Third-Quarter 2019

Hard-Surface Imports

Need of a Lift?

Photo by Bernd Dittrich / Unsplash

The numbers show some softening
in volume and value.

By Emerson Schwartzkopf


Is the U.S. hard-surface market losing steam in 2019? Or, maybe for the third quarter of the year, some parts are taking a breather?


Except for one sector – marble – hard-surface imports trail last year’s third quarter. Most of the slowdown stems from China waning shipments from a variety of tariffs.


China’s all-but-total withdrawal from direct U.S.-bound shipments of quartz surfaces should’ve decimated that import sector. Other countries, however, stepped in to fill much of the gap.

Other sectors didn’t fare as well as shipments fell well behind third-quarter 2018 levels. Performance by country also fell into an odd mix-and-match pattern; Brazil, for example, made good gains in granite, marble and quartz, but slowed substantially in the other-stone category.


Let's go to the numbers. The following information comes from information released by the U.S. International Trade Commission, along with analysis by Stone Update. (Comparisons with 2018 data are shown in parentheses.)


All charts are interactive. Click on the "Third Quarter" tabs to compare 2019 and 2018; click on individual chart bars to see a specific country's data.

Quartz Slab

Volume

TOTAL

41,801,132 ft² (-16.4%)


Sector Leader

India, 14,167,790 ft² (369.3%)


The 300%-plus tariffs took China -- and 34 million ft² -- out of this year's third-quarter shipments. Other countries made up all but 8 million ft² of the quartz-slab trade deficit.


India continued its surge as the sector leader, with triple-digit growth from third-quarter 2018 also coming from Turkey, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Czech Republic, Germany and Belgium. (And, yes, that's an almost word-for-word repeat of the description of first-half 2019 shipments, excepting only Taiwan ... which grew by 1,748.7%.)

Value

TOTAL

$348,418,152 (-10.1%)


Sector Leader

India, $86,372,482 (355.2%)


The unfair-trade tariffs against China cut out $240.2 million out of this year's third-quarter equation. Plenty of other countries filled in nicely to limit overall damage to just a tad past 10%.


Besides China, the only major (>$1 miilon) countries running behind last year's third quarter were Israel ($24 million, -6.8%) and Portugal ($2.9 million, -18%). Taiwan's $8.5 million, meanwhile, signaled an acceration of 1,917.3%.

Worked Granite

Volume

TOTAL

366,157 metric tons (-6.2%)


Sector Leader

Brazil, 184,044 metric tons (5.9%)


Granite slid off the growth path in third-quarter 2019 despite another strong posting by leading U.S. source Brazil. The other two of granite's big three went into reverse in year-to-year growth -- China (-16.9%) and India (-9.1%).

Value

TOTAL

$222,287,974 (-2.7%)


Sector Leader

Brazil, $108,061,87 (7.2%)


If there's good news in negative numbers, consider that the value of granite shipments declined at a slower rate than actual tonnage. The average slab is worth more in third-quarter 2019, even if fewer of them passed through U.S. ports.


The good news on average didn't apply to all countries. In fact, the Misery Gap opened wide for China, as volume dropped 16.9% and value declined 20.4%.

Worked Marble

Volume

TOTAL

139,606 metric tons (5.7%)


Sector Leader

Turkey, 59,316 metric tons (27.4%)


Turkey came back this July-September with the boost to push past 2018 levels, surpassing less-than-stellar performances from India (up 1%) and Italy (down 5.2%).


China, meanwhile, pulled back, shipping 42.1% less than in last year's third quarter.

Value

TOTAL

$31,505,329 (-1.9%)


Sector Leader

Italy, $56,941,254 (-7.8%)


Italy's lower value of shipments and a massive decline by China (-42.9%) from 2018 negated year-to-year growth from Turkey (62.4%) and Brazil (55.4%).