DALLAS -- Calling it the first data base of its kind, Information Resources Inc. has launched a program that culls daily produce sales information from 1,800 supermarkets.
"There's nothing like this in the industry," said Mark Degner, director of trade services for Chicago-based IRI, introducing the new data base at the FreshTech '96 conference here last month.
"The trade, by and large, is data starved. This brings to produce what other categories have had," he said. With the data base, IRI can work with retailers to determine individual stores' shrink, gross profit, net profit, space management, effectiveness of promotions and a host of other information, Degner said. That information can then be compared with other retailers in the data base, as a way to measure performance.
IRI began collecting scan data from the supermarkets last January. The company hopes to double the number of participating retailers by the end of the year, Degner said. Retailers who make up the data base have to adhere to Uniform Code Council standards, with a scanner accuracy of at least 93%, Degner told SN. That allows for integrity in the data it has collected, he said.
Retail chains that are part of the data base include Lucky Stores, Dublin, Calif.; several divisions of Safeway, based in Oakland, Calif.; Ralphs Grocery Co., Compton, Calif.; Dominick's Finer Foods, Northlake, Ill., and Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C.
"The challenge is to bring data with integrity to the trade, and to make that data meaningful," said Degner. The scan data will be able to factor in different brands of produce, if retailers have their scanners programed to pass along that information, he said.
IRI is also able to factor demographics into its data base. That way, the company can recommend specific courses of action for individual stores. Stores can be grouped into different categories, depending on potential sales. Degner said sales at the store level can be tracked, then compared with other stores in the data base. That way, IRI can determine the potential that certain items might have. Stores can be categorized as having either opportunity or limited opportunity for sales of a particular item. Some stores could be classified as needing to maintain sales, while other stores could be designated as "core" stores, for that particular item. "We'll find the stores that need fixing," he said. "We can recommend action for each group." IRI intends to bring to produce the same information it manages for other categories of the grocery industry, Degner said. That includes tracking yearly sales of particular items. For example, IRI has been able to track yearly sales of packaged salads, which have Universal Product Codes on the package. Now, IRI will be able to do the same for commodity items, he said. When asked at FreshTech how much this service costs, Degner said it depends on several factors, including the number of stores in a chain. The chains that are currently participating in the produce data base already had contracts with IRI to gather scan data, and extended those contracts to include produce, he said. IRI is also looking to enlist vendors' support in culling information for the data base, he said.