The Elusive Gross Margin: How Is It Calculated and What It Reveals

The gross margin is a measure of business success.


The gross margin shows potential investors that the company is not a high-risk business. A business’s gross margin helps investors understand how efficiently a business can operate.


Gross margin is the difference between revenue and the cost of goods sold (COGS), divided by revenue. It is expressed as a percentage.


To learn more about other terms commonly used in venture capital, check out our complete VC Glossary.



  • Gross margin is the difference between net sales and the cost of goods sold.
  • Gross margin is the profit before subtracting sales, general, and administrative (SG&A) costs.
  • Gross margin is also known as gross profit margin. It is the gross profit divided by net sales.

What is the gross margin?

Gross margin is also known as gross profit margin. It’s the residual revenue after deducting expenses for your products and services. These expenses are reported as the cost of goods sold (COGS) on an organization’s income statement. It indicates how well a business manages its product- and service-related expenses. Gross margin is usually expressed as a percentage, while gross profits are expressed as a dollar value.


The formula to calculate is:


Gross margin % = (Total revenue – COGS)/Total revenue x 100


What is the importance of gross margin for a company?

Gross margin is crucial because it is one of the most critical metrics to build a strategy.


This percentage is essential for companies to determine the best pricing strategy, manage inventory, and identify ways to cut costs. As primary performance indicators, many companies use gross profit and gross margin.


These are just a few of the key performance indicators:


  • Net profit
  • Sale revenue
  • Monthly recurring income
  • Retention and loyalty of customers
  • Price of goods sold
  • Acquisition costs for customers
  • Qualified leads per Month
  • Traffic to websites
  • Cost Per Click
  • The ratio of employee turnover



How do you calculate the gross margin?

First, identify the variables in the formula to calculate the gross margin. Then, fill in the values. The income statement includes total revenues and costs of goods sold. Here are the steps to calculate:


1. Calculate total revenue

Begin by calculating the total revenue for your desired period. This figure is calculated by multiplying the total number of goods sold by their selling price. If you sell 100 dolls at $150 each, your total revenue is $15,000. Total revenue can be calculated as follows:


Total revenue (TR)= quantity (Q) x price (P)


2. Calculate the price of goods sold

Add the inventory value at the end of each period to the inventory at the beginning and subtract it from any purchases. This calculates the cost of goods shipped factor. COGS can also be called the cost or sales of services by companies. It is the total cost of all items sold, including direct labor and materials used to create them. These items are not included in COGS, even though utilities and indirect expenses like marketing or bookkeeping can be essential to how a company allocates resources. This is the formula:


COGS = beginning inventory + purchases during the period – ending Inventory


3. Add all the variables together to calculate the gross margin

Add these variables to the equation to calculate gross profit. You calculate the percentage of every dollar that you keep after a sale. If your profit margin is 17%, then your gross profit per dollar is.17c. These factors combine to give business leaders insight into how they use their resources. They also provide a number to help them focus when setting strategic goals.


What is a good gross margin?

Calculate gross margin

A good average to high percentage is between 10%-20%. However, the best gross margin for a business depends on its industry. Low-profit margins are typical in mining, grocery retail, assisted living, and assisted living industries. Industries such as dentistry, vehicle rental, and accounting have 15% and 15% profit margins. A company’s gross margin is a measure that shows how much it can invest and how far away it is from its break-even point.


Here are some factors that can affect gross margin


  • Prices of direct materials: Variations in vendor prices can affect the price of your raw materials.
  • Cost of direct labor: How many people you need to produce your product can affect your labor costs.
  • Inventory method: The inventory method is the first in, first out accounting. This is a cheaper way to value inventory, leading to lower inventory at the start. Because the inventory was purchased recently, it is more costly.
  • Prices and quantities: How much you can sell raw materials will affect your costs.


What does the gross margin tell you?

Gross margin, also known as gross profit, is the percentage of revenue retained by the company after subtracting COGS.


It can also be called gross profit margin. If a company’s quarterly gross profit margin is 35%, it keeps $0.35 on every dollar of revenue.


COGS are already considered, so the remaining funds can be used to pay debts, general and administration expenses, and distribute dividends to shareholders.


Companies use gross margin, profit margin, and gross profit to determine how production costs are related to revenues. If a company’s gross profit margin is declining, it might try to cut labor costs or find cheaper materials suppliers.


It may also decide to raise prices as a revenue-increasing move. You can also use gross profit margins to compare companies with different market capitalizations.


If you are having trouble calculating this percentage, using some of the most popular accounting software may be easier.


The difference between gross margin and net margin

Gross margin is a measure of the ratio between revenue and COGS. However, the net profit margin includes all expenses. Businesses subtract their COGS from the calculation of net profit and associated margins. This includes ancillary expenses like product distribution, sales rep wages, taxes, and miscellaneous operating costs.


How do we calculate gross margin?

It is the difference between revenue and cost of goods sold (COGS). Sometimes, it is also used to mean gross profit margin. This is revenue minus the cost of goods sold (or gross profits) divided by revenue.


What is the difference between gross profit and gross margin?

Gross profit is the difference between revenue and the cost of goods sold. Sometimes gross profit and gross margin can be interchangeable. In other words, gross margin is sometimes interchangeable with gross profit margin. Gross profit margin divides the gross profit (revenue less cost) by revenue.


Bottom line

Although the gross margin for each industry is different, service-based industries have higher gross margins than other industries. This is because they have lower COGS. Manufacturing companies will have a lower gross margin due to their larger COGS.


The gross profit margin ratio is not perfect. It can only tell you a lot about your business’ efficiency, profitability, and long-term viability.


Other profitability indicators, such as operating profit margin or net profit margin, can tell you more about the efficiency and profitability of your business after accounting for fixed costs, overhead costs, depreciation, amortization, interest costs, and taxes.


To learn more about other terms commonly used in venture capital, check out our complete VC Glossary.


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