What are Soft Goods? Definition, Types, Overview & 11 Facts

Soft goods are manufactured with conformable or soft materials for their ergonomics/wearability, cushioning/impact resistance, durability, and aesthetics. Click on each section below to view additional details about it. 

What are Soft Goods?

Soft goods, also known as consumables or nondurable items, are any items with an expected lifespan of less than three years.

What are Soft Goods?

This is in contrast to durable items, which are expected to function beyond three years. The majority of nations’ economies rely on both perishable and nonperishable commodities, which are consistently purchased by consumers.

Types of Soft Goods

Clothing is among the most prominent examples of soft goods. Some clothing may last longer than three years, but the vast majority of manufacturers, assuming normal wear and tear, do not provide a guarantee for more than one year.

Consumables of this type must be periodically replaced, whether due to a change in consumer preference, a change in the owner’s body type, or because a beloved garment is worn until it begins to show signs of wear and tear.

Additionally, other materials are anticipated to have a maximum lifespan of three years. In general, bed linens, especially sheet sets, are not expected to last longer. Tablecloths, napkins, towels, and other types of draperies and curtains are generally classified as soft.

Occasionally, clothing accessories are soft products. Infrequently are shoes, boots, and other types of footwear designed to last longer than three years. The same holds true for accessories such as gloves, scarves, and baseball caps, which are frequently chosen to complement an outfit.

Soft products are appropriately classified as anything that can be consumed in a short amount of time. Office supplies are an excellent illustration. Copy paper, file folders, and notepads are frequently depleted consumable paper products.

What are Soft Goods?

Markers, pens, and other supplies used to create visual aids are typically exhausted within a few months to a year. Rubber products, such as elastic bands, are classified as soft goods due to their propensity to break under repeated use.

Personal items constitute a subcategory of soft goods. Consumables consist of all types of cosmetics, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, and other personal hygiene products. Additionally, lotions and creams used for skin care and body washing are deemed soft or nondurable.

There are numerous types of soft items that are frequently employed. Small household appliances such as toasters, hair dryers, and other frequently utilized items typically come with a limited warranty of no more than a few years.

The consumable petroleum products gasoline and oil are gasoline and oil, respectively. If the product is designed with the knowledge that it will have a shelf life of less than three years, it may be classified as a nondurable good.

Nondurable Goods

In general, clothing and home furnishings are regarded as perishable goods. According to the United States Census Bureau, nondurable goods have a useful life of less than three years.

Nondurable commodities also include food, pharmaceuticals, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco products, in addition to magazines, newspapers, and other paper items. In contrast, the majority of hard items are classified as durable goods and are expected to have a useful life of more than three years.

Working in Soft Merchandise

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, apparel, accessory, and general merchandise merchants — providers of soft items — provide first jobs to a substantial number of people. The majority of positions in the industry require little or no formal education, and approximately 31 percent of jobs in 2011 were part-time.

The average hourly wage for cashiers in clothing stores is $8.34, compared to $9.04 for retail salespeople. Due to these factors, the industry frequently has a large number of job openings.

Soft Goods in Ecommerce

As Internet commerce (or ecommerce) has evolved, “soft goods” or “soft stuff” has come to be used to describe certain Internet-sold items. In the context of Internet commerce, “hard commodities” refers to tangible items such as books and CDs that are sold online.

Soft products, on the other hand, are immaterial items that can be purchased and utilized but cannot be touched, such as music, movie, or software downloads, or sold knowledge.

Design Considerations for Soft Goods

There are special considerations for the selection of materials, seam allowances and tolerances, pattern design, and component assembly in the design of soft goods, just as there are for the detailing of injection-molded plastic components or sheet metal fabrication in the design of other types of products.

What are Soft Goods?

In textiles, there are performance advantages associated with the selection of woven or knitted fabrics, stretch properties (2 way, 4 way stretch), environmental factors (e.g., nylon is hydrophilic, which means it absorbs moisture), and strength considerations such as selecting the appropriate denier (a unit of measurement for the thickness of individual threads).

Foams can have varying densities, which influences their performance in an assembly. There are considerations for fabric lamination and integration on the top and bottom of compression-molded foam components. There are various methods for applying branding and matching colors to soft products. This is just the start!

Specifying and Communicating Soft Goods

There are also variations in describing soft items. While soft-molded components are frequently designed using 3D CAD, textile assemblies are typically created using patterns or a specialized 2D drawing program (typically referred to as a tech pack).

Understanding human tolerance is essential for achieving mass-production-acceptable results in production sewing construction. In contrast to injection molding, where component details can be regulated to.002 inches, seam tolerance can vary by 1/8 inches between products.

Working with a Soft Goods Designer

Soft product designers come from a variety of backgrounds, including apparel and accessory designers, textile developers, and industrial designers. Others have extensive experience with children’s products and household items.

What are Soft Goods?

Lexicon Design approaches soft goods from an industrial design and human-centered design perspective. As with all of our design work, our approach to developing soft products is based on design for functionality, aesthetics, design for production, and support of our client’s business strategy.

As with any competent soft product developer, we design and prototype to arrive at the desired product solution, and we have experience working with manufacturers to assist in the production of our clients’ concepts.

Hard Goods Vs Soft Goods

The two primary retail inventory categories are hardlines and softlines. In general, “Softlines” refers to soft products, such as clothing and mattresses. In common usage, “hardlines” refers to non-personal items such as home appliances and sporting equipment. Hardlines and consumer durables are practically synonymous.

Boxed products are frequently identifiable in a retailer’s inventory by their packaging. The majority of athletic goods do not arrive in boxes, whereas small appliances typically do.

Manufacturers and marketers of durable goods may attempt to increase the desirability of carrying their products by reducing package sizes so retailers can stock them with less shelf space. This is advantageous for the retailer because they can carry more products and have more display space.

How Retailers Manage Inventory

Large discount or department stores carry both hard and soft items in their inventories. The concept underlying the design of department stores is to enable consumers to fulfill nearly all of their shopping requirements in a single location.

Retailers may separate departments based on hardlines and softlines or combine the two if doing so appears to provide consumers with greater convenience. For example, a department store may carry bed sheets alongside bedroom furniture.

Small retailers cannot carry the same assortment of products as department and discount stores. Consequently, their business strategy frequently involves portraying themselves as experts in a particular product line or field.

A bed and bath retailer exemplifies this method of retailing. To position themselves as comprehensive suppliers within their chosen retail sector, small stores typically stock a mixture of hard and soft items.

Other Considerations

As a result of the rapid expansion of online shopping, companies such as Amazon (AMZN) have upended inventory management and fulfillment.

Amazon, in contrast to conventional retailers, relies primarily on a vast network of its own distribution facilities to store both hard and soft items, before utilizing its industry-leading logistics to expedite and ensure the delivery of products to customers.


A soft good is a service or product that requires less effort from the end user. A soft good could consist of a simple blanket or mattress.

The goal of the soft good is to make it easier for the end user to use and more comfortable for the end user to use.

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Pat Moriarty
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