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Data mining taught Camelot Music Holdings that senior citizens were buying rap music in droves. And it also explained why.

"We identified a group of high-spending, 65-plus members [of the store's frequent shopper club] who were buying lots of classical, jazz and movies. A large percentage were also buying rap and alternative music," said Bob Roberts, director of new-business development. "We thought at first there might be some mistake. After analyzing further, we found out these were grandparents buying for the grandkids."

That level of data mining is possible because of the advanced data warehouse Camelot has put together with the help of ICL Retail Systems' Precision Retailing Group in Dallas. The warehouse stores information about customers for Camelot as well as the recently acquired Spec's Music and The Wall retail stores.

Perhaps most important is that the database is extremely accessible and processes detailed information efficiently.

"I can double-click on the application in my PC and ask how many 24-year-old unmarried women are buying Celine Dion's Christmas album vs. 24-year-old married women," Mr. Roberts said. "Then I can track the source to find out why."

Those data help Camelot market ever more strategically. Mr. Roberts said that because customers are identifiable, when Camelot does traditional marketing, it can identify what works and what doesn't.

He explained: "We can place a radio ad in Pittsburgh for an album targeted at 35-year-old males. We know when the radio campaign kicked off. We can track the response of 35-year-old men. Every time we do one of these promotions, we have a control group of a comparable market like Charlotte and determine whether the

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