May 30, 2011: Ping-Pong

Sometimes I wonder if one of the greatest truisms in business is “Everything old is new again.” Take Ping-Pong, for instance. When I was a kid in the 1960s, we all loved playing Ping-Pong, since even the marginally athletically talented could play the game.

Fast-forward a few decades, and Ping-Pong is less a backyard diversion and more a thriving business. Bloomberg¬†Businessweek recently reported there’s been an increase of 53 percent over the last decade in the number of recreational Ping-Pong players (to nearly 19.5 million), according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA).

The sport (if you can call it that-apparently there’s some disagreement on that classification) is no longer solely the province of kids and teens. A 2009 poll from the SGMA reported that more than half of those playing Ping-Pong for fun have annual household incomes of more than $75,000. In fact there are now what Bloomberg Businessweek calls “upscale table tennis clubs” sprouting up around the world, including the franchise SPiN, partially owned by Academy-Award winning actress Susan Sarandon.

Ping-Pong has gone corporate as well. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that North American Table Tennis, a sports management company, is staging Ping-Pong team-building workshops and corporate tournaments-and hopes to spread this new business fascination with Ping-Pong around the globe.

On a smaller scale, savvy entrepreneurs could bring Ping-Pong parlors to their markets. An increase in participation in the game will also up the demand for accessories and supplies. Is the Ping-Pong revival here to stay? Perhaps-but to find out, we’ll just have to follow the bouncing ball.