever November, helping to make 2021 one of the top five years in the company’s history.

Every product category performed strongly compared with previous years, resulting in an overall uplift across the entire business.

New introductions

2021 also saw Cullifords’ highest ever sales in porcelain slabs – up 330% on 2020.

Cullifords’ ceramic offering is responding to the growing demand and, having initially stocked 12mm thick surfaces, the collection has now expanded to include 6mm and 20mm slabs as the partnership with Fiandre Group develops.

Impressed by Fiandre’s commitment to producing top quality imagery and replication of natural stones, as well as offering excellent sampling and display support, Cullifords is excited to be collaborating with the Group.

Champions of full colour, full-bodied materials that show detail running through the slabs in the areas where veins should fold over the edges, the innovative technology used to manufacture the slabs is getting better with each new range.

New for this year is Seminato, a follow-on from the full-bodied terrazzo tile range, with the colours and dots following right through the slab.

The technology used harks back to how porcelain was made more than 50 years ago, with the same technology now starting to be used to produce marble effects, where the vein will be even more obvious when running through the material.

Natural Stone

Being fiercely passionate about the highest quality material in natural stone means sourcing from companies in the market, which are able to offer the highest quality blocks from a quarry.

“We are not a company that pushes down the price, and therefore the quality, to increase our own sales or margins. We would prefer to strive for better quality products whenever we can,” says Oliver Webb.

It is an approach and a philosophy that has led Cullifords to partner with Norwegian company Lundhs, which shares the same values when it comes to the production and marketing of stone products.

Cullifords is also working with Stonethica, another sustainable but high-quality product made from waste pieces of cut-to-size materials from the Carrara area of Italy.

Commenting on the increase of ceramic and quartz imitating natural stone and marketing the ‘natural’ look, Oliver Webb states: “We believe this is only benefiting natural stone sales – the more imagery out there of beautiful marbled bathrooms and kitchens, the more people ask for that type of product.

“So if we are able to offer these products across all durability and price points, we are able to capitalise on each prospect and enquiry that comes to us.

“Perhaps that’s why we saw all our product categories doing so well in the latter half of last year.”

Having also started this year with a bang, Cullifords has just completed resurfacing half of its Kingston-Upon-Thames yard, as well as installing new A-frames to make handling easier for the staff and viewing easier for customers, who can now see whole slabs and safely walk between them.

Sustainability

As part of Cullifords’ commitment to a more sustainable future, it has engaged with a company called The Sustainability Hub, which will be looking at the business in terms of supply chain and product origin through to disposal.

The results will inform the company and its customers about changes that can be made and products that can be switched to, making the industry more accountable towards a sustainable future.

Looking forward

With strong sales continuing in January, Cullifords is anticipating another bumper year ahead as lockdown projects start to reach the finishing stage.

China’s zero Covid policy could put pressure on quartz supplies in the market, although a good proportion of Cullifords’ quartz is the Radianz brand from Lotte, which is made in Korea, and Korea has been less affected by Covid than China.

Another area the company is focusing on is its restoration and dimensional stone supply, looked after by James and Oliver themselves.

They identify and supply limestone and granite façades, flooring and unusual dimensional pieces for many projects in central London and around the UK.

This is a part of the business seeing a major uplift in enquiries and new work is coming through in abundance. It is an area Cullifords will be looking to focus on more this year.

Oliver and James especially enjoy these types of projects, often involving prestigious buildings with requirements for stone that can stretch their minds and abilities in order to identify and source some of the trickier materials from around the world.

It is a challenge that, quite simply, they love!