Retail Dogma

Hard Goods and Soft Goods in Retail

Hard goods and soft goods, or hardlines and softlines, are often used in categorizing product departments in merchandising and category management at big retail stores and big online retailers, such as Walmart, Target and Amazon.

Hardlines Vs. Softlines

Hardlines and softlines are usually merchandised and sold to customers in different ways. They also differ in their lifecycle, frequency of purchasing, and the customer journey towards making the purchase decision.

Hard goods are hard, durable items, that are usually big in size.

They are mostly merchandised as one piece on the floor for display and the actual sale is fulfilled from the stock room or the warehouse.

Because of their durable nature, they are not frequently purchased by the same customer over and over again within short periods of time. The buying process also takes longer time for browsing and comparing alternatives, until it reaches the final purchase decision.

customer journey

Soft goods, on the other hand, are soft to touch, foldable, and smaller in size.

They are usually merchandised in higher quantity on the floor for customers to pick and go. They also tend to have a higher frequency of purchasing by the same customer, and a shorter buying process.

Hard Goods Examples

  • Furniture
  • Appliances
  • Consumer Electronics
  • Toys
  • Tools
  • Hardware
  • Sporting Goods
  • Musical Instruments

Soft Goods Examples

  • Apparel
  • Footwear
  • Accessories
  • Bedding
  • Textile

Sales Channels

Although each type (hardlines and softlines) includes different product categories under it, they usually share similarities in how they are displayed and sold to customers, which has led to making them also suitable for different sales channels.

For example, hardlines are easy to sell online.

An iPhone is an iPhone, whether you buy it on Amazon or physically at the Apple store. Customers can see it in real life and make the purchase online, or even directly buy online because they know what to expect.

Same applies to other hard goods, such as appliances, tools, instruments,..etc.

Softlines, however, have proven to be easier to sell through brick & mortar retailing.

Customers still want to touch the items to check the material or try them out before they buy them, and even try different pieces together.

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More Resources

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