Consumers take the cue

Interest in the game of pool continues to flourish across the country, and that interest is generating increasing growth in pool table sales to the home consumer.Gone are the days when manufacturers primarily sold large, 6-feet by 12-feet, British-style snooker tables...

Interest in the game of pool continues to flourish across the country, and that interest is generating increasing growth in pool table sales to the home consumer.

Gone are the days when manufacturers primarily sold large, 6-feet by 12-feet, British-style snooker tables to hardcore traditionalists hooked on hushed, studied play.

Experts say the growing interest in pool by the home consumer has led to rising sales of smaller 4-ft. by 8-ft. American-style tables, more suitable for use in the average home.

Montreal-based Canada Billiard & Bowling recently ran a print campaign in the Journal de Montreal, that city’s popular tabloid.

The durability of its tables was conveyed in photos of sturdy, classic tables, under which a tag line read: ‘A game of class – an investment to last.’

‘Our customers are typically homeowners who will have finished doing up their basement and laying the carpet,’ says Michael Lemyre, president of Canada Billiard.

‘And pool tables are the last item going into homes after the wife has received everything she wants in the kitchen,’ Lemyre says.

By and large, pool table marketers have traditionally limited themselves to print exposure.

Lemyre says he finds the Yellow Pages work best.

Michael Holubik, sales manager with Toronto-based Hallmark Billiards, the Canadian distributor of u.s.-made Brunswick tables, says he recently sold 30 tables in 10 days by running an ad on the front cover of Shopping Smart, a coupon book distributed in Toronto-area mail boxes.

Pool table prices range between $1,000 and $1,500 for low-end, plywood-based models, and climb to as high as $4,500 for sturdier, mid-range tables less likely to warp.

At the high end of the scale, hand-made hardwood tables cost up to $12,000, which does not include the $1,000 extra it costs for cues, balls and table cloth.

The growth of billiards as a home sport has been fuelled by the increasing popularity of clean-cut pool clubs and lounges, where the game is played by a wider demographic group than in the smoke-filled pool halls of old.

Lemyre estimates his company will supply its ‘Black Crown’ product line – ranging from 4-ft. by 8-ft. coin-operated pool tables, to 6-ft. by 12-ft. solid oak or mahogany snooker tables – to more than 35 pool establishments opening in Montreal this year alone.

Jillian Billiards

One such establishment is the Jillian Billiard Club in Montreal, a copy of earlier franchise outlets opened by Boston-based Jillian Billiard in Boston, Seattle, Miami and Cleveland.

All the Jillian clubs have a strict dress code, exercise facilities, a bar and restaurant and a chic singles scene.

Gerry Charloton, president of Toronto-based Dufferin Leisure, which has 40 retail outlets in high-traffic shopping malls across Canada, says the pool industry has benefitted from the frequent appearance of the game in movies, tv shows and commercials.

But Charloton says Dufferin Leisure does its own bit to promote the game by, among other things, holding in-mall demonstrations.

Black tie

For example, the company’s marketing manager, Michael Shea, will attract attention in the malls by donning a black-tie wardrobe and challenging all comers to a friendly game of pool.

‘I talk and joke throughout the games, letting people know how easy and fun the game is to play,’ Shea says.

He says he is most active during the autumn when homeowners are finishing up remodelling their basements ahead of the winter.

Dufferin also sponsors professional tournaments, such as a 64-player Toronto event complete with $50,000 in prize money.

To qualify for the Toronto tournament, players took part in a series of mini-tournaments staged in cities across the country.