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A merchant is a person who engages in the trading of goods produced by other people, particularly one who engages in international commerce. Historically, a merchant is defined as anybody who is engaged in the commerce or trade of any kind. Merchants have been in business for as long as there has been industry, commerce, and trade to do business. When it came to merchants in the 16th century, two distinct terms emerged: meerseniers, which referred to local traders (such as bakers and grocers), and koopman (Dutch: koopman), which referred to merchants who operated on a world stage, exporting and importing goods over vast distances and providing added-value services such as credit and finance.

When it comes to various times of history and different civilizations, the standing of the merchant has shifted throughout time. In modern times, the term merchant has been used to refer to a businessperson or someone who engages in commercial or industrial activities for the purpose of generating profit, cash flow, sales, and revenue by the use of a combination of human, financial, intellectual, and physical capital with a view to fueling economic development and growth in order to fuel economic development and growth in order to fuel economic development and growth

As long as people have participated in trade and business, merchants have been recognised as a profession. Merchants and merchant networks were active in ancient Babylonia and Assyria, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Persia, Phoenicia, and Rome, among other places and times. An explosion in trade and business in Europe throughout the mediaeval era resulted in the creation of a rich and powerful merchant elite, which lasted until the Renaissance. The European era of discovery opened up new commerce channels and provided European customers with access to a far greater selection of commodities than had previously been available to them. As products started to find their way into geographically scattered market-places beginning in the 1600s, they began to travel considerably greater distances as well. The opening of Asia to European trade, as well as Columbus' discovery of the New World, resulted in merchants transporting goods over long distances: calico cloth from India; porcelain; silk and tea from China; spices from India and South-East Asia; tobacco; sugar; brandy; rum; and coffee from the New World. Within a century, a new sort of manufacturer-merchant had begun to develop, and contemporary business techniques were beginning to be seen in the marketplace.