Ceramic: The pros and cons of natural stone

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Jan. 6/13, 2020: Volume 35, Issue 14

By Megan Salzano

Artistic Tile’s Verdi Alpi and Rosa Portugallo.

When it comes to natural stone, specialty retail has it tough. Not only is the product particularly unique, but it comes with a set of dos and don’ts consumers are often unaware of or afraid to deal with. However, natural stone has its advantages—i.e., higher profit margins, greater application opportunities, unique style and design.

To be successful with the category, retailers are tasked with educating themselves and the consumer on its pros and cons in order to facilitate a successful sale and installation. In an effort to help retailers in that endeavor, three suppliers gave FCNews their best advice on how to deal with the challenges of natural stone while also tapping the inherent advantages of the category.

Pros
High-growth potential
“From a retailer’s perspective, opportunity for consumers to splurge on natural stone is high across a number of categories—kitchen, bath and outdoor included. Stone continues to be a category that drives higher property perception and value and is desired by the end users—from homeowners to commercial clients.” Mara Villanueva-Heras, vice president of marketing, Emser

Expanding applications
“Natural stone adds tremendous value when used strategically. Mosaic floors and backsplashes are hugely popular today. They are stylish yet classic and come in an array of shapes, sizes and colors—many of which can’t be replicated in other materials. Natural stacked stone—3D walls—are also a show stopper.” Emily Holle, trend/design director, MSI

Sustainability
“Natural stone is inherently a green material, increasingly quarried in an ecologically responsible manner from areas with an abundant supply of stone. Quarries no longer in active use can be reclaimed and re-used in unique ways.” Josh Levinson, president, Artistic Tile

Pro/Con
Unique Visuals
“No two stones are alike; that’s the beauty of natural stone. It can also be a challenge as it requires understanding and appreciation for the individuality inherent in natural stone. It is a double-edged sword as some view the uniqueness of natural stone as a con, rather than a pro. Regardless, education and sales training are imperative in order to communicate the story of natural stone.” Villanueva-Heras, vice president of marketing, Emser

Cons
Consumer:
I’m worried about staining
“Natural stone can etch and stain, so stick to using the material in unique ways vs. whole house floor installations. Accent walls, master bathrooms, fireplaces—that’s where you can create a ‘wow’ moment.” Emily Holle, trend/design director, MSI

Consumer: Do I want a traditional look for my modern needs?
“Nothing will make an installation look more dated in 2025 than using man-made, imitative materials created in 2019 and installed in 2021. That same year, an installation of natural stone will be truly timeless. And, stone can be excitingly cutting edge and modern—new techniques in texturing and carving place natural stone at the forefront of today’s design. When working with stone—even those varieties that have long historical context—the skilled designer will know just how to create a modern attitude.” Josh Levinson, president, Artistic Tile

Consumer: The cost is too high
“Stone tile’s square foot price is frequently higher than many porcelain products. But, stone that is properly specified, installed and maintained will have a lifespan measured in decades, not in years. The difference between the visual appeal of a vintage floor of natural stone and one of man-made materials is real and worthy of consideration on many levels.” Josh Levinson, president, Artistic Tile

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