What is Wide Variety

Wide variety is a merchandising strategy in which a retailer stocks a large number of different products. A wide variety is used to draw in customers looking for an array of goods, but does not mean that the retailer will offer many different iterations of a specific product. For example, a convenience store may offer a wide variety of products, but a limited number of choices within a particular product range.


Carrying a wide variety of products can limit the space available for a deeper assortment of particular products. While offering a number of products instead of focusing on a few, it does expose a retailer to the risk that consumers will go to more specialized retailers with more selection of a specific type of product (a super-specialist). Some types of businesses, such as supermarkets, are able to offer a deep assortment of a product (e.g. cereal) while at the same time offering a wide variety of products. Wide variety is the opposite of narrow variety.

A classic example of a wide variety merchandising strategy in action is the variety store, which is a retail store that sells a wide range of inexpensive household goods. Variety stores often offer food and drink, personal hygiene products, small home and garden tools, office supplies, decorations, electronics, garden plants, toys, pet supplies, remaindered books, recorded media, and motor and bike consumables. Larger variety stores may sell frozen foods and fresh produce. Variety stores became prevalent in the early 20th century, with Woolworth's model to reduce store overheads by simplifying the duties of sales clerks.

Wide Variety vs. Deep Assortment

deep assortment of products means that a retailer carries a number of variations of a single product (the opposite being a narrow assortment).  Retailers face a trade-off when determining whether they will pursue a wide variety or a deep assortment merchandising scheme. Choosing both simultaneously requires a large amount of space, and doing both is typically the sole domain of big box retailers. Stores with smaller spaces have to choose whether to choose a deep assortment strategy and specialize in certain types of products available in a variety of colors and styles or go with a wide variety strategy.

The assortment strategy might be more appropriate for serving demographics that are more clearly defined. For instance, a retailer might stock groupings items they believe appeal to a certain type of customer. If a retailer wants to attract customers, who are new parents, for example, they might fill their shelves with baby clothes, toys and bedding.