Glee 2005 - Part III
This is the third page of the three-page Pavingexpert review of Glee 2005 . Use the panel above to navigate to other parts of the review. In this final chunk of the Review, I intend looking at those companies specialising in natural stone and aggregates. There is now so much choice when it comes to natural stone that it just wouldn't be possible for me to comment on everything I saw, so I'll just pick out one or two items of interest from the various suppliers and hopefully whet your appetite. If further information is required, just follow the web-links.
Pavestone have been on the scene for a few years now and they've built a strong brand by providing a mix of value-for-money flags, setts and walling with a selection of premium imported CBPs, particularly the tumbled pavers from Holland. This year, they've taken a bigger stand than ever, in a prominent central location, and they've been pushing the potential for internal flooring, not just external paving.
To this end, they've produced two new A4-sized glossy brochures, one for the paving and one for the flooring. It's disappointing to see the paving brochure is advocating the amateurish and discredited <spit> spot bedding as suitable for laying flagstones. Take it from me, Mr Pavestone – in almost 50 years of laying flagstones, we have NEVER used spot bedding, and we never will because it's shite. I strongly suggest you read the reasons why it's shite on the Laying Flags page , and then amend your next brochure accordingly.
On the Pavestone stand, a significant chunk of floorspace was given over to the polished sandstones that are suitable for indoor and outdoor use, apparently. I feel that the polished texture detracts from the natural look that stone has when riven or flamed, but it does emphasise the colouring, which is especially useful for products such as the Modak. However, the one stone product that really caught my eye was the "Lakeland Setts", a three-colour mix of 200x200mm units created from broken flagstones and tumbled to give a worn appearance. I'm reliably told that there are significant waste mountains around the Indian quarries where bits and pieces of offcuts and broken pieces are piled high. Trimming them down to smaller sizes and then tumbling them not only helps reduce waste but also produces a very attractive product.
I was also taken with the reclaimed clay pavers. These are ripped up from the footways and carriageways of Holland, sliced into 50mm deep units and sold over here as genuinely worn and weathered pavers. They are distinctive, with natural colours and natural texturing, and sold for a very reasonable £16-20 per square metre. Ideal for use on a garden project where the brief is to have something that looks original and lived-in.
CED are one of the real forces in the stone business and have an excellent reputation amongst contractors, designers and local authorities for sourcing new and innovative products. The stand here sought to emphasise in a relatively small area the wide range of stone they can provide. They had two lovely granites, a Silver Grey and a Yellow, that come in four modular sizes (400x400, 400x600, 600x600 and 600x800mm), all just 25mm thick and selling for an unbelievably low price of just 25 quid per square metre. The Silver Grey has a flamed texture while the Yellow is bush-hammered, and they complement each other perfectly. I just wish I had a project for them!
The stand was a geology lesson for the whole world, it seemed. Chinese granites, Brazilian quartzites, Indian sandstones, Norwegian schists and genuine British Yorkstone from Johnson Wellfield in Huddersfield. It was refreshing to see such an eclectic mix and I'm pleased someone had the sense to exhibit a native British stone in amongst all the imports.
In contrast, Global Stone have built their reputation on sourcing distinctive products from the less well-travelled parts of the stone world. Their large display had a superb central fountain feature, with lovely walling and a gorgeous quartzite paving surround, but what really took my eye was the mix of blue and yellow tumbled limestones from Vietnam. Even though these stones had been laid just 24 hours previously, they had a look of an old Victorian pathway leading up to a grand house, or possibly a tiled floor subjected to years and years of wear.
One product that foxed me was a tumbled travertine. I could have sworn it was a limestone (Yes! I know travertine is a form of limestone!) as the texture and cloudy colouring looked so indicative, but it just goes to show how even someone with a geology background can be fooled by modern processing techniques, and those damned hall lights.
Natural Paving are a new name, both to Glee and to the paving market in general. Based in Doncaster, they are seeking to provide what they describe as “nature's alternative to concrete”. Breaking into the market with more imported stone is not an easy task. The market has matured over the last few years, and you're up against some powerful players, so you either have to slash costs or come up with something none of the others can provide.
From what I've seen and heard at this show, it seems Natural Paving favour the latter strategy, and they have a number of distinctive products that should help them find a foothold. Many are based around strong geometric styling, which isn't to everyone's taste, but I liked the 200x100mm and 100x100mm setts that are available in two colours, a light buffy-brown that will be sold as 'Heather' and a darker variant sold as 'Lakeland'. Both sizes are 50mm deep and although the idea isn't new, the colours are quite appealing. They tell me the retail price should be somewhere around £30-40 per square metre, which isn't too bad for quality products.
Welsh Slate built its reputation as a roofing material, but it's been used for paving and flooring for centuries. The colours are less gaudy than the slates being imported from the Far East, but they have a quiet classic styling all of their own. I'm not sure how well it can sell, though, as the competition is strong, cheap and marketed by an ever-expanding number of companies. However, there will always be a core of designers and end-users that prefer to use native stone for the projects, and, as I said with reference to CEDs inclusion of a true Yorkstone, it is good to see a stone from these islands reminding all the foreign competition that they're still around.
