Industry sector: Leisure

Pool hall: Market research

Existing competition

Before starting up, it's very important to find out if there is room in the market for your business - and whether a market exists at all. A useful first step is to establish how many direct and indirect competitors there are in the area in which you are planning to set up. Your direct competitors will be other snooker and pool clubs that offer broadly the same level of services as you will. You can get a good idea about the number of clubs in your area by looking in the Yellow Pages or similar business directory (printed or online) or by driving or walking around your area and making a physical count.

Your indirect competitors will include a range of different leisure and hospitality businesses like:

  • pubs
  • sports clubs
  • leisure centres
  • hotels

It may be difficult to establish how much of an impact these indirect competitors will have on your business - for example, most people tend to go to the pub for a drink and a chat and may have a game of pool while they are there rather than expressly going for a game of pool. Another point to consider is that many of your indirect competitors, particularly pubs, will offer only pool tables (rather than snooker tables) and these may be in a cramped corner and not particularly well maintained. However, they will all be competing for the 'leisure pound' in your area, so it is wise to take them into account.

Assessing your direct competitors

Once you have made an assessment of the level of direct competition, it is a good idea to visit a couple of existing snooker and pool clubs in your area to see:

  • how many tables they have
  • what games they offer (for example snooker, pool and American pool)
  • what other facilities they have, such as a bar, restaurant and so on
  • what their prices are
  • what their opening hours are
  • the number of members they have, if they operate in this way. You may be able to find this out from the owners, their employees or from members playing at the club
  • how busy they are. It is worth visiting on different days of the week and at different times in the day to get an accurate picture
  • what the 'experience' of visiting the club is like. For example, are staff friendly and helpful, is the food good, do you have to wait long for a table to become free, are the facilities well maintained and so on
  • what types of customer they have
  • how well advertised they are, including their online advertising strategy

Why will customers choose your club

Once you have identified what your competitors offer, decide how you will persuade customers to choose your club over theirs. This may include:

  • location. Your proposed club may be very easy to get to and park nearby or it may be close to other entertainment venues, such as pubs and restaurants
  • facilities. You may be able to attract more custom by offering more tables and a wider range of games or a large choice of meals in the restaurant. Alternatively, you may market your club as a venue for corporate functions
  • image. For example, you may aim to specifically attract families or greater numbers of younger members
  • price. You could make sure that your table or bar prices are lower than your competitors. 'Happy hours' at quiet times may bring in more custom, although bear in mind that 'irresponsible' alcoholic drink promotions are prohibited
  • how long you are open for. Some clubs shut at around 11 p.m. while others stay open for 24 hours. Your research into your competitors will tell you whether there is an opportunity for a club to open round the clock (although be aware that your competitors may not offer this option simply because there is no demand for it)

Print out the Record sheets to note down the results of your market research.