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Stone Paving Supplies 2019

Stone Paving Supplies (let’s just refer to them as SPS to save wearing out my highly inexpert fingertips) have somehow escaped the beady eye of a pavingexpert review up to now, but that’s mostly due to poor time management on my part rather than a desire to lurk in the shadows and avoid scrutiny on theirs. Indeed, that couldn’t be farther from the truth as, whenever we meet, the SPS team are gushingly forthcoming about their products, their plans and their absolute willingness to be held up to the microscope.
Stone Paving Supplies
Stone Paving Supplies
They fervently believe in providing what has to be described as ‘value for money’ paving. So, they tend to focus on the key sellers, those products with proven demand on the British market, and for which SPS can use their enviable network of contacts to source and provide to retailers at highly competitive prices. Naturally, this means that some of the luxuries, niceties and the sense of daring that we find with other distributors has to be sacrificed. You won’t find 30-odd different hues of a porcelain here, nor will you find a plethora of walling options or a swathe of setts to choose from. It’s the "Now That’s What I Call Paving" approach – all the best sellers, conveniently collated in a no-nonsense single package.
And that no-nonsense approach is strikingly evident with their latest brochure, a slim (compared to many other brochures this season) 210x210mm volume stretching to just 54 pages, including front and back covers. No messing about with “is it landscape or portrait format”. It’s square. Bosh!
Stone Paving Supplies Brochure
Stone Paving Supplies Brochure 2019 edition
And there’s no messing about inside. The products are very logically grouped: porcelain; natural stone; concrete; no messing, and the text is just about as minimal as it’s possible to be without actually saying nowt. Mostly, it’s the briefest mention of colour and a re-cap of sizes. No flowery flummery, no syrupy sales patter about ‘outdoor rooms’ or ‘urban chic’. It’s lots and lots of pictures, a bit of text to identify what’s what and that’s your lost. Bosh!

So: what about the products? Well, it’s a curated selection of what sells, but with an educated eye on what are the developing trends. For example, it would have been easy to stick with the bog standard 600x600 format for porcelain, but the SPS team have identified that the growing interest in the patio-buying market is in larger formats and linear aspects, so they offer a beefy 800x800mm option, or an eye-stretching 450x900 tile. The colour palette is basic, as are the textures and patterns, but they’ve picked those that sell, rather than risk introducing that may well end up gathering dust or getting buried beneath stacks of 4x1 timber in a busy Builder’s Merchant yard.

Ardesie Porcelain
Ardesie Porcelain
Similar with the natural stone. Stick with the proven sellers, avoid the known troublemakers, but provide just enough of a tweak to attract interest. The square-cut edges of some of the sandstone and limestone flags, for instance, makes a pleasant change from the usual fettled-edge fare. There’s nothing overly radical, nothing you won’t have seen before, nothing that will make you wonder whether it’s worth taking a risk. It’s all very familiar.
square-cut Limestone paving

Square-cut Limestone paving

When it comes to concrete products, why re-invent the wheel, when there are customer hungry manufacturers out there desperate to get greater exposure for their existing ranges? Hence the team-up with Westminster Stone and their widely-admired National Trust Range, along with a handful of other wet-cast concrete pavings. The same principle applies to ancillary products: why faff about getting someone in The Netherlands to make you a white label version of their standard jointing jollop for you to pass off as your own brand when you can simply offer well-established jointing mortars and primer slurries from Nexus?
Westminster Stone National Trust Paving

Westminster Stone National Trust Paving

So: no risks with the products. What about the presentation?

Basic. There’s no other word for it. There’s no attempt to pretend it’s something other than a basic presentation of the product range. We have *this* paving called such-a-thing, in these sizes, it’s this colour and it looks like this: photo. Bosh!

In principle, there’s no problem with such a straightforward approach. In fact, I’m sure some would welcome the plain honesty of it all, the refusal to dress it up and play the game of trying to make it all seem more than it actually is. But then there are those that need a bit more convincing, and even though they sort-of know the stuff from Aldi is just as good as the stuff from Waitrose, they feel safer paying the few bob extra for having their middle-class existential worries massaged by swanky marketing.

Sandstone Paving

Sandstone Paving

The pile-it-high and sell-it-cheap approach won’t appeal to everyone, but, to be fair, there’s probably just enough style in this SPS brochure to assuage all but the most nervous or cynical buyers. It’s not in any sense unprofessional, but then it’s not over-schmaltzed, either.

To be honest, some of the photography isn’t great. I make no claim to be an accomplished photographer, but some of the shots used in this brochure have the look and feel of a quick snap taken using a basic point-and-click camera during a rushed site visit. Is the paving in shot? That’ll do. Click. Bosh!

Paving as it is

Paving as it is

But again, is it fair to criticise such an approach? It’s honest, you have to give it that much! The obvious lack of staging, of fill lighting, of shadow control, of white balance, of trendy props, of ambitious and aspirational lifestyles… this cumulative absence ends up showing the paving for precisely what it is. This is how paving looks when it is laid by the majority of installers. There is no attempt to stoke the fires of unrealistic expectations. It is paving Cromwell-style – warts and all. It’s not perfect. It’s not award-winning. It’s not going to change your life. It’s paving, plain and simple. Decent quality paving reasonably well laid. Have we any right to expect anything more?
Slate Paving

Slate Paving

I’ve long believed that the paving-buying public fall into one of three categories: those that want something extraordinary and don’t mind paying (within reason); those that don’t give a damn about the brand or the quality, as long as it’s a so-called ‘bargain’; and the middle-ground, the buyers who don’t want to spend any more than is necessary, but don’t want any dross. SPS are targeted dead centre at this latter group, and they seem to be doing a pretty decent job at it, too. Bosh!

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