SureSet are old friends of the website, and there's always a friendly welcome and good craic at their stand, whether they're at Glee, External Works or anywhere else. Their resin bound paving is second to none, and their range of colours, textures and materials seems to know no limits. All of the other resin suppliers had abandoned Glee this year – there's a perception in the trade that Glee isn't the best place to exhibit this type of producer-installed product, as the audience is predominantly retailers and distributors. Sales Manager Victoria Lewis isn't sure whether they'll be back in 2006. A decision will be taken in the next few months, but I have to agree with her analysis that they might be better focussing on the specification market. If they do pull out of next year's show, I'll miss the cheery company and the chance to sit down with them for the odd half-hour at the end of a long day, but I know they'll continue to go from strength to strength wherever they exhibit.
Kelkay are another South Yorkshire based outfit that have specialised in bagged aggregates in the past. The huge stand here was filled with displays of aggregates of all types, and showed off their marketing and POS support to good effect, but, as I said earlier, there's not a great deal you can say about aggregates. For this type of distributor, it's all about service to the retailer rather than providing something distinctive or new. The GCs and retailers that attend this show are looking for a product with strong marketing and good profit margins, which are of lesser interest to your typical contractor or DIYer.
However, Kelkay have decided to branch out into the supply of wet-cast paving. They feel they've identified a gap in the market, where the GCs want to sell paving but can't get the sort of marketing and logistical support they need. So Kelkay have created "Garden Stone" and aim to provide those GCs with the chance to have simple, no-fuss, self-displaying pallets of basic flags and edgings in the more popular textures, sizes and colours.
I can't say whether the demand is there or not; I'm not a marketing consultant, and I have to concede that Dan Jakes and his team at Kelkay probably understand their market far better than I do, but what I do know is quality paving, and I'm afraid this isn't it. These are budget products, cheap'n'cheerful, the sort of thing that the price-conscious DIYer or low-budget contractor might use. They are not going to be used by the better designers, the quality-sensitive contractors or those looking for a high standard of finish. They are basic, the type of flags and edgings you might see in the DIY sheds. Having said that, I should point out that Kelkay aren't asking for top quality money. These are price-focussed products, and when you can buy three flags for a tenner, you can't really complain about the quality. You gets what you pays for, and I know there is a market for what TopPave's Emma Reese kindly referred to as 'Commodity Paving', so someone has to cater to it. I just wonder whether the GCs that charge a fiver for a cup of tea and a slice of carrot cake are the right route for a budget range such as this.
Derbyshire Aggregates have an enviable reputation for being able to supply almost any type, colour, size or texture of aggregate. If I'm ever struggling to suggest a supplier of, f'rinstance, Cheshire Pink, I can be 99.9% certain that Terry and the lads at Derbyshire Aggregates will have it in stock, or know where they can get it at short notice.
Again, what can I say about aggregates? I won't bother, but I'll just point out a little treasure I spotted at the last moment: a 20-60mm tumbled concrete product that looks like bits of old, water-worn bricks, the sort of thing you see washed up on the beach every now and again. I was originally taken with the brick red colour, but I understand they plan to provide the same sort of sizes and textures in black, blue, green and buff. That should attract the interest of the garden designers!
Norman Emerson are an Northern Irish company also specialising in aggregates, but they've recently focussed on their heritage and were promoting the “Celtic Collection”, a range of distinctive aggregates and stone products from what they describe as the Celtic countries. It was pleasing to see more native stone, particularly Irish Limestone walling and Donegal Quartzite, along with gravels from Scotland, Cornwall and the Wicklow Mountains.
And the rest....
Rounding off, there were some exhibitors that I didn't grace with my presence, partly because of limits on my time, and partly because they had abso-bloody-lutely nothing that I've not seen a million and one times before. Do we really need more importers and distributors of Indian stone? Stone Emporium and Best Stone seem to think we do, but for me, I don't travel all the way to Birmingham to gawp at yet more Modak, Fossil Mint, Raj Green and Kadapha limestone. If these exhibitors plan to be at Glee next year, and they'd like me to give their displays a more comprehensive review, they'll have to come up with something that stimulates my interest. I can see these products at almost every Builders' Merchant and Garden Centre throughout the land.
The Pavingexpert Awards:
So, very finally, the Pavingexpert awards for Glee 2005.
The Golden Trowel Award for best stand in show goes to……
The Flagger's Maul Award for best new paving product goes to…..
Stonemarket for the Concept Paving
And the Chairman's Special Award for Hospitality and Best Cup of Tea goes to.....
So, a big thank you to Angela, Ian, Paul, Jo, Sallyand everyone else that kept my tannin levelsat an acceptable level for the three days.
Roll on Glee 2006