Yeah, the whole industry is struggling, and anecdotally, I've noticed that the establishments that are doing well, are offering much more than just billiards and/or snooker. There are a few niche pool halls where they deliver the whole high-end lounge, restaurant, prestige atmosphere. Much more than just a pool hall, and I think successful owners are going to be the ones who sell the "experience" and not just " a place to shoot pool" - people love glamor, as much as that sucks for the serious players. We've even seen the biggest chain pool hall in Canada, Doolys, close many locations whereas you'd expect them to squeeze the little guys first (they operated as franchise). I feel that many hall owners are stubborn and don't want to (or don't have the business sense) to change with the market.
For example, "West Coast Billiards goes under" is an article we posted that sort of illustrates how stubbornness or lack of business savvy of pool hall owners has contributed heavily. You'll notice how he insisted on keeping his rates the same as they were on the day he opened for business 20 years ago. That's just foolish. He even resisted other, alternative methods of earning income:
"We need a jukebox, more food, bigger bar... things we weren't willing to do to raise the extra money," he said. "I wanted this to last a couple more years, but we can't. "My biggest regret is that we kept our price so low. But it's too late now. This is a dying thing."
I think anyone who reads the article can pick out a bunch of more mistakes.
Also, I have one caution about going to the BCA for data. I've noticed (and again, this is anecdotal) that they tend to present a more rosy view of things as they are trying to grow the industry. (or at least that's what they say. there are a few other heated discussions on this board where a few of us, myself included, feels that the BCA has failed, and that they don't do enough to take the sport to the next level. Basically, in that post, it starts with someone saying we need another big billiard movie. That may be wise, since it was two big billiard movies that were SOLELY responsibly for the billiards boom of many years ago now. They were the color of money and the hustler. The premise of that other thread is that why could Hollywood films make more of a difference for the industry than the BCA?)
One must also consider that the prices of pool tables has come way down, and in addition, there has been an emergence of low-cost, low-quality tables available in America, allowing many more people to simply play at home. I'd argue also that for every one family that buys a pool table, the local pool halls lose the business of probably 2 or 3 families, since the owner of the table invites others over.
With that said, let me present you with a starting point for some real, data driven research.
I would begin by studying the SGMA participation reports here. It's $140 dollars, but it's leading-class research and statistics. The BCA roughly reports off of these reports and adds data from their own members (which skews things I think), so why not go directly to the source. You may want to visit sgma.com to purchase your own more recent copies and become a member. Paying members get updates.
Once you've read those, you can check out the following. The following is a graph showing the google search volume for the term "Billiards"
This next one, for the term "Snooker" is not as bad, and you can see the spikes each year when the Snooker World Championships occur. Thats what I've always said that the BCA can do more to promote billiards, the way the Snooker organizations have done.
For more, you may have to purchase data. You'll want to ask for data for the "Pool Halls and Billiard Parlors" industry, which is SIC 7999 / NAICS 713990 - the problem is that it's a "lump" recreation category that also includes casinos/gaming, and other industries.
Also, here is a link to an $800 market research and 2009-2014 outlook for pool halls titled "The 2009-2014 World Outlook for Bowling Alleys and Billiard and Pool Establishments"
You have to login to view the description. Here it is:
This econometric study covers the world outlook for bowling alleys and billiard and pool establishments across more than 200 countries. For each year reported, estimates are given for the latent demand, or potential industry earnings (P.I.E.), for the country in question (in millions of U.S. dollars), the percent share the country is of the region and of the globe. These comparative benchmarks allow the reader to quickly gauge a country vis-à-vis others. Using econometric models which project fundamental economic dynamics within each country and across countries, latent demand estimates are created. This report does not discuss the specific players in the market serving the latent demand, nor specific details at the product level. The study also does not consider short-term cyclicalities that might affect realized sales. The study, therefore, is strategic in nature, taking an aggregate and long-run view, irrespective of the players or products involved.
This study does not report actual sales data (which are simply unavailable, in a comparable or consistent manner in virtually all of the 230 countries of the world).
This study gives, however, my estimates for the worldwide latent demand, or the P.I.E., for bowling alleys and billiard and pool establishments. It also shows how the P.I.E. is divided across the world’s regional and national markets. For each country, I also show my estimates of how the P.I.E. grows over time (positive or negative growth). In order to make these estimates, a multi-stage methodology was employed that is often taught in courses on international strategic planning at graduate schools of business.
I hope this helps you, at least as a starting point. Bottom line, is that you might have to shell out for some real research (that is not from BCA).