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Brown Goods vs. White Goods: A Definiton and Brief Explanation

Updated on July 4, 2012
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In an economy, electronic devices and appliances represent consumer goods that enable individuals to take joy in entertainment and/or enhance their lives. Brown goods include electronic items such as televisions, DVD players, stereos, and home entertainment systems. Alternatively, white goods are items such as refrigerators, ranges, freezers, and washer/dryer sets. The distinction between brown and white goods is essential for financial and economic reasons. The monikers permit economists and also private companies to track individual consumer products for a specific purpose, especially in a market or sector analysis.

An interesting yet simple history exists for brown goods and white goods. Brown goods get their name due as standard televisions from yesteryear often had a faux wood cabinet. These televisions were commonly called floor models, since they rested on the ground and used the imitation wood to make the television more desirable as a room’s main focal point. White goods get their name due to the timeless white shade for most home appliances, many of which are described above.

Economists usually differentiate individual products by type as well as utilization. Two overarching classifications for individual products are durable and non-durable goods. Heavy-duty items – which economists label as durable – are any item that will last a consumer for three or more years. This label applies to both brown goods and white goods, including televisions, home entertainment systems, freezers, and refrigerators, respectively. Non-durable products are consumable items that last less than three years, which could include food and/or clothing, among many other products.

One objective for the use of brown good and white good labels is to explain the items in terms of replacement or service sectors. Companies that offer replacement or repair services typically differentiate the labor fee by these two various classifications. For instance, a service repair business may charge customers one repair hour to service brown goods. White goods may require more labor hours for a repair service, which can result in higher service costs per item. In some situations, the repair cost for brown goods may be more affordable due to these products being possibly more economical to repair when compared to white goods, or vice versa.

Gray goods are yet another category of consumer products economists may track along with brown goods or white goods. Another description for this category is the gray market, which represents the sales environment for these items. Gray goods are those products that sell or trade outside of a business' authorized sales area or out from under the original manufacturer’s authority. The costs for gray goods may be less expensive than brown goods or white goods. Though the products do indeed carry economic utility, the items will sell beyond the normal market channels of a brown good or white good.

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