Product Sourcing

Softline vs. Hardline: What Are the Differences

softlines vs hardlines

Softlines vs. hardlines is a prevalent argument in the world of retail business. For some groups of people, they are deliberating which of the two is better. Some others also agitate as to which offers more profit compared to the other. And, some people have no idea of the meaning of either one of softlines or hardlines.

For most manufacturers and retailers, the concept of hardline and softline is strange. If you’re a newbie to the world of importation or exportation, you’re in the right place. In this article, you’ll find all the answers you need to understand the softlines vs. hardlines discourse.

What are Hardlines and Softlines?

It’s impossible to discuss softlines vs. hardlines without knowing the perfect definition of both terms. So, let’s explicitly describe the concept of hardline and softlines.


The first thing you need to know is hardlines are also known as hard goods. Mostly, hard goods are those that aren’t personal items. Essentially these wares don’t contribute to your physical appearance.

In many cases, consumers know the manufacturers and retailers of hard goods as big-box manufacturers. That is partly because of the size of their merchandise and chiefly because of their outlet size.  And, size is one of the most common points during a softlines vs. hardlines discourse. Some perfect examples of hard goods include:

  • Electrical devices
  • Computer electronics
  • Tools for handyman
  • Building tools and materials
  • Furniture for home
  • Factory equipment and furniture
  • Mechanical equipment
  • Sport instruments

If you look closely at the examples of hardlines, you’ll notice they’re bulky goods. Sometimes, retailers need to have a designated warehouse because of the size of their wares. Now, let’s describe the meaning of soft goods.


Of course, softlines are the exact opposite of hardgoods. And, as the name infers, they are goods that are “soft.”  Softlines refer to personalized merchandise. These goods contribute directly to your personal and physical needs.

Unlike hard goods, soft goods aren’t necessarily big and bulky in appearance. Likewise, softlines don’t occupy so much space in retail stores. Therefore, retailers and manufacturers of soft goods can worry less about building big stores.

Here are some examples of soft goods;

  • Bedspreads
  • Fabrics
  • Cashmere
  • Costume jewelry
  • Linen
  • All types of shoes
  • Travel luggage bags.
  • Fashion bags

A close look at these examples explains why the retail world classifies these goods as softlines. Many times, the merchants of soft goods have space to display several items. When the debate is softlines vs. hardlines, supporters talk about the benefits of both goods. As a result, we need to take a look at the advantages of the pair.

Hardlines vs. Softlines: Comparing the Advantages

In appearance, size, and texture, the difference is evident between soft goods and hard goods. This difference means both goods have advantages over each other.

Before you venture into importation, you should compare the benefit of softlines vs. that of hardlines. To start with, let’s discuss the advantages of hard goods.


Naturally, to start selling hardlines, you need a considerable amount of capital. As a result, if you sell frequently, your profit margin will be massive. However, hard goods have higher prices, and as such, consumers won’t buy them during periods of economic downturn. More so, most hardlines are non-clothing, non-essential items.

Product visibility

Due to the large sizes of big-box retail products, hardgoods are easy to see. In many cases, consumers love to see, feel, and compare items before making a purchase. Asides from showing them exact options, it is easier to build customer trust with hardlines.

Market options

As a hardline retailer, you have the luxury of options should there be an economic meltdown. For example, let’s assume you sell home appliances with a daily profit of $400. If people no longer need devices, you’ve enough capital to switch to another product easily. Of course, that’s if you make steady profits from the hardgoods business.

The above mentioned are some advantages of hardlines. Here are some of the benefits of soft goods;

Quick profits

The items grouped as soft goods are quite essential to the everyday life of most consumers. For this reason, softgoods sell a lot faster than hardgoods. For example, you are likely to change your footwear more frequently than your refrigerator. As a result, a footwear merchant has more prospective customers compared to a large appliance merchant.

Market flexibility and stability.

Market stability is a significant advantage of softlines vs. hardlines. No matter how bad the economy gets, you still need soft goods. For instance, a middle-class woman has no option but to change her worn-out clothes. But, she’ll instead fix her dishwasher than purchase a new one. Resultantly, as an outfit retailer, customers buy your soft products more frequently.

Save costs

The cost of maintenance, inventory, and inspection of softlines is relatively low. Likewise, you won’t be needing a warehouse to store all goods. That is because all your goods can comfortably occupy a retail store.

Also, you can easily find a quality inspection company to assess products assigned for importation. Since the products are mostly less complicated and tech-inclined, the manpower necessary to carry out quality inspection is lower. Hence, companies looking to import Softlines from China can inspect them at cost-effective pricing. Essentially, softlines have lower running costs compared to hardlines.


Apart from being retail items, softlines and hardlines have apparent differences. Therefore, the manufacturing, handling, and inspection of softlines differ vs. that of hardlines. For this reason, most retailers practice extreme caution; and employ professionals in that field.

In the retail world of today, many merchants combine both hardlines and softlines. If you intend to combine both, it’s best to seek professional help, particularly for inspection. Here at Jonble, we have the professionals, experience, and expertise to provide standard inspection services.

This expertise means we can compare hardlines vs. softlines and provide you with the information you need. You can avoid costly errors and save money in your business today. When you book an appointment with us, we’ll help with quality and professional inspection consultancy.