During the recession, the game-table industry was forced to call a time out. Declining sales because of a sluggish economy forced a number of manufacturers to close and others to restructure or merge with larger companies. Since 2007, the dollar amount of sales of pool tables declined by 26 percent, according to Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.
As a result, game-table manufacturers spent much more time trying to save their businesses than creating products or features. So you won’t find any dramatic changes to tables for air hockey, foosball, pool or table tennis. You will find that the price of pool tables has shot through the roof.
The good news for consumers is that manufacturers of pool tables and table-tennis tables have created storage options for accessories. Air-hockey fans will be happy, because commercial-grade air blowers now exist on economy models.
BANK SHOTS. The biggest development in pool tables gives a whole new meaning to the term “money shot.” Prices have increased by as much as 35 percent on pool tables since 2008, based on our analysis. For instance, our economy Best Buy selection for pool tables, the Connelly Redington ($2,695), costs $700 more than it did 4 years ago. That’s a dramatic leap, but, unfortunately, if you pay less than $2,000 for a pool table in 2012, we believe that you won’t get a model that will stand up to residential use. Instead, you’ll encounter tables that have uneven playing surfaces or sagging frames.
The main reason that prices for consumers skyrocketed is increased costs for quality materials, such as 1-inch-thick slate, delivery-related fuel and labor, says Rob Johnson of Billiards Congress of America. These costs have been passed on to consumers. It’s unclear whether pool-table prices will increase in 2013, but it’s clear that they won’t drop, experts say.
For example, the price that manufacturers pay for table cloth has increased by as much as 20 percent compared with prices from 4 years ago, according to Ivan Lee, who is the president and CEO of Iwan Simonis, which supplies cloth for game-table manufacturers.
The Art of Table Tennis
A cost-conscious consumer might be tempted to save money on his/her purchase by picking a model that has lower grade woolen cloth (commonly called felt), which reduces the cost of an 8-foot table by at least $125 but is more prone to wear and tear than is high-grade worsted cloth. We believe that a model that has worsted cloth is worth the extra cost in the long run, because the material lasts about 10 years, which typically is three times longer than what woolen cloth lasts on a pool table, cloth manufacturers and pool-table retailers tell us. You can expect to pay as much as $450 to have a table re-covered, which can turn into an additional $900 expense over the life of a table that has worsted cloth. In other words, the money saved upfront will be forfeited down the road.
Some of the latest models also have a new storage feature that will drive up the price. Manufacturers introduced an optional drawer that’s under the slate bed for the storage of balls, chalk, cue sticks and racks in late 2008. You should expect to pay at least an extra $600 to add such a drawer to an 8-foot table, which is at least $400 more than what you’d pay for traditional storage racks that either sit on the floor or are wall-mounted.
TABLE SERVICE. One table-tennis table manufacturer also has created a unique storage option. Under the heading of “Why Didn’t Anyone Think of This Before?” Stiga in July 2011 introduced the first series of table-tennis tables that have built-in ball-storage space on each end.