Retail merchandise workers make up an increasing share of the workforce, and because their work is considered non-hazardous, most attention has focused on the risks of musculoskeletal injuries to these workers. An important unanswered question is whether these workers report significant numbers of traumatic injuries and how these injuries compare in severity to musculoskeletal injuries from lifting and manual handling. The study was a dynamic historical cohort of 61,179 workers employed during 1996-97 in stores of a large retail chain. Data consisted of company workers compensation records and payroll records. Injury rates were calculated per 100 workers/year. The authors compared traumatic and musculoskeletal sources of injury for all injuries and lost workday injuries. Source of injury refers to the object or exposure which directly produced the injury. The traumatic sources of injury were struck, caught, or contact with an object or substance at work (SCC); and slips, trips and falls (STF). The musculoskeletal injuries were material handling-related muscle strain injuries, which were divided into back strains and all-other strains. Over 12 months, 2657 injuries were reported (13.2/100 workers/yr). 530 required at least one lost workday (2.6/100/year). The 1225 SCC injuries (6.1/100/yr) represented 46% of all injuries, but only 163/1225 or 13% were lost workday injuries. The 454 STF injuries (2.3/100/yr) resulted in 124 lost workday injuries or 27% of reported injuries. The 437 back strain injuries (2.2/100/yr) resulted in 126 requiring a lost workday, or 29%. The 541 other strain injuries (2.7/100/yr) resulted in 117 lost workday injuries or 22%. Conclusions: The traumatic injuries, SCC and STF, accounted for 287 lost workday injuries, compared with 243 lost workday injuries whose source was material handling-related strains. Workers in the retail merchandise industry are not exposed to life threatening traumatic injuries, however the impact of traumatic injuries to this worker population was significant.