What is merchandise? Definition and examples

Merchandise refers to any type of goods, including personal or commercial products, as well as commodities that are sold to members of the public (retail) or other businesses (wholesale).


Merchandise may also refer to ‘freebies’ – promotional items that are distributed or sold free of charge. These items may include calendars, magnets, wall art, stationery, greeting cards, textiles, badges, or any number of things.

An example of a freebie merchandise might be a T-shirt with a slogan or logo that a political party gives out to people during an election campaign, or a calendar with a logo that a supplier gives its customers at the end of each year.

Examples of merchandise may include things that are given away free by companies or political parties aimed at cultivating loyalty. When free samples are offered, the commercial enterprise is trying to encourage consumers to buy its products.

Merchandise may mean stocks of goods

The term may also refer to the stocks that a commercial enterprise has. If merchandise levels are low, it might mean that stocks need to be replenished.

Illegal goods

The word ‘merchandise’ is commonly used in movies when gangs are buying and selling illegal goods such as drugs or weapons. The leader of one gang might say “Where is the money?” to which a member of the other gang replies “Let’s see the merchandise first.”

Virtual goods

The concept of merchandise has expanded in the digital era to include virtual goods such as downloadable content, digital art, and online subscriptions, reflecting the shift in consumer behavior towards digital consumption.

Dictionary.com has the following definition for merchandise:

“1. The manufactured goods bought and sold in any business. 2. The stock of goods in a store. 3. Goods, especially manufactured goods; commodities.”

What is merchandising?

Merchandising refers to any type of activity that helps boost a product’s sales to a consumer, specifically in the retail trade. In a store, it refers to the variety of goods available for sale and the display of those items in such a way that interest is stimulated and consumers are enticed to make a purchased.

In the world of retailing, visual display merchandising means sales using product design, pricing, selection, display, and packaging that encourages members of the public to spend more money. This includes when and where to present products to consumers, discounting, and special offers. For example: “Buy three for the price of two” is an example of merchandising.

Marketing experts say merchandising is the glamorous side of retail, be it in upmarket fashion stores or supermarkets. The merchandising professional literally decides which products to buy and how they are displayed.

According to the American Marketing Association’s Dictionary, merchandising is:

“A term of many varied and not generally adopted meanings. It can (1) relate to the promotional activities of manufacturers that bring about in-store displays, or (2) identify the product and product line decisions of retailers.”

What is a merchandising professional?

A merchandising professional – a merchandiser – must know what is new on the market, what consumers like, and which items will make the most profit.

TotalJobs.com says the merchandiser’s job is not all glamor and shopping, and that duties are very unpredictable – no two days are ever the same.

Typical duties of a merchandiser include:

  • – Producing sales projections
  • – Analyzing sales data
  • – Ordering goods
  • – Visiting sellers and manufacturers
  • – Negotiating prices and terms with suppliers
  • – Liaising with other departments within the company
  • – Helping with advertising and promotion campaigns

TotalJobs.com quoted Tonya Paul, who said regarding a merchandiser’s job:

“This is a demanding role working to very tight deadlines. The greatest satisfaction comes with achieving these tight deadlines, negotiating great prices and seeing a happy client as the end result!”

Merchandise – a brief history

The term ‘merchandise’ emerged in the English language in Britain in the middle of the thirteenth century with the meaning ‘trading, commerce’.

By the middle of the 14th century its meaning spread to ‘wares, commodities of commerce, article for sale or trade’. The term came from Anglo-French Marchaundise, which evolved from Old French Marcheandise, meaning ‘business, trade, merchandise, goods’. In Old French, a Marchaunt was a ‘merchant’.

The word ‘merchandise’ in other languages: mercancías (Spanish), mercadoria (Portuguese), Marchandise (French), Merce (Italian), Waren (German), товар (Russian), بضائع (Arabic), 商品 (Japanese), 商品 (Chinese), barang dagangan (Indonesian), mal (Turkish), and व्यापार (Hindi).

“Merchandise” – a derivative of “merchant”

The root word of “merchandise” is “merchant.” From this root word, there are many derivatives, including nouns, verbs, and adjectives (no adverbs). Let’s have a look at some of them:

  • Merchant (noun)

A person involved in the buying and selling of goods.
For example: “The merchant set up his stall at the dawn of market day.”

  • Merchandise (noun)

Goods to be bought and sold.
For example: “The store’s merchandise was carefully arranged to attract customers.”

  • Merchantability (noun)

The quality of something to be marketed or sold.
For example: “The merchantability of the product was unquestionable, leading to high sales figures.”

  • Merchantman (noun)

A ship used in commerce.
For example: “The old merchantman was still seaworthy after decades of traversing the trade routes.”

  • Merchandising (noun)

The activity of promoting the sale of goods, especially by their presentation in retail outlets.
For example: “Effective merchandising can significantly increase a store’s sales.”

  • Merchantable (adjective)

Fit for market; of a quality to be sold.
For example: “The apples were fresh, ripe, and merchantable.”

  • Mercantile (adjective)

Related to or engaged in trade or commerce.
For example: “The city’s mercantile history was evident in its grand old trading houses.”

  • Merchandize/Merchandise (verb – less common)

To deal in; to trade.
For example: “She merchandised her art to local shops and galleries.”

Two Videos

The following educational videos, available on our affiliated YouTube channel Marketing Business Network, explain what “Merchandise” and “Merchandising” mean using simple and easy-to-understand language and examples.

  • What is Merchandise?

  • What is Merchandising?