Retail Accounting Basics: Understanding the Retail Inventory Method

Keep in mind that the retail inventory method is more of an educated guess than a concrete calculation of how much value your ending inventory holds. This method provides directionally accurate answers to give you quick snapshots at any given time. It’s cost-effective, quick, and works best when it’s part of your overall inventory management strategy. However, it doesn’t need to be as frequent after integrating the retail inventory method. For example, if your retail clothing shop marks up every item it sells by 70% of the price you get from wholesale distributors, you can accurately use the retail inventory method. However, if you mark up some items by 15%, some by 30%, and some by 60%, it is difficult to apply this accounting method accurately.

  1. The average cost method considers both markups and markdowns in the determination of the cost-to-retail ratio.
  2. First-in, First-out (FIFO) is where the first items your brand acquires are also the first to be sold, used, or disposed of.
  3. The retail inventory method employs the cost-to-retail ratio together with revenue and inventory for a period.
  4. Let’s walk through how a retail inventory method calculation would work in real-life for an ecommerce company.

The retail inventory method definitely has its advantages, but there are also some obvious drawbacks. It’ll be important for you to weigh the good with the bad as you decide whether this approach is right for your business. All you have to do is divide your cost of goods sold (COGS) by the total number of units currently in inventory. Additionally, FIFO makes it less likely that retailers will be left with dead stock – a major win no matter what you sell. Although there are many ways you can determine and track the value of your inventory, the retail inventory method is among the most common techniques used today. Instantly see what’s in stock, what’s on order, where each item is located, and what it’s all worth so you can make fast, informed decisions.

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You could miss out on raising the price of one item because you don’t want to increase the prices of others. In addition, few businesses legitimately sell their most recently acquired units first. As a result, the LIFO method isn’t acceptable in countries that follow International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and may eventually become forbidden in the United States. It does not account for damaged or stolen items or ones taken out of inventory for another reason, like a natural disaster; the calculations are not precise and reliable. Here are a few common questions retailers have about the retail inventory method. If a skincare retailer sells face cream for $25 and purchases each bottle for $5, the cost-to-retail ratio would be 20%.

To understand the cost-to-retail ratio

Below you’ll find a breakdown of the retail inventory method formula, in addition to 3 retail valuation methods that can impact this process. Finally, you have what you need to calculate the cost of your ending inventory without taking a physical count. It equals the cost of your beginning inventory plus the cost of your purchases minus your cost of goods sold. To calculate ending inventory on March 31 using the retail value method, add the cost of your beginning inventory and purchases during the period to get the total available for sale. The first-in-first-out (FIFO) method is a common cost-flow assumption among retailers with perishable goods.

The Retail Method In Action

Of course, using the retail method, for this reason, has a problematic implication. Namely, using a flat markup rate for all your company’s products usually isn’t a good idea. Not only is having inventory numbers necessary when creating financial statements to inform your tax strategies, but it’s also vital for performing cash flow analysis and making financial projections.

The retail method becomes more complicated when there are subsequent markups and markdowns to the initial retail price. These adjustments can be dealt with using either the Conventional Method or Average Cost Method. Use the calculator below to compute your estimated ending inventory at cost using the conventional or average method of retail accounting. With the help of the retail inventory method, you’ll be able to save a ton of time & effort on figuring out the value of your stores’ inventory. Make sure to download the calculator attached to this template to make it easier on yourself and your employees.


Accrual accounting and tax rules for companies with inventories are complex, and you shouldn’t try to navigate them alone. To find the weighted average cost of your inventory, you’d multiply 30% by $100, 40% by $115, and 30% by $110, then add them together. The first step is determining the cost-to-retail percentage of your retail inventory. The cost-to-retail ratio determines how much your inventory costs in relation to the retail price. All retailers are different, and the retail inventory method is an optimal accounting strategy for specific types of retailers.

If the retail inventory method doesn’t meet your needs, here are three alternative methods to consider. Let’s walk through how a retail inventory method calculation would work in real-life for an ecommerce company. This calculates the cost to obtain all of your inventory units that are ready to be sold.


Another aspect of the Retail Inventory Method is the Ending Inventory cost which is a popular financial figure for measuring the final value of goods available for sale at the end of the accounting period. Although the number of units in ending inventory aren’t affected at the end of an accounting period, the dollar value of ending inventory is affected by whichever inventory valuation method is chosen. For example, if you own a dollar store that sells an array of items that include deodorant, fidget spinners, dish soap, etc. It can be a hassle trying to make sure that you don’t run out of fidget spinners when you also have to worry about a plethora of other items. On the other hand, if you own a car dealership, you can easily keep records of how many of your 2018 Toyota Corollas you’ve sold by taking a physical count of inventory. All in all, the retail inventory method has several stipulations that make it difficult to rely on.

With the LIFO method, the cost of goods sold would be $90 since the last 20 basketballs you purchased cost $6 dollars each. Your inventory value would then be $180 since you have five basketballs left purchased for $6 each and 30 left for $5 each. Some of the most commonly used inventory valuation and counting methods are First In, First Out (FIFO); Last In, First Out (LIFO); and Weighted Average Cost. The FIFO (or “First In, First Out”) method involves calculating inventory value based on the COGS (or “Cost of Goods Sold”) of your oldest inventory.

Discover the ins and outs of retail accounting to help you stay on top of your bottom line. With the retail method, it’s difficult to distinguish between inventory shrinkage and the effect of the estimation technique. In contrast, a perpetual inventory system like that used by QuickBooks Online will provide the number of units that should be in the ending inventory. You can then compare those units to the actual units on hand to determine inventory shrinkage. Since the retail inventory method is just an estimation technique, expect that there will be differences in the physical count and retail method estimations. Calculate the cost-to-retail percentage, where the formula is cost divided by retail price.

Another disadvantage is that large additions of inventory would throw off calculations. To see our product designed specifically for your country, please visit the United States site. If you buy goods for $70 and sell them for $100, your cost-to-retail ratio is 70 percent. PwC refers to the US member firm or one of its subsidiaries or affiliates, and may sometimes refer to the PwC network.

Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services. Sign up to receive more well-researched small business articles and topics in your inbox, personalized for you. Charlene Rhinehart is a CPA , CFE, chair of an Illinois CPA Society committee, and has a degree in accounting and finance from DePaul University.

The retail method is different from the other costing methods since it values the inventory based on the retail price instead of the cost to acquire them. This method helps you get an approximate value for your inventory without having to count the inventory often. The retail method works for businesses that mark up their inventory consistently and at the same percentage. The retail inventory method is best for business with many retail stores and retailers with consistent markups. FIFO inventory costing assumes any inventory left on hand at the end of the accounting period should be valued at the most recent purchase price. Anything purchased at an older price would have been discarded due to spoilage and lapsing expiration dates.

Accounting for a retail business can be a significant challenge, especially for stores with complex inventories and high transaction volume. Here are some best practices you should follow to make your accounting system more efficient and effective. It limits your ability to price your products dynamically and strategically to compete in the marketplace.


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