Beleaguered toy industry tracker NPD Group, which suffered a major blow in August when Toys ‘R’ Us pulled out of its Toy Retail Sales Tracking Service (TRSTS), has gotten a new bead on Wal-Mart sales data that could help restore its standing in the toy industry.
About a year ago, NPD reached a data-sharing agreement with fellow U.S. market research firm Information Resources Inc. (IRI) for Wal-Mart sales data. So just as Toys ‘R’ Us was pulling the plug on TRSTS, NPD was getting ready to unveil a new quarterly report called Wal-Mart In-Depth.
NPD Funworld president Esther Han says IRI runs a large consumer panel for which it recruits households to record all of their Wal-Mart purchases on scanner-type devices. NPD now combines IRI’s toy data with its own consumer panel data to get a read on how toys are faring at the number-one U.S. toy retailer, which accounts for about 25% of toy sales.
Wal-Mart In-Depth reports include sales information broken down by super-category, category, license, corporate manufacturer, brand, total property and item. Dollar and unit sales, share and distribution, average retail price, regional sales and household income levels are also measured, along with Wal-Mart sales compared to the total toy industry, and its price variance compared to other retailers. Category terms and definitions remain the same as they were under TRSTS.
NPD is looking to expand this service’s coverage to include other retailers by 2005, but the company will concentrate on In-Depth and its consumer panel data this year. NPD continues to provide monthly reports culled from weekly web surveys of 44,000 consumers that are designed to break down where and why folks buy the toys they buy.
While this new report helps fill a tracking gap, Han cautions that it and the consumer panel cannot replace TRSTS completely. For one, Wal-Mart In-Depth’s total-market coverage isn’t as comprehensive – while it provides industry comparisons, it doesn’t measure sales at other retailers. And secondly, the consumer panel data tends to measure purchases by brand rather than by SKU. ‘There are thousands of models of Hot Wheels, but consumers will see it as ‘I bought a new Hot Wheel,’ not ‘I bought the new red one with the NASCAR logo,” Han explains. ‘They don’t think about their purchases on the same itemized level that manufacturers do.’
That said, NPD continues to work on refining its services. The company is using the POS data collected from remaining participating retailers to shore up its consumer panel findings, and Han says she’s in discussions with these participating retailers about how NPD will handle the data into 2005. She says NPD retained its 2003 customers, and response to the new offering has been positive for 2004.