How do I find the norm for business expenses by type of business?
There are several Internet sites that offer this type of data. RMA (formerly Robert Morse Associates), www.zone6.com/bizstats, http://www.roi.com/ (this is the Retail Owners Institute). Search the web and you can find significant data sources, however most of them now have a charge or membership fee.
I want to open a retail store. How and where do I find the amount of traffic that might pass my store?
Most cities of any size have a Transportation Dept. They do traffic counts by location. Often you can see the increase or decrease from reviewing the most current count and previous counts. If they offer on line access, enter your street address or the intersecting streets. Many cities also have the foot traffic in their downtown area. If you are considering a mall location, ask the leasing agent for the mall demographics.
How can I find out what my competitors are making in profits and how successful they are?
It will be difficult to find out exactly what the competition's profits are. However, talking to prospective customers and competitor's employees will give you some information on how successful they are. Talking to competitive businesses that are located in a different area than where you are or will locate often produces more information because your business will not be a threat to them. Industry trade associations or your accounting firm can refer you to companies in your industry and market that may be willing to share information with you.
Where can I get information regarding my competition?
You can get a wide base of information at the library in publications such as Robert Morris Associates and Dun and Bradstreet. The business section librarian can help. Major accounting firms also publish operating numbers for various industries; your accountant may be able to help you get to the right accounting firm. The library should also have a list of all trade associations catalogued and they print operating statistics. Talking to competitor's former employees, customers and suppliers can also help.