August 2021: Overview

The General View: August marks a break in the rise of custom values of U.S. hard-surface imports, although the change from July is more of a dip – 2.1% -- than a dramatic decline. At $483 million in August, shipments remain relatively strong. The Expected: The year-to-year growth rates from 2020 to now are getting smaller with each passing month. That’s no surprise, given the sudden shift from the moribund import rates of last year’s fist half to the boom in consumer demand (due to construction and remodeling) in the latter part of 2020. The Unexpected: One of the hottest stone sectors hit the brakes in August, as the 71,013 metric tons in marble shipments declined almost 15 percent from July’s 83,404 t. The big cause here is Turkey, with its August volume showing a 30.5 month-to-month drop from July. Of the top five exporters to the United States, only India made a significant (11.5%) increase in the marble flow. The Strange: Maybe not so much strange as distressing; granite’s recovery isn’t keeping pace with other major sectors. Import volume in August only grew 3.8% from the same time last year, compared with 39.9% for quartz slab and 14.7% for porcelain. Granite’s year-to-year customs value in August increased by 10.1%, making for a higher per-unit value for some good news. Next Month: It gets tiresome to keep saying there’s a slowdown coming in the hard-surfaces market, and being the lone gloom-spreader amid growth. Quartz slab’s downturn in July changed directions in August, and the slight dip in overall value could switch directions in September. Import demand usually tails off as the autumn leaves fall, so expect some smaller numbers … and watch the shrinkage carefully.