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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Welcome back Walmart


As Forbes notes, Walmart will resume supplying data to market research companies such as IRI and Nielsen (and probably NPD) again, 10 years after cutting them off.

For me, this is a bigger deal than the debt ceiling bill passing. I was on the IRI task force when Walmart was considering pulling the plug, the task force when they actually did pull the plug, and led the early R&D effort to get some credible sales estimate for situations like this into the market (for which three of us received a US patent). I was part author of an academic study looking at the effects of Walmart entry on competitors.

Somebody asked me whether I minded that this estimation scheme for Walmart would be put out to pasture once they began to share data again. Truthfully, no. It’s good that it worked halfway well, but our manufacturer customers are better served with better data, and probably retailers and shoppers as well. Besides, the method itself is used in other circumstances.

Walmart’s decision caused me a lot of pain, and because of the resulting shrinkage in the part of the marketing research industry I’m in (and the financial shakiness of IRI in 2001 forward) nearly cost me my job as the company went through wave after wave after wave of layoffs. It was nothing personal on Walmart’s part, but it affected me personally a great deal over the last ten years. I think they call that “collateral damage”.

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