Design of More Competitive Products in Natural Stone: What companies are offering and what the market is looking for

Autores UPV
Año
Revista KEY ENGINEERING MATERIALS

Abstract

Natural stone is a raw material widely used, especially in the creation of products in construction and architecture. Currently, this sector suffers tough competition from countries with strong trade structures and distribution channels, which should lead us to rethink new design strategies. The objective of this paper is to find out how Portuguese and Spanish companies work and what they offer; but, it also intends to identify what consumers want, showing the most important aspects of design for the development of competitive products. An overview of the stone sector was achieved through a series of personal interviews with the entrepreneurs from companies that participated in the most representative fairs of the Natural Stone industry in Portugal (PEDRA, Batalha) and Spain (CEVISAMA, Valencia), and through a questionnaire distributed on the internet. A total of 439 valid answers from Portuguese and Spanish consumers were obtained. Companies are rather small and structured in a traditional way. Despite possessing a thorough technical knowledge of the materials, they offer to the market mainly exterior cladding in marble and they do not innovate with new designs and other materials. Consumers demonstrate a broad knowledge of the different types of natural stone and their different applications, expressing a growing interest in the design and creation of new products and new applications. It can be conclude that there is some agreement, but also some differences of opinion, between what is offered and what is wanted. New design products in natural stone that emphasize the resistance, the finishing, the textures and the impermeability of the material will increase competitiveness in the studied markets.