2017: Last of the Old Order?

Welcome to a new view on imports.

Did quartz surfaces overtake granite as the leading hard-surface import in the United States in 2017? No.

Will quartz surfaces be #1 on the list next year. Most likely.

Granite’s tenuous hold on the top spot ranks as the biggest story of U.S. hard-surface imports last year. but there are plenty of other stories in all the data amassed last year by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC). Stone Update sifted through screenfuls of spreadsheets to analyze the numbers and find the facts that matter.

Cover photo by chuttersnap

It’s a job that, in the past, involved squeezing tables of numbers on our website at stoneupdate.com. (You can find past reports here.) Since we’ve upgraded our game online with Stone Update Magazine, we decided to use the same format for the 2017 report. As with the magazine, it’s readable on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. (Some charts will need the ol’ finger-pinch expansion on mobiles.)

Because of various ways of measurements, we can’t produce a total volume of dimensional hard surfaces coming into the United States in 2017. We can put a price tag on it – or at least a dollar figure using declared customs values.

Before getting into individual sectors, a few definitions are in order.

• For each category (except quartz surfaces), the data represents total dimensional surfaces ready for fabrication and/or installation. This includes slabs and may include smaller cut pieces, such as tiles, of a particular surface. The Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) that classifies all U.S. imports goes into varying degrees of detail, and the analysis is adjusted accordingly. What’s not counted are manufactured products such as statuary or mosaics, nor are powders and other crushed products.

• Quartz surfaces gets separate treatment under the HTS as slab products only. It’s also measured in volume by square meters (converted for U.S. readers to square feet) instead of weight.

• “Worked” for granite and marble represents material that’s cut with one side polished, as defined in the HTS. That means the data excludes rough boulders and sawn blocks. The amount of rough/block granite shipped to the United States is insignificant – usually less than 3% of total granite imports – but the percentage is higher for marble for its use in statuary and other art. Using the “worked” data parallels the use of the surfaces by U.S. fabrication facilities.

• “Value” in all instances refers to the declared customs value of shipments arriving at U.S. ports-of-entry. These numbers are used for duty assessment by the United States (not including quartz slabs, which currently arrive duty-free). It’s the lowest value the surfaces will have and are in no way comparable to eventual wholesale or retail costs. However, the numbers offer a consistent way to measure perceived value by importers.

Thanks for your interest. For reporting on import data throughout 2018, be sure to follow us at stoneupdate.com and magazine.stonemag.com.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

Editor & Publisher

Stone Update Magazine

All data drawn from data sources at the U.S. International Trade Commission and analysis by Stone Update.