It's a dangerous thing to try to gauge the health of another business by what you see. It can be very misleading. Over the years, I've had many a competitor seem to be lapping me with the customers, but behind the scenes I was building my strengths while they were being drained by their weaknesses.
The experience has also reinforced the notion that inner conditions do not always match nicely with outside conditions. That is, I've done very well when times are slow and very poorly when times were busy. I've looked like I was doing well when I was floundering and looked like I was floundering when I was doing well.
I think, sometimes, that other stores are pretty transparent, compared to mine. Possibly it's the diversity of my store, or it may be my business approach, but I think it would be nearly impossible for an outsider to know what's going on.
That doesn't keep me from guessing about other businesses, nor does it keep me from being fairly accurate in my assessments, at least, so I think. What I often run into is a puzzle, and no conclusions, because I don't have enough information. But when there are certain signs, it can be fairly easy to guess the end. And, despite what I said above about inner/outer; bet on the outer. If Best Buy opens, guess it will be hard on the record stores. If Barnes and Nobles opens, it's a pretty good guess it will be hard on the bookstores, and so on.
2 hours ago