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a scientific discipline concerned with the performance characteristics, classification, and standardization of products, the factors determining product quality, the control and evaluation of this quality, and the principles pertaining to the range of products to be offered. Merchandising also studies the conditions required for preserving product quality during transportation and use. In socialist countries, merchandising seeks to match indexes for performance characteristics and product ranges with the demands of consumers. This correspondence makes it possible to meet the needs of consumers; it also provides producers with information on consumer reaction, resulting in higher product quality and in changes, when necessary, in product range.
Merchandising arose in the 16th century with the development of international trade. The first academic chair in the field, here dealing specifically with plant and animal pharmaceutical materials, was established in 1549 at the University of Padua. In Russia, one of the first texts on merchandising appeared in 1575, under the title The Trade Book. In the late 18th century, merchandising was introduced into the curricula of schools of commerce as an independent discipline. In certain countries, for example, Great Britain and the United States, merchandising is today included in broad programs of study on the technology of various groups of products. In Russia, pioneers in the study of merchandising included M. Ia. Kittary (1825–80), P. P. Petrov (1850–1928), and Ia. Ia. Nikitinskii (1854–1924). A textbook edited by Petrov and Nikitinskii was published in the years 1906–08 under the title A Handbook of Merchandising With Pertinent Technological Data. The book dealt with the structure, composition, and properties of raw materials, as well as with the production processes using these materials.
In the 20th century, merchandising has developed differently in different countries. In the USSR, it has focused on consumer goods. Here, the field has been continuously expanding as new groups of products have been studied (knitwear and other types of clothing, household articles). The study of the structure and properties of materials has emerged as the independent discipline of materials science. Product quality and all factors affecting quality have become the central concern of merchandising in the USSR.
Important contributions to the field during the Soviet period have been made by F. V. Tserevitinov (1874–1947), V. S. Smir-nov (1881–1958), N. I. Kozin (1887–1975), M. E. Sergeev (1889–1972), A. A. Zavadskii (1867–1936), G. G. Povarnin (1880–1946), F. S. Kasatkin (1882–1951), N. V. Chernov (1894–1971), N. A. Arkhangel’skii (1896–1961), A. A. Kolesnik (born 1905), and B. F. Tserevitinov (born 1905).
Depending on the commodity in question, merchandising can be subdivided into a number of specialty areas; it can be concerned with, for example, materials, machines, and equipment, manufactured consumer goods, or food products. Indexes of product quality are determined by, among other methods, instrumental, organoleptic, and mathematical techniques. Merchandising also makes use of advances in such other sciences as physics, chemistry, and biology in studying the nature and structure of commodities and the processes acting on the commodities. In arriving at the proper range of commodities to be offered, merchandising takes into account the laws governing the development of social production and distribution.
In socialist countries, students can specialize in merchandising at commercial and economics institutes, technicums, institutes of the national economy, and universities. Merchandising forms the core of programs of study for specialists in commerce at vocational schools, and it is part of the program for economists intending to work in commerce or in material and technical supply. The discipline is also studied by students specializing in, for example, printing, forestry, and medicine.
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V. G. ZAITSEV