NEW H-E-B DATABASE: 'SALES DATA ON DEMAND'

SAN ANTONIO (FNS) -- H.E. Butt Grocery Co. here has launched a decision-support system that allows integration of its own sales data with syndicated market data. With the system, sales information by individual item, category or department at the market, chain or store level is available to H-E-B.The system, ACNielsen's Retail Warehouse Solution (RWS) version 3.0, is a database that stores H-E-B's

SAN ANTONIO (FNS) -- H.E. Butt Grocery Co. here has launched a decision-support system that allows integration of its own sales data with syndicated market data. With the system, sales information by individual item, category or department at the market, chain or store level is available to H-E-B.

The system, ACNielsen's Retail Warehouse Solution (RWS) version 3.0, is a database that stores H-E-B's scanner-based sales information as well as sales information from the retailer's market and expanded consumer information from the tracking firm's Homescan panel.

"Now we have access to sales information on demand," said Michael Spriggs, manager of business analysis for H-E-B. "We have had to rely on vendors or contact syndicated data providers directly, giving us enhanced exception reporting," he said.

RWS 3.0 will allow the 277-unit operator firsthand access to the market data, enabling identification of strengths and weaknesses in the areas of assortment, pricing and promotions. This kind of data is similar to the proprietary information previously available to manufacturers.

"We will understand what is going on in the marketplace and focus our efforts where our strengths lie," Spriggs continued. "Information-based decision making will keep us competitive."

RWS includes reporting from all three channels of mass trade, giving H-E-B a leg up, sources said, by enabling fact-based buying rather than reliance on the traditional methods.

"Retailers have had a limited view of the marketplace," Spriggs noted. "As the competitive marketplace changes, we compete for the same consumer dollar with different classes of trade. We expect to gain the same perspective as the manufacturers."

Said Michael Brenner, director, ACNielsen Retail Marketing, "H-E-B's scanner-based sales information is fed into the system along with sales information from the rest of the area where H-E-B does business." Having all of that information in one place allows for fast analysis of how the retailer is doing in sales of certain items or categories compared to the rest of their market, according to Brenner. It can also show H-E-B the impact of its promotions on a store-by-store basis or across the market. "RWS 3.0 will simplify information management and analysis for H-E-B," Brenner said.

Procurement and category management functions are expected to benefit the most from the new system. Additionally, enhanced promotional efforts are expected, along with an understanding of who is buying the product. Information about what products are on promotion is entered into the system, thus helping the retailer analyze the impact of those promotions.

"Baseline numbers are important in understanding the dynamics between promotional efforts and everyday sales," said Spriggs, who added that H-E-B is carefully watching how it sifts through data and training its staff on how to maximize the use of RWS and optimize the available data.

H-E-B expects that updated versions of RWS 3.0 will help it see a marketplace assortment and enable it to mirror that assortment with what is in place at H-E-B units. This will be particularly helpful in categories where certain items are included in H-E-B's category but not included in a mass merchant's category, for example.