June 2021: Overview

The General View: The U.S. consumer price index is showing inflation at 5.4%. Construction-lumber supply is spotty and expensive. Container shippers are demanding rates 400% or more from previous years … and getting them. And yet there’s still no general slowdown in hard-surface imports. The Expected: In 2021, it’s become the norm that each successive month sets a record of sorts. June’s $470.9 million in customs value for U.S. hard-surface imports tops the previous month, the previous June, and any previous month, period. All sectors increased from May 2021, except for travertine as it dropped 6.2%. The Unexpected: Two of the top five quartz-slab exporters to the United States lost ground from May to June. Vietnam’s 3.0 million ft² only slowed by 1.6% month-to-month, but India shipments dropped 11.1%. India’s 4.2 million ft² still led all other countries; Spain and Turkey more than made up the slack, as the sector moved up 5.6% overall from May. The Strange: Somebody’s not fazed by those 300%-plus tariffs on quartz-surfaces from China. Totals are nowhere near the millions of square feet of pre-tariff volume, but the 52,377 ft² sent to the United States in June marks a 223.1% increase from the same time last year. One or two Chinese quartz suppliers also showed up at both TISE and Coverings this summer. Next Month: The Hard-Surface Report crystal ball is as foggy as a winter’s day in San Francisco. U.S. economic indicators continue to sound the horn for a downturn, but product demand continues to cruise forward. Hopefully, we’ll get enough warning to avoid a crash stop.