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The Nielsen Co. said yesterday that it has signed a cooperation agreement with Walmart that will have the world’s largest retailer providing data to Nielsen from its US stores. The announcement said that “Nielsen will be working with Walmart (including Neighborhood Market) and Sam’s Club to report their sales information and incorporate it into existing reads of the marketplace. This new base of information will have better and more accurate coverage for all participating retailers and manufacturers, providing improved insights into sales volumes, pricing, merchandising and promotions. As part of the agreement, Nielsen will be Walmart’s primary provider for information, tools and training.”

The decision marks a reversal of a decision made more than a decade ago by Walmart to restrict access to its sales and performance data.

According to the announcement, “The majority of U.S. food, drug, mass, convenience and dollar store retailers already provide Nielsen with sales information, and this will add to the existing market information, enabling Nielsen to provide a better, more precise view of consumer purchase activity for the benefit of the industry.”

Advertising Age reports that “SymphonyIRI is in the process of finalizing an agreement with Wal-Mart that will provide the same level of access to the retailer's scanner data, said John McIndoe, senior VP-marketing. At the same time, he said SymphonyIRI has been named Wal-Mart's preferred supplier of shopper and consumer insights, and will be the ‘platform of choice’ to provide Walmart customer insights.

“Wal-Mart's policy change is potentially a win for other research firms, too, such as NPD Group, which also had access to Walmart scanner data prior to the ban more than a decade ago. An NPD spokeswoman couldn't immediately be reached for comment. A Walmart spokeswoman was in a meeting and also couldn't immediately provide comment on the reason for ending the ban on industry data-sharing.
KC's View:
It is amazing what eight straight quarters of stagnant same store sales in the US will get you to do. Sign of weakness or sign of strength? You decide.

What’s equally amazing are some of the whispers one hears down in Bentonville about other coming changes at Walmart. For the moment they are just whispers and just speculation ... but I must admit that they are getting louder.