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John C.
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I wouldn’t worry about it. There’s no such thing as a unique idea or product anymore – at least not for very long. Focus on providing the best possible product and customer service and shopping experience you can, and your customers will come to you in preference to your competitors even if they have the exact same product on the shelf.

In my opinion giving vague answers to potential customers is a bad idea, as you are never really sure whether it is a competitor or just a genuine customer who likes to do thorough research before they buy – maybe they want to be sure that the product comes from an ethical manufacturer before they buy a product (i.e. not from a sweat shop, or a company who tests on animals as examples). Just because you wouldn’t ask those questions if you were a customer, doesn’t mean that some of your customers won’t ask them.

Even if you are sure that a browser is a competitor – so what? If they really wanted to, they could send an anonymous mystery shopper to your store. Take the opportunity to build a relationship with them and others in your industry – who knows, it may come in handy one day. Make it a two way street and ask them how they do things. Even the most competitive companies in the world get together to share information sometimes – think banks, oil and tobacco companies. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer!

Good luck with your new business.

Cheers,
John