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 is back in her civvies (standard khaki/polo shirt boothwear) and the prize has been downsized from the $81,000 Carrera to the $59,000 Cayman coupe. The company may have felt the need to cut costs because of the multi-million dollar investment it’s making to make a splash in the retail real estate data market, including new site-inspection vans, one of which is also on display in its ICSC booth.

CoStar today will unveil a new version of its CoStar Property Professional service for retail that 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 in the ICSC Trade Mall, there are two dozen data providers offering all sorts of heavy-duty data analytics. They include Prediction Analytics, MapInfo Corp., SRC Software, ESRI and Sites USA, all of which are aiming to provide retailers and developers with oodles of real-time data.

In fact, many companies are showcasing new or expanded technologies this year.

For its part, SRC 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 which creates detailed maps showing exact drive 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,” Olivia Duane-Adams, executive vice president with SRC. “Real estate companies are beginning to see the potential these kinds of tools have.”

Florance says the software coming on line will greatly ease the process for retailers looking for space, including making appointments at the ICSC Spring Convention more productive.

“Right now it’s about getting one-sheets on properties or getting information from local brokers,” Florance says. “This puts a lot more at your fingertips.”

The faces a major challenge, however, in that it is relatively new and unknown in the retailer space. It also faces challengers, even if Florance believes CoStar’s system provides more comprehensive information. For example, Florance mentioned the company is bringing 30 representatives each from the major drug store chains. But Prediction Analytics is set to announce today that it has signed Rite Aid Corp. to use its Retail Performance Modeling technology. Like CoStar, the software is aimed to help retailers find new locations and help predict stores sales.

CoStar has spent much of the last three years compiling the data and photographs, which include every location for the top 3,000 retailers in the country and information on 400,000 others. The system allows users to search by retailer type or name or by property. There are then dozens of filters that can be applied, to locate sites that meet a retailer’s needs, such as income levels, population density, distance from competitors or a firm’s own existing stores. The results can be analyzed further for trends including population or income growth. Many of the properties in the system include 360-degree photos.

CoStar compiles the data through its fleet of trucks that drives the nation constantly, photographing and filming properties and comparing the video with older film.

The service will be available through companies getting Bloomberg-like terminals from CoStar and paying fees based on the number of licenses.