What Is Gross Profit Margin in Retail?

Calculating the Health of Your Retail Store

Shop owners looking at business financials on a laptop
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Typically in a meeting with retailers, we will discuss their retail profit margins. It is the fastest way to determine financial health. Low-profit margins mean you have to have high revenues (sales) to cover expenses. High-profit margins mean sales can be lower and still make the same amount of money. 

Understanding Gross Profit

Hudson Shoes #1 sold $30,000 in one month. The inventory cost them (Cost of Goods Sold or COGS) $15,000. This product's gross profit is $15,000.

Hudson Shoes #2 sold $20,000 in one month, but the COGS was only $5,000. The gross profit for Hudson Shoes #2 is $15,000.

So Hudson Shoes #2 is more profitable been though it sold $10,000 less. Now you may read that and think, but they made the same amount of money? How is Hudson Shoes #2 more profitable? Good question. Consider the effort (payroll, staff, etc) it takes to sell $30,000 versus $20,000. In our example, we are comparing similar ticket averages, just higher margins. 

Simply defined, the profit margin is the ratio of profitability calculated as earnings divided by revenues. It measures how much out of every dollar of sales a retail business actually keeps in earnings.

What Is Gross Profit

Gross profit is the total revenue minus the cost of generating that revenue. In other words, gross profit is sales minus cost of goods sold. It tells you how much money you would have made if you didn’t pay any other expenses such as payroll, utilities, advertising, etc. When you express this as a percent, then it's considered the gross profit margin. 

Consider this, Hudson Retail Store sells sweaters for $50 each. It costs Hudson $10 to buy the sweater and it also pays an additional $5 for shipping. The company's revenue is $50 and its net income $35 per sweater, ($50 - ($10 + $5)). The gross profit margin is calculated as 100 - ((35/50)*100) or 30 percent.

What Contributes to Profit Margins?

Many things contribute to profit margins. Markdowns and sales promotions are just one example. Anytime you sell the item for less than the initial markup or IMU, you are cutting into your margins. This is why using tools like open-to-buy systems are so important. They keep you from having too much inventory and thus having to discount your prices in order to get rid of it. 

Profit margin can be expressed in both dollars and as a percentage. And you should analyze your business from both angles. But typically, when someone is asking you about margins, they are inquiring about the percent. 

Net Profit Margin

Net profit margin is another term you will hear accountants use. This is the same calculation as above, except you are dividing net revenue (after markdowns) by net income, which accounts for all expense.

Items such as taxes can be factored here, but most companies now calculate EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization.) This is due to the fact that interest and amortizations are a financial date on the profit and loss statement oftentimes from previous month's or even year's activities.

What Is the Ideal Profit Margin?

While gross profit margin is good for comparing one of your stores to another, it should not be used to compare your store to other stores outside your industry. I often get asked, "What is the ideal profit margin for my store?" And that is an impossible question to answer across all retail. It is possible, however, to answer it when comparing like stores together. 

When I managed computer stores we had profit margins of 14 percent. Later I opened a small chain of shoe stores and we had a profit margin of 50 percent. So, the net profit numbers of these 2 stores are dramatically different even though both stores were very healthy for their respective industries.