Hard Lines vs. Soft Lines: Definition and Examples

Hard Goods Versus Soft Goods

Hardlines and softlines are the two major classifications of retail inventory. “Softlines” generally refers to goods that are literally soft, such as clothing and bedding. “Hardlines” commonly refers to less personal items, such as appliances or sports equipment.

Terminology Tuesday: Episode 102 | Soft Lines vs Hard Lines

What are softline businesses?

Softline businesses are retailers that sell primarily “soft” merchandise. Compared to hard goods, soft goods are a smaller, more specialized category. Here are some examples of soft merchandise:

Here are a few types of softline businesses:

What are hardline businesses?

Hardline businesses are retailers that sell physically “hard” goods. Toiletries, pet supplies, toys, and sporting equipment are examples of hard goods. Examples of hardline products are:

Listed below are a few examples of companies that would stock primarily hardline products:

Hard lines vs. soft lines: Key differences

Many businesses carry a mix of hard and soft goods. Finding the right inventory mix can be aided by understanding how different hardline and softline business outcomes compare. The following are some significant distinctions between business hard lines and soft lines:

Digital stores vs. physical stores

Softline and hardline goods fare differently in different settings. Online stores have gained popularity with consumers for their convenience. However, consumers still value the ability to interact with products. Online sales of soft goods typically outperform those of larger hard goods like appliances, which are better suited for traditional, brick-and-mortar retail.


Because soft goods like coats, shirts, and shoes are so individualized and necessary for everyday life, they frequently result in higher profits for businesses. Additionally, because of this, soft goods sell much more quickly than hard goods. Hardline businesses, such as appliance stores, can take into account this distinction when determining their prices by setting the price of refrigerators high enough to generate a profit for the company.


When selling items like furniture, the economy is more important because many hardline products require larger investments from consumers. Customers might wait until prices drop before upgrading more pricey goods like couches. Regardless of the state of the economy, soft goods can require less investment and are simpler to replace.

Store displays

Soft goods, like sweaters, have more options for display because they are typically smaller and more adaptable than hard goods, like wooden tables. However, some companies may discover that hardline products, such as microwave ovens, are simpler to store in a store because they come in modular boxes that are simple to stack.


Another benefit of softline businesses over hardline businesses is stability because selling necessities ensures that customers will always have a reason to purchase soft goods. For instance, when their current pair of snow boots wears out, a customer may be inspired to purchase new ones. Although it may be inconvenient to live without a hardline good like a television, a consumer does not necessarily need one of these things.


Softline items typically cost less to store and maintain than hardline items. Softline businesses can therefore save more money than hardline businesses. For instance, compared to boxes of jeans, larger hardline items like couches require more storage space and power to move. For hardline businesses, this may result in higher rent and shipping costs.

Market options

Hardline companies have more market options available to them than softline companies do. This is due to the fact that hardline products typically fetch higher prices than softline products. For instance, if mattresses are sold for $1,300 each, a company has more money to set aside in case of a downturn in the economy.


Some businesses sell a combination of hard and soft goods in an effort to satisfy all of their customers’ needs. Stores may offer softline accessories to go with hardline goods or segment their inventory by department. For instance, a retailer of bathtubs (a hardline product) may also offer bath rugs (a softline product) to complement the bathtubs and boost sales.

For example, smaller companies may specialize in selling a specific type of product to make up for the difference in inventory that they can’t diversify as much as department stores. They may have an advantage over larger companies that may carry more general inventory because of their expert specialization.

Gross margin

The gross margin, which is expressed as a percentage, represents the profit an organization makes before non-operating expenses are deducted from it. Net sales less the cost of the goods sold (COGS) divided by net sales is the formula for calculating the gross margin. For instance, a company’s gross margin would be 60% if its monthly net sales were $10,000 and the cost of the goods it sold was $4,000.

Because consumers don’t purchase hard goods like furniture as frequently as they do soft goods like clothing, the gross margin for hardline businesses is typically lower than the gross margin for softline businesses.


Due to their size, many hardline products can have an impact on consumer trust. Consumer trust in hardline businesses can be increased by enabling consumers to see, touch, and experience their products. To help establish trust and cultivate a good reputation, both hardline and softline businesses can be aware of how to highlight the quality of their goods.


What does hard lines mean in retail?

Hardline businesses are retailers that sell physically “hard” goods. Toiletries, pet supplies, toys, and sporting equipment are examples of hard goods. Tools are examples of hardline products. Hardline products include both power tools and manual tools.

What soft line means?

Soft-line definition: supporting or involving a flexible or conciliatory course of action

What are hardgoods and softgoods?

There are two main types of retail inventory: hardlines and softlines, also known as hard goods and soft goods. Clothing and linens are examples of items that are commonly referred to as “soft goods.” Hard goods are non-personal items like appliances, electronics, or sporting equipment.

Are shoes hard or soft goods?

Soft Goods: Essentially, soft goods are anything you wear (e. g. hats, shirts, jackets, industrial workwear, shoes, gloves, socks, etc. ). On our page for branded apparel, you can find every article of clothing or soft goods that we sell.

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