A new survey commissioned by Meridian, an integrated strategic planning and communications company, shows that retail performed poorly in the US because merchandise was poor and failed to live up to customer expectations.

The study, which was also conducted by Wiese Research Associates Inc, found that standard retailers' excuses from an economic slowdown to the weather just did not hold water.

Consumers were looking for product first and price second. Sales and discounts may have attracted customers to stores, but 45 per cent of those surveyed said they were not impressed by any store they visited. Likewise, 42 per cent had shifted their purchasing to a different store this year, with selection being the No. 1 reason for the change.

Meridian president of strategic planning Bob Gordman said that selection was named twice as often as price as the reason for shopping in a store: "Today's winners in retailing are those that know their customers and match their merchandise offerings to customer expectations," he said.