On the eve of last year's ICSC Convention in Las Vegas, CoStar sealed a deal to purchase mall data supplier National Research Bureau from publisher VNU. To hype the industrial/office data company's move into the retail market, CoStar hired a model to pose as a bride with visitors to the CoStar booth, where they could enter a contest to win a Porsche Carrera Cabriolet.

This year, the bride was back in her civvies (standard khaki/polo shirt boothwear) and the prize was downsized from the $81,000 Carrera to the $59,000 Cayman coupe. The company may have felt the need to cut costs because of its multi-milliondollar investment in the retail real estate data market.

CoStar unveiled a new version of its CoStar Property Professional service updated for the retail industry, which it says will be the most comprehensive in the segment, with a regularly-updated database of 1 million retail properties across the country. It will include vacancy data, 3 million property photos, tenant rosters and demographic information such as population, income and traffic counts.

“For retailers, this kind of information can make or break you,” says CoStar CEO Andrew Florance. “There are a lot more information requirements and a huge potential market for us.”

For all its ambitions, CoStar is entering a market that is hardly underserved. Within 50 yards of the CoStar booth there were two dozen data providers. They included Prediction Analytics, MapInfo Corp., SRC Software, ESRI and Sites USA, all aiming to provide oodles of real-time data.

SRC, meanwhile, is adding new capabilities to its Demographics Now service. It has struck a deal with Lebhar-Friedman Inc. to deliver articles about regions or properties when users are searching for sites. It has added a drive-time feature that creates detailed maps showing exact travel times on existing roads. Lastly, it forged an alliance with REI to provide commercial property analysis to complement SRC's demographics data.

“We've brought a technological and content solution that makes sense,” says Olivia Duane-Adams, executive vice president with SRC. “Real estate companies are beginning to see the potential these kinds of tools have.”