The paper reviews the developments which have taken place in the retailer panel services in the late 80's and early 90's, with specific reference to the move from retail audits to scanning based services and the current trend towards census data. The dramatic growth of data volumes associated with these changes have brought into the industry the need for the latest in information technology and a new way of handling and analyzing the data. The paper discusses the trends towards harmonising data, structuring hierarchies and creating order. It draws a clear distinction between multi-dimensional databases and data warehouses and between data mining and data drilling, and explains in some detail the meanings behind the terms. Whereas much of the technical and theoretical aspects associated with the latest technology are kept to a minimum, there is a focus on the essence, meaning and implications to the end user. The current trends toward manufacturer specific data warehouses are challenged and it is argued that users who now re-focus on modelling and analytical techniques and data mining technologies will quickly benefit more than their competitors who continue to focus on ordering data in their own data warehouse environments.
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