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Nondurable Goods in Economics: Definition, Nondurable vs. Durable Goods, and Impact on Consumer Behavior

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 3 min read

Goods are the backbone of an economy, and the supply and demand of certain goods can be used as economic indicators to determine an economy’s wellbeing. In economics, goods can be separated into two categories: durable goods and nondurable goods.

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What Are Nondurable Goods?

Nondurable goods are any consumer goods in an economy that are either consumed in one use or used up over a short period of time (considered by the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis to be within three years) and must be bought again in successive purchases.

Nondurable goods are also called soft goods or consumable goods. Some examples of nondurable goods include:

  • Food
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dish soap
  • Light bulbs
  • Paper products like paper plates
  • Clothing

Nondurable goods are the opposite of durable goods, which are not consumed or that yield utility over long periods of time (considered to be over three years).

What Is the Place of Nondurable Goods in an Economy?

Nondurable goods have an important place in an economy:

  • A significant portion of GDP. Nondurable goods are a significant portion of a country’s gross domestic product in the categories of personal consumption, exports, and government purchases. Learn more about GDP here.
  • Stable figure in an economy. Nondurable goods are a stable figure in an economy because they represent necessary goods (like groceries) that consumers must purchase no matter the current economic situation. This means that nondurable goods are not as subject to the business cycle—or the cycle of economic expansion and contraction—in the way that durable goods are.
  • Not considered an economic indicator. Since nondurable goods are a stable figure in an economy, slight increases or decreases in the purchase of nondurable goods are not considered an economic indicator—changes in the purchase of nondurable goods are more reflective of a population change than of economic growth or recession.
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How Do Nondurable Goods Impact Consumer Behavior?

Consumer behavior overall remains consistent toward nondurable goods, because they are necessary goods (like groceries) that consumers must purchase no matter the current economic situation. If an economy is in a recession, consumers will usually forgo purchasing durable goods but will continue purchasing the same amount of nondurable goods, albeit sometimes opting for nondurable goods sold at lower prices.

What Is the Difference Between Nondurable Goods and Durable Goods?

While nondurable goods are consumed over a short period of time, durable goods are consumer products that are not consumed or that yield utility over long periods of time (considered to be over three years). Durable goods are also called hard goods or consumer durables. Some examples of durable goods include cars, real estate, consumer electronics, home appliances, and sporting goods.

Nondurable and durable goods differ in a few ways:

  • Purchases during economic growth. During economic growth, consumers have more spending power and are more likely to purchase durable goods. However, during economic growth consumers usually purchase the same amount of nondurable goods.
  • Purchases during an economic recession. During an economic recession, consumers will usually hold off on purchasing durable goods, but they will usually purchase the same amount of nondurable goods.
  • Reflection of economic growth. Due to the fact that purchases of durable goods increase during economic growth and decrease during a recession, they are considered a reliable economic indicator. However, because purchases of nondurable goods remain constant throughout growth and recession, they are not considered an indicator of economic wellbeing.

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