Non-durable goods are any type of manufactured items that are not intended to last for an extended length of time. While there is some difference of opinion on how long a good can last and still be classified as non-durable, the general consensus is that any good that is not intended to last any longer than three years does fall into this category. Under the broad scope of non-durable goods, there are subclasses, such as perishable goods, semi-durable goods, and soft goods.
Within the non-durable goods family, soft goods includes most textile products. Clothing, bedding, towels, and similar items are generally considered to have a useful life of less than three years. While it is certainly true that some of these goods can and do last longer, there is an expectation of constant wear and tear on most forms of textiles, assuming they are used for their intended purposes on a continuing basis.
Perishable goods are another sub-category of non-durable goods. Food is easily the best example. Most types of foods, even frozen foods, are designed for use within three years of production. This includes canned goods, fresh produce, any type of meat product, and packages of frozen foods. As with other sub-categories, there are exceptions to this three-year standard, such as foods that are vacuum-packed and considered safe for consumption for up to five years.
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Semi-durable goods are also part of the non-durable goods family. Of all the sub-categories, goods of this type are expected to last the longest. Items in this group would include many types of electronic devices, like cell phones, stereo equipment, television sets, and most other types of consumer electronic gadgets.
Classing products as non-durable goods does not in any way imply they are of inferior quality. In fact, many semi-durable goods are manufactured to provide the highest quality and performance possible with that particular type of product. The classification has more to do with the anticipated life of the product in general, based on such factors as frequency of usage, ease of maintenance, and the life of the individual components that are used to construct the product.
It is important to note that a number of non-durable goods can and do have a useful life that exceeds the generally accepted three-year limit. For example, a small radio or DVD player can easily last for five to seven years, even though the device is thought of as non-durable. For this reason, referring to any product as non-durable is more of a means of managing industrial organization, since a given non-durable product may last ten years for one consumer, while providing no more than a couple of years of service to a different consumer.