Why can’t the average shopper remember if her latest pair of blue jeans came from Macy’s, Lord & Taylor or Dillard’s? According to Britt Beemer, chairman of Charleston, S.C.-based America’s Research Group Ltd., 74% of American consumers believe retailers in the same merchandise category look alike.

"I have a friend who is the manager of a major department store, and he says 20% of the checks the store receives are written to someone else," Beemer told a conference room full of ICSC members at the organization’s 2002 Florida Conference yesterday. Beemer said such brand confusion is the result of an over-homogenized retail market in the United States. "Retailers today merchandise to sell goods, not stores," he added.

Beemer pointed to furniture chain Rooms 2 Go as one retailer that is merchandising for differentiation. He said the store’s layout and unique products make it stand out in a crowded retail segment.