Business Glossary

What is Merchandise?

Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes only and should not be deemed to be or used as legal, employment, or health & safety advice. For guidance or advice specific to your business, consult with a qualified professional.

Merchandise is an incredibly broad term in business. It can refer to any consumer goods that are bought or sold in a transaction between a business and its customer. Merchandise may make its way through numerous links in the supply chain throughout its life cycle including manufacturers, distributors, warehouses and retailers before making its way to the consumer.

Merchandise also has a more specific meaning in the field of branding. In building a brand and a consumer base, companies may give away branded products to prospective consumers. These products are often referred to as merchandise or branded merchandise although they are often given away rather than sold. Alternatively, branded products may be sold to consumers who already have a pre-existing attachment to an existing intellectual property such as a band, fictional character or entertainment franchise.

Examples of merchandise

Businesses can use all kinds of promotional items to grow their brand and generate goodwill within their target market. These may be given as corporate gifts at industry events or as a way of saying thank you’ to a customer. Branded promotional products will often include the company logo, or even the company’s contact details or URL. They are a useful way of keeping the company’s brand at the forefront of the customer’s mind and creating positive associations with that brand. As such, branded merchandise usually takes the form of something that is useful or commonly used by the consumer. They can be a subtle way of saying ‘contact us’ and keeping the brand fresh in the mind of the customer when the time comes to place an order (or reorder).

Typical examples include:

  • mugs

  • keyrings

  • promotional clothing such as t-shirts, baseball caps and sunglasses

  • water bottles

  • promotional bags

  • mouse mats

  • USB power banks for charging smartphones and tablets

  • USB memory sticks

  • MP3 players

  • In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, face masks and hand sanitisers have been very popular promotional products

There is a huge range of merchandisable items that can be used for this purpose and they are freely used in the B2B and B2C sectors. However, some items are more cost-effective than others. Mugs, t-shirts and keyrings can be given more freely than high-quality, high-value goods like consumer electronics.

Merchandising explained

Merchandising has a number of meanings in the business world but broadly speaking it refers to the marketing and sale of consumer products.

In brick-and-mortar retail, merchandising is the practice of preparing goods for sale, making them as accessible and appealing to the prospective consumer as possible. This includes everything from promotional materials and displays to the appearance of the goods themselves. As well as increasing consumer appeal, merchandising helps to ensure that the presentation of products is in line with government marketing standards.

However, that does not mean that merchandising is solely the domain of physical retail. The digital world has helped to reshape the definition of merchandising. Discounted or competitive pricing, promotional discount codes sent as part of an email marketing campaign, or delivering targeted ads are all forms of merchandising in this digital context.

Frequently asked questions about merchandise

What is omnichannel merchandising?

Omnichannel merchandising means creating a shopping experience for the consumer that is consistent across multiple channels. A customer should experience the same quality of transaction whether they buy from your physical store, through your website or through a third party.

What is promotional merchandise?

Promotional merchandise refers to promotional items that are sold or given away to consumers for the purpose of growing awareness and building value in the company’s brand. Promotional merchandise is usually designed to be cost-effective to make or buy, yet bring value to the recipient. Therefore, it encompasses a broad range of items from mugs and t-shirts to portable power banks.

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