Exploring Data Warehousing in Retail

by Olejuru Lanfear, Experienced Senior Merchandise Planning Professional & Author of ‘The Fundamentals of Planning’

July 13, 2021


Just like physical products need to be stored at a location, data collected by nano, micro, small, medium and large retailers also need to be stored somewhere.

In the past data collected was also stored in specialised physical locations and kept for the required amount of time. Today the same data collected is stored virtually, in a place that is generically called a data warehouse. It is not an onsite physical location with lots of filing cabinets, rather it is stored in the cloud.

Once stored, data can be recalled using a front end system. For instance, when a product is purchased, the type of product, colour and size is recorded. Also recorded is the time the transaction took place, location of transaction, the time of day of the transaction, who put the sale through the till/register – if it was a physical or an online transaction, payment method used and so on.

All that information gets stored and at the end of the day, week, month or other time period, that information is aggregated together to give a view on performance.

Types of data warehouses
There are usually different data warehouses for different types of information, sales information is stored in one data warehouse, while warehouse information is stored in a different data warehouse.

Reasons for data to be stored in different data warehouses are varied and could be for speed, security and age reasons.

Access to the information can be based on how often the information needs to be retrieved, by whom and for what purpose.

Interaction with data warehouses
Outside of recalling retail transactions, we interact with data warehouses on a daily basis. Each time we do a search for information, we are recalling information stored in some form of data warehouse.

In retail, there is a lot of data collected. Being able to store and recall data is essential as it is this data that is used to plan and make decisions. As a side note, data warehouses don’t have a physical location, there are no papers in files, manually indexed and stored in a building somewhere.

Having a system in place that is able to sort the data into meaningful categories allows for better planning and decision making.