the Natural Stone Show, London
The next Natural Stone Show will be in 2019, 30 April-2 May
The Natural Stone Show is held every two years at the ExCeL London exhibition centre in London's revitalised docklands near to the 02 Millennium Dome, which is just a short cable-car trip across the River Thames from ExCeL. The centre of London is a few minutes away on the Docklands Light Railway, the area's dedicated rail network, or by taxi.
The 2017 Natural Stone Show once again reflected the continuing growth in the use of stone in the UK and Ireland – for cladding commercial buildings and apartment blocks, for housebuilding, for commercial and domestic interiors and for hard landscaping. The number of companies exhibiting in 2017 was 239, up from 213 in 2015, in an extra 1,100m2 of exhibition space. It was not only more exhibitors that filled the space, but also larger stands, especially from the machinery and tools companies, which are enjoying the benefits of an investment boom as the stone industry makes the most of low interest rates and strong demand.
The moveable walls of the exhibition centre had to be pushed back to accommodate the extra exhibitors keen to show their products to the industry in the British Isles. There was more indigenous stone than the Show has ever seen before, as well as stone from across the world. The big European suppliers from Spain, Portugal and Italy had a major presence. The stand of Trans-European Stone, which sells Belgian Blue limestone, is pictured above. Chinese and Indians, who now supply about half the stone used in the UK, were out in strength.
Among the Portuguese companies was a new venture called Piramide Stone Solutions, which is already selling into France and now wants to expand into the UK. Sergio Machado on the company's stand said he had made useful contacts at the Show that he was sure would lead to sales.
A major change in the stone market, especially in interiors, is the incorporation of sintered and porcelain products, as well as the still-growing market share of engineered quartz. New ranges were introduced by CRL Stone, Granite Granite, Stoneware, Beltrami, Caesarstone and others.
Then there are all the tools, machinery and chemicals for sealing, cleaning and enhancing stone. There are the ancillary products to be seen for handling stone in the factory and onsite, controlling dust and recycling water. There are digital templaters and software solutions for integrating machinery and managing workflow, increasing productivity to make companies more competitive and profitable.
Richard Bradbury, Managing Director of QMJ Group, which owns and runs the Natural Stone Show, said afterwards: "If you want to be on the cutting edge of product and processing advances in the stone industry, the Stone Show is the place to be. At the same time, there is still a lot of natural stone used and there is a lot of it on show at the exhibition, both from the UK and overseas."
An integral feature of the Natural Stone Show is the Natural Stone & Building Conservation Conference run in conjnction with it in the conference rooms on the level above the Show hall at ExCeL. The conference is held on the three days of the exhibition, with each day themed. The first Day was Architect & Designer Day, a RIBA CPD-accredited event run in conjunction with Veronafiere and its Marmo+Mac Academy. There was a capacity 150 professionals at the seminars, which were broken up by a restaurant lunch, sponsored by British stone producers Albion Stone and Forest of Dean Stone Firms, and a guided tour of the Show. There were so many architects and designers this time that they were split into two groups for the tour. The groups were guided by international stone consultants Vince Marazita and Peter Harrison (Peter is the 2016-17 President of Euro-Roc).
The second day of the conference is Trade Day, run in conjunction with Stone Federation Great Britain, and the third day is Conservation Day, with Historic England. Stone Federation Great Britain was also at the centre of a stone 'Village', surrounded by its members showing their stones, products and services, and with an "Ask the Expert' counter on it, while Historic England hosted the Conservation Area of the exhibition.
The stone industry's memorial trade association, NAMM (National Association of Memorial Masons) also had a stand. One of the people on it was Diane Gregory, who became the organisation's 30-hour-a-week Office Manager in January, having previously worked for it as a temp.
News from the exhibition on the machinery side of the industry included the split of Breton in the UK from the LPE Group. Both sides say it is amicable and Michele Padovan (on the left), the Sales Manager of Breton, and Carl Sharkey, the Managing Director of LPE, posed for a picture together to demonstrate it.
The Breton team in the UK includes Gem Mallison and Darian Watson, who have transferred from LPE. Heading the new company is Fabio Bragagnolo.
Carl Sharkey and fellow LPE Director Simon Bradbury showed their Slabsmith software for the first time and introduced the Omni3 Stealth Seamer, a clamp for joining mitred worktops with a drop front. The Comandulli on the LPE stand was on its way to Planet Granite, whose Managing Director, Steve Murphy came to see it at the Show.
At D Zambelis, along with the £900,000-worth of Terzago saws sold by Jasper, Stella and Dimitri Zambelis with Terzago’s Giovanni Rigo (pictured sitting on the Terzago CUTe on the D Zambelis stand), new tooling for the latest engineered stones was being introduced as well as Dal Forno vacuum lifts.
Intermac exhibited with Donatoni following the merger of their marketing efforts last year, with Donatoni showing a Jet bridge saw and Intermac a Master 38.3. Also on the stand was Ted Allen of ETemplate demonstrating the digital templater that had been introduced to the UK on the Roccia stand at ExCeL in 2015.
Andy Bell of Stone Equipment International had a Discovery Plus five axes saw and two MarmoMeccanica edge polishers demonstrating the vertical and horizontal polishing options available, all of which were sold. Andy emailed a ‘thank you’ to everyone who visited his stand afterwards and commented: “WOW. What a show!”
SMC Stone Machinery was introducing itself to the stone industry, although the headline machinery it is now selling exclusively in the UK is not new to the sector – CMS Brembana CNC workcentres and waterjets and Montresor edge polishers. The Brembana on the stand was an Idroline waterjet.
Phil Birchall, who has sold Brembanas to the glass industry since 2007, now plans to increase sales in stone. Phil is pictured on the stand at the Stone Show flanked by Morgan Hinton (left) and Ivan Ponty, who are selling to the stone market.
Roccia Machinery was introducing the GMM Extra, which Arran Langford described as nice and simple like the Brio but a bit beefier, so it can carry a vacuum head and core drills.
A star performer of Pat Sharkey Engineering’s stable since the company took on the agency has been the Sasso range. Pictured on the right are Neil Sharkey and Kasia Koszkul, Nicholas Johnston’s assistant, in front of the Sasso K900 on its way to Johnston Quarry Group. Neil and Pat Sharkey's team on the stand included representatives of the manufacturers that Pat Sharkey Engineering is agent for in the UK, including Sasso, Dazzini wire saws (the one on the stand was on its way to DeLank granite quarry in Cornwall after the Show), Alpha pumps and Sigma dust extraction.
Pat Sharkey himself had personal reasons to be in a particularly good mood because he had been married two weeks earlier. "This is my honeymoon," he quipped. He is pictured here with his new wife, Marie-Noelle, who was with him on the stand during the exhibition.
Waters Group had representatives of many of the companies whose products it sells on its stand, including Aurelio Gramellini from Cobalm, pictured with Claire Daniel from Waters. There was also Jan Servaes from Deltatrack; Milo Boschetti from Bellinzoni; and Paul Castle from Flow. The Show saw the first appearance in public of two new recruits to Waters Group, Josh Read and Daniel Down. Josh Read is on the left of the picture on the left demonstrating Gorilla Grip seam setting clamps, and Daniel Down is talking about the Stonelux repair system.
On the Thibaut stand, a version three T818 was being demonstrated. After the Show it was being delivered to Landford Stone in Wiltshire and Director Clinton Rae went on to the Thibaut stand to see it while he was at the Stone Show. He is pictured on the stand (second right) with (left to right) Thomas Nolleau, Thibaut's Customer Services Co-ordinator, Jacques Thibaut and Yann Salaün, Thibaut’s export manager currently selling the machines to the UK while Thibaut recruits a replacement for Stephane Couteaud, who was previously covering the UK and has left the company.
Clinton said he will probably buy a T812 next and he wants the Octopod cordless, wireless vacuum pads that he is holding, an innovation from Thibaut.
Other machinery ranged from Hodge Clemco’s cleaning systems to the hefty Marchetti Axco CNC workcentre that has been sold to Meister Masonry in Gloucestershire.
Naturally, there was a lot of stone at the Show, much of it from overseas but also more from British quarries than ever before from companies such as Gallagher’s Kentish Ragstone, Lovell Stone Group, Bath Stone Group, Doulting Stone, Caithness Flagstone and, from Wales, Gwrhyd and Welsh Slate.
Welsh Slate introduced its new logo for its architectural stone range incorporating the stylised ‘L’ of the Lagan Group of which it is part.
The stand of Lovell Stone Group was visited by three of the four Bath College students who produced carvings in Lovell's Hartham Park Bath stone that were on the stand. Visitors were being asked to judge which one they liked best with the winner being presented with a cash prize after the Show.
As mentioned above, there were more engineered products than ever, marking the growth of these products in the stone sector. Geoluxe was introduced by Stoneware. There was Ceralsio porcelain from CRL Stone, which also introduced its newly launched range of CRL Quartz. And Cambria, sold in the UK by stone wholesaler Granite Granite, was one of the busiest stands.
CRL Stone (pictured left) was exhibiting its full range of 60 colours and finishes of porcelain and quartz surfaces for the first time and said it had enjoyed a hugely successful trip to London’s Excel for the Show.
It said afterwards that fabricators, architects, designers, developers and retailers had flooded the stand throughout the three-day event, keen to see the complete range of surfaces and learn more about the benefits of specifying quartz and porcelain for a wide range of applications.
Caesarstone, which this year opened its own warehouse just inside the M25, is building up a database of processors and customers. Newly recruited salesmen Gareth Lowden and Sam Penny introduced themselves and said they had added 154 active leads at the Show.
Beltrami introduced Sapienstone and also showed its engineered quartz and composite marble on a stand it shared with Stoneasy, its sister company that enables stone companies to buy directly from quarries around the World. Pictured on the stand are (left to right) Olivier Clement, Export Manager of Sapienstone, Martin Dolby, who heads Beltrami in the UK, Charlotte Verschueren, who covers the UK market for Stoneasy, and Herwig Callewier, who heads it all from the Beltrami headquarters in Belgium.
If you were flagging, Stonegate had energy drinks to revitalise your interest in its tools, some of which are specially made for working Dekton.
Ardex had just what you need to make stone stick and Dry Treat was among the companies showing products for sealing, cleaning and enhancing stone.
There were 25 Chinese companies looking to make a mark in the UK market and those from India included a newly formed company called Neosouth. In the UK, it is based in Milton Keynes. On the stand (pictured left) were Arjun Asaithambi, representing the factory in India, and Ravi Leo Onthriar, who is based at Milton Keynes.
That is just a taste of what there was to see at the Natural Stone Show in 2017. There are more pictures and information on the the Stone Show website. The Show, which has been going since 1995, will be back at ExCeL 30 April-2 May in 2019. If you would like to exhibit, call Anna Gibiino on +44 (0)115 945 3898.