Merchants were around for as long as business was conducted. Wherever individual was found and commerce taking place, merchants were there trading.
There are two primary types:
- Wholesale - those who are part of the supply chain and sell to retailers on behalf of producers
- Retail - those who sell to the general public, the end consumer
The term has fallen out of favor. Today we call these people industrialists, businessmen, entrepreneurs or oligarchs.
Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Jack Ma are the merchants of today.
Every economy, from the earliest of times, had merchants who conducted business, traded, and engaged in commerce.
In pre-modern societies, open air, public markets were common in ancient Babylonia and Assyria, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Persia, Phoenicia and Rome. Here is where people got together that brought buyers and sellers together.
Ancient Greece markets operated within the agora (open space), and in ancient Rome in the forum. These are merchants dealing in goods with artisans on the exterior selling their wares.
Throughout history, merchants were not the highest on the social ladder yet they often acquired great wealth.
As the ages passed, we saw merchants move from peasants in an open square to more legitimate businesses. This evolution was accompanies by a host of financial services provided by agents who supported the trade.