Okay, that's a bit dramatic. I'm not an industrial spy as such. I'm a guy who works in a camera shop who goes to other people's camera shops when I am on holiday in Melbourne. Not so much evil as sad...
I do it for several reasons; to see what their trade is like, to see if they have access to equipment that we don't, and to wait inside out of the rain until the pub opens. Occasionally I purchase some token to see if their POS system throws out sparks and vile language like ours does. In case you are wondering, in some cases, yes it does.
It is not always the camera shops - I do haunt book stores and hobby shops and keep an eye on the mechanics of trade there as well. I noted last week that one hobby store is just converting over to the POS computer program we left two years ago. Prior to that they apparently used and abacus and a bag of beans to do the accounting. I should be nervous about the abacus but I envy them that sack of beans.
Some of our competitors have the same windows we had a decade ago - and the sort of window that you see in shops on the Ginza; crowded, dark, and confused. Even the premium brands are accorded little respect in this sort of setting. I am happy to say that the corporate designers who helped us to a better display have done us a service.
Mind you, some of the competitors devote too much or too little space to things that we know do or don't move. This is as much a legacy of what their premises once were as anything - They are probably always scheming to streamline things, much as we are - but there is only so much re-arranging you can do. As an aid to moving stock I have always advocated setting up a Roman catapult in the back car park and lobbing cameras and lenses at passers-by but I find the management here to be strangely conservative...
I note that most of the camera shops have gone out of books - either realising that art and photography bookselling is a difficult enough task when you are a specialist store or finding that the information goes out of date too fast. Knowledge and talent doesn't age but printed camera books can only pursue the internet forums at a run.
Fortunately the pressure of innovation has not extended to Young and Jacksons. Same old place, same old product, same old picture.