Contribution Margin: What It Is, How to Calculate It, and Why You Need It

Home » Tax Tips » Contribution Margin: What It Is, How to Calculate It, and Why You Need It

What is a contribution margin

Profit margin is the amount of revenue that remains after the direct production costs are subtracted. Contribution margin is a measure of the profitability of each individual product that a business sells. It provides one way to show the profit potential of a particular product offered by a company and shows the portion of sales that helps to cover the company’s fixed costs. Any remaining revenue left after covering fixed costs is the profit generated.

What is a contribution margin

Also known as dollar contribution per unit, the measure indicates how a particular product contributes to the overall profit of the company. The contribution margin ratio (CMR) expresses the contribution margin as a percentage of revenues. Cost accountants, financial analysts, and the company’s management team should use the contribution margin formula.

Other Profit Metrics

Should the company enter into an agreement to pay $500 for all packaging for all bars manufactured this month. Gross margin would report both types of costs the same (include it in its calculation), while contribution margin would consider these costs differently. This is because fee-for-service hospitals have a positive contribution margin for almost all elective cases mostly due to a large percentage of OR costs being fixed.

  • This means that 90% of the total sales revenue from each unit sold is available to cover fixed costs.
  • Since contribution margins are one way to measure profitability, you could list that you are skilled in measuring profitability using various methods, such as contribution and profit margins.
  • When a company is deciding on the price of selling a product, contribution margin is frequently used as a reference for analysis.

Learn how to calculate contribution margin ratio and boost your profitability with our guide. The lower your contribution margin, the more difficult it is for your business to cover your fixed costs. Cutting those costs, such as by relocating into less expensive space or eliminating non-essential positions, is one way to improve your financial position. First, in a job or internship description, you can describe an instance where you needed to calculate contribution margins and how your efforts impacted the company as a whole.


In its financial statements, it is not required to bifurcate fixed expenses from variable costs. For this reason, contribution margin is simply not an external reporting requirement. Gross margin shows how well a company generates revenue from direct costs such as direct labor and direct materials costs. Gross margin is calculated by deducting COGS from revenue and dividing the result by revenue.

  • Reducing your variable costs can increase your contribution margin and overall profits.
  • The contribution margin represents the revenue that a company gains by selling each additional unit of a product or good.
  • Selling price per unit times number of units sold for Product A equals total product revenue.
  • The higher the ratio, the more money is available to cover the business’s overhead expenses, or fixed costs.

Unfortunately, increasing your prices and investing more in marketing can result in lower contribution margins if you’re not careful. For instance, if you spend too much on advertising without any growth in sales, you’ll have a lower contribution margin. Low contribution margins are common in some industries, specifically those with higher variable costs.

How to Improve Contribution Margin

The gross profit margin represents a company’s total profits, while the contribution margin only refers to the earnings per unit. Typically, investors like to see a company’s profit margin in their pitch deck, while the contribution margin ratio is used for internal business decision-making. Gross profit margin, on the other hand, looks at the cost of goods sold (COGS), which includes both fixed and variable costs. Ultimately, gross profit margin is a measure of the overall company’s profitability rather than an analysis of an individual product’s profitability.

What is a contribution margin

This cost of the machine represents a fixed cost (and not a variable cost) as its charges do not increase based on the units produced. More specifically, using contribution margin, your business can make new product decisions, properly price products, and discontinue selling unprofitable products that don’t at least cover variable costs. The business can also use its contribution margin analysis to set sales commissions.

What is the meaning of contribution margin?

The contribution margin is the foundation for break-even analysis used in the overall cost and sales price planning for products. A good contribution margin is one that will cover both variable and fixed costs, to at least reach the breakeven point. A low contribution margin or average contribution margin may get your company to break even. A subcategory of fixed costs is overhead costs that are allocated in GAAP accounting to inventory and cost of goods sold. This allocation of fixed overhead isn’t done for internal analysis of contribution margin.

By multiplying the total actual or forecast sales volume in units for the baseball product, you can calculate sales revenue, variable costs, and contribution margin in dollars for the product in dollars. Selling price per unit times number of units sold for Product A equals total product revenue. Assume that League Recreation, Inc, a sports equipment manufacturing company, has total annual sales and service revenue of $2,680,000 for all of its sports products. Companies typically use this metric to determine how much revenue they generate by producing each additional unit after breaking even, measuring how much new sales contribute to their profits.

Is Contribution Margin Higher Than Gross Margin?

Variable costs, such as implants, vary directly with the volume of cases performed. For example, they can increase advertising to reach more customers, or they can simply increase the costs of their products. However, these strategies could ultimately backfire and result in even lower contribution margins. If the contribution margin for an ink pen is higher than that of a ball pen, the former will be given production preference owing to its higher profitability potential.