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Marketing

Secret Service

Boost your business by doing a little shopping-undercover, of course.

This story appears in the September 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Thomas Stemberg, the CEO and founder of Staples, is addicted to shopping. Despite the fact that he heads an $11 billion store chain, Stemberg continues to shop the competition in person, sometimes even enlisting family members to help-including his mother-in-law, who, he says, "was a regular shopper at Office Depot's delivery business to help me learn how it worked."

Shopping the competition is one method of stimulating growth and innovation for your retail operation. It's easy, do-it-yourself research that can help you find your marketing edge by monitoring service from the customer's perspective.


Mystery shopping is an early warning system for any business that relies on extensive public contact.