I posted a message a few weeks ago looking for info on pool industry growth. @billiardsforum got me pointed in the right direction and I ended up with some terrific data. Since then I've been following a few of the threads on this Billiards Forum and I'm impressed with the number of active members on quite a few topics and I'm particularly surprised at the number who are looking to buy a new table for their home.
I'd like to get opinions and maybe take a very informal poll on how much, or if, the purchase of a pool table to play at home impacts how often you play at a pool hall. In other words, over the long haul does the purchase of a home table reduce the amount of time a person spends shooting pool in a pool room because their friends come over and they play only at home or, on average, do people who buy home tables develop a stronger interest in billiards, get better, play more, and seek out better players and higher levels of competition at billiard rooms? Another way to think of it is, if every home in the US and Canada purchased a home table would most of the billiard rooms go out of business or would we need more of them?
I don't think there's a right answer to this but I think it's an interesting question and I'd like to hear your experience or just your opinion. I'm listening.
- RMCORP2006 on 1/30/2009 1:48:57 PM
Being in billiard sales as well I would say most customers (probably 75%) buy a table to either fill up the extra space, say its for the kids, or some other small reason. 6 months later they use it as a laundry folding table or want to sell it because they think a pool table is some sort of asset to them and they will get more then their money back from it. the other 25% active players use a home table (in my opinion) to help save money in bad times but mostly to practice to get better. they will still go to their favorite pool halls and bars to be a part of the atmosphere and have fun or whoop people in the local tournaments.
- 8ball on 1/30/2009 2:30:18 PM
Thanks for your input. I agree. I personally think that more people playing at home helps the retail pool industry as well but I'm looking for any and all opinions or personal experience. A rising tide, etc.
- RMCORP2006 on 1/30/2009 3:18:28 PM
Are pool halls a dying breed? Yes they are.
- 8ball on 1/30/2009 7:53:48 PM
You might be right, but I'm not sure I agree. If I'm reading the numbers right, statistically pool is growing although that growth could be coming from more people playing more at home. In down economic times that's going to happen. But I think playing at home even with a few friends is very limiting both in terms of excitement and your ability to develop your game by playing with a wide variety of players. As you said yourself, people still go out to their favorite places to have fun and compete in the local tournaments. I think that's a true statement. What are you seeing that tells you pool halls are a thing of the past?
- billiardsforum on 1/31/2009 8:29:32 AM
One of the pool halls having success today is Parlour Billiards in Bellevue WA. The hall started out like any other, but the owner, Steven Olson knew he'd have to take drastic steps to survive the downturn experienced by other pool halls.
He converted his hall into an upscale entertainment venue, where you'll shell out $18 per table hour on Friday or Saturday, and $10 on earlier, slower nights of the week.
It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you have the money, and you don't like playing amongst riff-raff then this might be the place for you. (They have a dress code so they effectively keep all of the punk/gangster/immature aged 20-30 crowd out.)
- 8ball on 1/31/2009 11:43:38 AM
Wow! That's quite a place, first class, but he has to be feeling it in this economy. $6M is quite an investment. I wouldn't pay those rates to play at least not on a regular basis. Despite that, I believe his thinking is right on. I think in the billiard business, like most businesses, you have to find a niche. So, he's going after the well-heeled and those looking for a special night out.
Also, you mentioned all the pool halls closing down. Have you seen any data on that. The info you provided me a month or so ago indicated that the sport grew in 2008. I know that doesn't necessarily equate to more billiard places but do you know if pool halls going away is a fact or just a perception?
- billiardsforum on 2/1/2009 3:40:01 PM
I don't have any hard data, but what we've been debating on is exactly WHERE that growth has been coming from. Is it coming from table time sales at pool halls, or is it coming from the purchases of home billiard tables? Or is it something else altogether, like sponsor dollars spent on professional events? It's not clear from the data. Actually, It was you who posed the question.
Like, for example, the study referenced "participation" but does not define what that encompasses. Does that include playing billiard games on a video game console or online? That would skew the data if one was not aware of that inclusion.
Since the study was published by the "sporting goods manufacturers association" I'd wager a guess that "participation" includes those who buy and use a home billiard table.
I think this is one of the areas where the BCA fails, among many others. If you read these forums regularly, you have probably noticed my distaste for the BCA, and that I think the BCA is mismanaged and not focused enough on it's core objectives.
Even the BCA is lazy and simply references the SGMA's stats. I don't believe the SGMA statistics to be representative of the billiard industry at all, based on the assumption that they probably focus on home billiard table sales. The BCA needs to take a more active role in doing it's own research, and making it available to members.
Well, that's my rant for the night.
- RMCORP2006 on 2/2/2009 6:58:55 AM
Those prices are ridiculous. I don't care how nice your place is. WOW! I would be surprised if they last very long like that. not to mention, if i was paying that much i certainly wouldn't want another table that closely put together on the ends.
pool has, and probably always will, in my opinion, grow but at a very slow margin. when the economy gets crummy, and right now it's especially crummy, pool table sales is the first thing to go. being a luxury item, people stop buying these just like they stop buying jewelry. they don't absolutely have to have it. even though it would seem a good way to save money.
that doesn't mean the bars and poolhalls magically get busy. coupled with the downward trend of pool halls, they have a lot to loose. yeah people like to go out and be social with the sport but these are unusual times for the economy. those with a table are likely staying home more and more. playing free pool and drinking cheaper drinks. Retailers and pool halls alike are hurting.
I have no factual hard data/numbers this is just what i have seen in my community over the last few years. i can say with utmost honesty that poolhalls and those kind of themed bars are working with a downward trend and i don't honestly know why but i know it's not because people are buying tables for their home. because even at a time when tables sales are hurting these bars continue to hurt.
- 8ball on 2/2/2009 7:55:40 AM
Thanks to you both for your thoughts.
@billiardsforum - when I read the SGMA data I assumed that it included playing billiards either at home or out at a pool hall since there was no data given on where anyone played, only how often. However, I didn't even think about video pool. I doubt that anyone playing video pool would actually think that equates to playing on a table but then again there's no accounting for how people think. It would be like someone playing a war game video and then claiming they served in the Gulf War.
Anyway, I suppose I have to assume that pool hall business is declining because nearly everyone I know associated with the game tells me they think it is. I must be crazy for thinking about getting into this business.
- RMCORP2006 on 2/2/2009 8:01:12 AM
I think @billiardsforum was more help. If you want to get into the business as a bar do a different theme for it. one big pool hall where i live converted into a sports bar kept a few tables and also incorporated bringing in events weekly like comedians.
- 8ball on 2/2/2009 8:41:39 AM
Thanks. Yeah, a lot of places are diversifying into video games, air hockey, etc. and that's fine except that it can be very distracting for more serious players when you're in the middle of a competitive match and some kid is blowing up tanks with a grenade launcher behind you. I'd like to think there's a viable market for serious billiard players out there but maybe it's just too small.
- Nico_Pompadour on 2/2/2009 8:48:52 AM
I do not want to discuss the usefulness or uselessness of the BCA etc.
Concerning business, do you have the money to buy a new pool table for your home? In these times?
Look at aramith.com, they even give away free products on their website. Either it is a marketing decision or they have to much stock.
Either way, I think you can conclude business is slowing down.