How Do We Define a 'Merchant'? These are the attributes that separate Merchants from 'just retailers': Merchants source for a particular group of customers. They are agents for the customers, not agents for - or beholden to - any vendor. Merchants closely monitor any changes in their customer group. Merchants judge every piece of inventory they own on whether it (still) appeals to their customer group. Merchants dispassionately add or delete products, services, locations, personnel as needed to best serve 'their' customers. Merchants are zealous about the key metrics of inventory control: turnover; gross margin percent; GMROI; markdowns percent; and the like. Think of retailers around you. Clearly, some are or have been led by Merchants : Starbucks, Costco, Nordstrom, Crate & Barrel, etc. Now, think of recent or pending retail failures . Their leadership is more likely characterized by 'just retailers.' Whether large or small, the distinction between success in retail or failure is traceable to the Merchant instincts of the top people. And, in our view, only those retailers who are now or become Merchants will actually thrive, or even survive!