Is New Database A Junior Abacus Of Retail World?

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Alliance Data Systems, Dallas, has launched an enhanced database of 20 million active 12-month credit card buyers based on transactional data from eight well-known retail chains owned by The Limited Inc.: The Limited, Limited Too, Express, Lerner New York, Victoria's Secret, Lane Bryant, Bath & Body Works and Structure.


"We've been compiling the file for quite a while," said Dave Freed, director of product marketing and development at ADS, who added that some of the brands themselves have been on the market before but not with the lifestyle, demographic or merchandise categories now offered.


At this point, the alliance has no intention of growing the database into a retail version of the catalog industry's Abacus Alliance, which tracks similar data on more than 88 million households of catalog buyers. But officials said they would be interested in adding participants from retailers that would add value to the database.


"It's probably the biggest list event since Reader's Digest put their file on the market," said Laura Smith, vice president and director of list management at RMI Direct Marketing Inc., one of three firms that will manage the segmented database.


ADS processes all credit card transactions for each retail location. The data collected from these transactions include purchaser, purchase date, purchase location, items purchased and purchase amount. An overlay of lifestyle and demographic information is applied to the file for further segmentation.


The Alliance Buyers Master File encompasses every aspect of the database. Currently, selects include geography, gender, age, income, lifestyle, presence of children, telephone number, brand multibuyer, mail-order buyer and dollar.


Brand segments make up a file for mailers to single out one or more of the eight retailers on the database. The Limited, Express and Lerner New York are women's apparel and accessory retailers; Lane Bryant sells plus-size women's clothing; Limited Too is a retailer of clothing and accessories for girls ages 7 to 14; Bath & Body Works offers personal care products; and Structure is a retailer of men's sportswear.


Victoria's Secret, a retailer of lingerie, is included in the master file and the market segments, but the individual brand is not selectable.


The 25 Alliance Buyer market segments are a result of the overlaid lifestyle and demographic information applied to the file.


The segmented database has been split among three list management firms for maximum marketing exposure, Freed said. MSGi Direct, previously Stevens-Knox, New York, has been selected to represent the master file, the brand segments and 11 of the market segments.


"The database appeals to almost every marketer in the business," said Rick Blume, group vice president of list management at MSGi, adding that it's especially attractive to anyone who does regression modeling.


Though no one has attempted to compile an all-encompassing database containing information on retail buyers from several chains, Federated Department Stores Inc. has a similar database of its retail buyers, including Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Burdines and Stern's.


The ADS master file consists of 20 million active last-12-month buyers. The counts for the individual brand segments will be available shortly.


MSGi will handle the following 11 Alliance Buyers market segments:


* Active Travelers - more than 3.4 million buyers.


* Affluent Customers - more than 4.2 million buyers.


* Audio/Visual Enthusiasts - more than 5 million buyers.


* Business Opportunity Seekers - more than 1 million buyers.


* Capital Investors - more than 2 million buyers.


* Electronic & Technology Enthusiasts - more than 2 million buyers.


* Ethnic Consumers - more than 3.4 million buyers.


* Opportunity Seekers - more than 1.2 million buyers.


* Pet Owners - more than 3.4 million buyers.


* Photography Enthusiasts - more than 1.4 million buyers.


* Professional Families - more than 1.8 million buyers.


RMI Direct Marketing, Danbury, CT, will manage:


* Age 50+ - more than 1.6 million buyers.


* Collectibles - more than 1.1 million buyers.


* Crafts - more than 1.3 million buyers.


* Donor Master File - more than 3.6 million buyers.


* Donors to Environmental Causes - more than 139,000 buyers.


* Donors to Health Causes - more than 721,000 buyers.


* Donors to Political Causes - more than 781,000 buyers.


* Donors to Social Causes - more than 624,000 buyers.


* Home & Garden Master File - more than 3.6 million buyers.


List Services Corp., Bethel, CT, will manage:


* Active Outdoor Enthusiasts - more than 2.2 million buyers.


* Diet and Self-Improvement - more than 1 million buyers.


* Families With Children - more than 1.5 million buyers.


* Health and Fitness - more than 2.2 million buyers.


* Publishing - more than 2.1 million buyers.


"Those are very strong categories of management for us," said Bill Dreska, sales manager at LSC.


Although the files are ready to run orders, exact count and demographic information are not yet complete. Freed expects data cards to be finalized this week.


Updates of the database will occur monthly, and new selects - including product selections - will be available in the future. Changes will be made along the way, based on the demands of the database's users, Freed said.
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