NEW YORK: Following Wal-Mart's withdrawal earlier this month from The Nielsen Company's PRISM retail measurement program, the metrics mammoth has 'indefinitely' suspended the operation, a co-initiative with the In-Store Marketing Institute launched in 2006. 

Notoriously sensitive at releasing sales data to market research firms, Wal-Mart overcame its reservations in May 2007 to sign-up to PRISM. But having repressed its reticence for the past seventeen months, the retailer gave no explanation for its abrupt exit.

A likely reason, say observers, is the program's high cost – arguably unsustainable in  the current economic climate. PRISM (a labored acronym for Pioneering Research for an In-Store Metric) was due to launch this fall as a national syndicated service.

Admits ISMI executive director Peter Hoyt: "I know it was very expensive to do the constant, continuous audits in the field.

"I think the cost would have come down over time, but they ran out of time to do that because so many of the original supporters are having to cut their budgets. It's a shame. We thought it had a lot of promise."

Post-PRISM, Nielsen intends to work on a custom basis with clients interested in exploring alternative methods of meeting their shopper-marketing objectives until a syndicated service is financially viable.

This is the third exit by Nielsen from a major pilot scheme during the past twelve months. Other joint projects that bit the dust include Project Apollo (with Arbitron), the social networking site Hey! Nielsen, and the Out of Home television viewing service on which it worked with IMMI (Integrated Media Measurement Inc).

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff