In society and business, electronics and appliances represent consumer goods that allow consumers to enjoy entertainment or improve their lives. Brown goods represent electronic items such as televisions, DVD players, stereos, and home entertainment systems. This contrasts with white goods, which are appliances such as refrigerators, ovens, freezers, and washing or drying machines. The definition between brown goods and white goods is necessary for economic purposes. The terms allow for economists and other businesses to track consumer goods for a specific purpose.
An interesting but simple history of these terms exists for these consumer goods. Brown goods get their name because of the traditional televisions that had faux wood. These televisions were typically called floor models because they sat on the floor and used the faux wood to make the television more appealing as a center point of focus in a room. White goods get their name due to the classic white color for most appliances, such as refrigerators, freezers, and washer and dryer sets.
Economists typically separate consumer items by type and use. Two overarching classifications for consumer goods are durable and nondurable items. Durable goods are any items considered heavy, mass-market goods that last for three or more years. This term applies to both brown goods and white goods, including televisions, home entertainment systems, and freezers and refrigerators, respectively. Nondurable goods are consumable items that last less than three years, which may include food and clothing, among other items.
One purpose for the use of terms to describe brown and white goods is in the repair industry. Companies that offer repair services often separate labor charges by these two different classifications. For example, a repair company may charge consumers one hourly rate for the repair of brown goods. Another hourly rate applies to the repair of white goods. In some cases, the repair for brown items may be cheaper due to these items being potentially less expensive than their white good counterparts.
Another category of consumer goods includes gray goods. Another term for this category is the gray market, which represents the sales environment for these items. Gray goods are those items that sell outside of a company’s authorized sales territory or out from under the original manufacturer’s authority. The prices for gray goods are often cheaper than their brown and white good counterparts. Though the items are indeed genuine brands, they sell outside of regular channels.