Malcolm Gough, Group Sales & Marketing Director Talasey Group is BMBI’s Expert for Natural Stone Landscaping Products, Vitrified Paving & Artificial Grass.
Held back by the uncertainty overhanging Brexit, overall performance in quarter three has been flat. However, there were significant differences between product performances within the category.
The continuing success of porcelain is starting to impact on sales of natural stone. With pressure to reduce prices, some suppliers are compromising the specification of stone project packs. But thinner slabs (some are pared down to 18mm) can lead to through-bed staining, and smaller slab sizes lead to patios taking longer to piece together and using more jointing compound. Ultimately, such compromises mean quality will suffer.
Shipping rates are still fairly flat and interest rates are still favourable, so some suppliers are taking the opportunity to buy in cheaper porcelains from India and Poland. This could ultimately be a decision their customers regret.
Sales of natural stone for patios are also being affected by the increasing popularity of composite decking. Specifications of ceramics are also under pressure as cheaper and inferior alternatives to Italian products are being used in some areas.
For a very different product story, the demand for quality artificial grass is still rising. Homeowners seem happy to pay for higher quality and the product has become part of every professional landscaper’s portfolio. For homeowners, not having to give up their own valuable time to mow their lawn or pay to bring in someone else to do it is a big benefit.
More merchants want to display landscaping materials – particularly attractive porcelain – and get the right product training. Both are important as the pressure from online landscaping websites is growing by offering direct delivery. But, homeowners want to look and touch quality products, and ask the questions that help them decide.
Performance over the next 3-6 months is very weather dependent, but this is the sector’s traditional pattern, and merchants will be destocking and planning new lines for next year.
In this flat and difficult climate, we’re proud to say that Talasey has had a year of growth, and we look forward to our new products and a new brochure helping customers grow in 2020.