Retailers’ Guide to Stone – Natural Stone: Beautiful without breaking the bank

HomeInside FCNewsRetailers' Guide to Stone - Natural Stone: Beautiful without breaking the bank

June 9/16, 2014; Volume 27/Number 29

(Editor’s note: This is the sixth of a 10-part series on introducing flooring retailers to stone and the opportunities the category presents.)

Sponsored by Emser Tile

Natural stone may enjoy the reputation of being a high-end flooring product, but the reality is high end does not have to mean unattainable. Indeed, some flooring professionals say stone is more affordable than many customers think.

“It’s less about stone being high end and more about the perception that stone is exponentially more than ceramic in terms of the whole cost and installation,” said Bob Baldocchi, director of marketing at Emser Tile. “It is more affordable than it is given credit for, and the beauty lasts forever.”

Automated equipment cuts the stone in thinner slabs for less cost and, being lighter, it’s cheaper to transport. Today’s stone quarrying and processing technology is more efficient than ever.

Baldocchi doesn’t talk price when discussing the virtues of natural stone with retailers. Instead, he talks design, emphasizing the beauty and variations of the product, as well as the opportunity to sell a truly unique product.

David Stover, vice president at Grigsby’s Carpet Tile & Rug, Tulsa, Okla., carries a large assortment of natural stone products in his company’s two Oklahoma locations. He said most people want the look of stone but will tell a dealer upfront they can’t afford it. Stover and his staff are there to shift the conversation to the affordable ways consumers can get into the category.

“When someone comes to the [natural stone area], the reaction is either sticker shock on their part or they were expecting the higher price,” Stover said. “If someone is on the fence [about paying a little higher], we can convince them. We stock a decent amount of stone, and that brings the price down. Our chiseled travertine, which is our most popular product, is within a couple of dollars a foot of the manmade product.”

Consumers often can get into the natural stone category incrementally, starting with accent pieces—a 2 x 2 mosaic in a shower area or on a sink backsplash, for example. They can later add stone products to their collections. At Grigsby’s, a chiseled travertine in a 4 x 4 Versailles

pattern goes for about $10 a foot installed, not much different than ceramic tiles. However, a limestone may be $10 per foot just for the material. Some natural stone products require setting supplies and sealers over a standard installation, which adds to the overall cost.

For some dealers, the sales strategy for natural stone is similar to hardwood: The products you are purchasing will last and enhance the value of your home. People who view stone as an investment are more likely to look past the higher price tag because they recognize the inherent value.

Baldocchi suggests retailers carry a wide range of products and choices within those selections, covering entry level to high end. “You can capture those customers without being at the high, high end,” he said. “You can have a good/better/ best selection in your showroom and offer very reasonable items in terms of price. Start with your building blocks, have the 10 items everyone has and go from there.”

The cost of materials and the installation, depending on the type of stone used and the format size, may cost a lot more than ceramic, but it can also be only nominally higher and still affordable.

The affordability factor, along with the look and other enduring qualities of natural stone, give dealers something tangible to sell. “Natural stone is unique; no two tiles are the same, so you won’t get a repeat,” Stover said. “A lot of our customers love that.”

Baldocchi added, “You have to remember, travertine and marble were installed in European buildings from hundreds of years ago, and those floors are still being walked on today. Stone is forever.”

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