Contribution margin

Contribution margin

Knowing your company’s profitability is crucial while running one. Many business executives consider their profit margin, representing the overall margin by which sales income surpasses costs.  

But it would be best to look at the contribution margin to see how a product affects the company’s earnings. The incremental profit made on each sold unit of a product is represented by the contribution margin, which is the revenue from a product less the direct variable costs. 

What is contribution margin? 

The contribution margin describes how a rise in sales may impact a rise in profits. The margin is calculated by deducting variable costs from sales income; the remaining sum pays for fixed expenditures. Profit or earnings are any revenue that remains after fixed expenses. 

Depending on the calculation, a company’s contribution margin may be shown as a dollar figure or a ratio. The algorithm can examine margins for the entire business, particular product lines, or individual product units. Companies and investors use a variety of indicators to help them make data-driven decisions about their businesses. Contribution margins should not be seen in isolation, as with other numbers, but rather in the context of other indicators. 

Understanding contribution margin 

The contribution margin is usually used as a point of comparison for analysis when a business decides on the pricing of a product. As fixed costs are frequently substantial, a company’s contribution margin must be significant to meet its operating expenses.  

If a product line or business has a low or negative contribution margin, it may not be wise to continue producing it at the current sales price level unless it is a very high-volume item.  

Investors evaluate contribution margins to assess how efficiently a firm uses its revenues. An organisation is more likely to generate revenue than expenses if its contribution margin is large. 

Economically non-viable items whose production and sales consume a significant percentage of the revenues are those with extremely moderate or negative contribution margin values. 

At many production stages, business sectors, and product levels, contribution margin is a relevant concept. An entire company, a specific subsidiary, a corporate division or unit, a specific centre or facility, a specific channel for distribution or sales, a specific product line, or a specific product can all have their respective figures computed. 

Formula of contribution margin 

Contribution margin

The following is the key formula for calculating contribution margins: 

Contribution margin = Net sales – total variable costs 


  • Net sales or revenue is a business’s money from selling goods or services. 
  • Variable costs are manufacturing costs for goods or services that change according to labour, suppliers, and production volume. 

The formula for calculating the contribution margin ratio is:  

Contribution Margin Ratio = (net sales – total variable costs) / net sales 

The formula for calculating contribution margins can also be expressed as: 

Contribution margin = fixed costs – net income 


  • Fixed costs don’t change regardless of how the manufacturing process flows; even if production stops for a few weeks, the corporation still has to cover these costs. 
  • Sales revenue is calculated after taking away the cost of products sold, operating expenditures (such as rent, marketing, and advertising), interest costs, and taxes. This gives you net income. 

Calculation of contribution margin 

Let’s use an example where an online retailer sells toys for US$ 25.00 with variable costs of US$ 10.00 for each item. The price of a toy is US$ 25. The variable cost per unit is US$ 10. 

The contribution margin would be determined using the following formula: 

Margin = US$ 25.00 – US$ 10.00 = US$ 15.00. 

The following formula is used to get the contribution margin ratio: 

Contribution margin ratio = US$ 15.00 / US$ 25.00 = 0.60, or 60% 

With a 60% ratio, the contribution margin is US$ 0.60 for every dollar of revenue earned. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Gross margin and contribution margin are ratios that provide light on a company’s profitability; nevertheless, they take into account various expenditure categories and are frequently used to distinguish business choices. 

Gross margin includes all costs associated with a product, whereas contribution margin includes variable expenditures.  

A product’s selling price range, the expected level of profit from sales, and the structure of sales commissions paid to sales team members, distributors, or commission agents can all be determined using the contribution margin. It also assists in separating the fixed cost and profit components resulting from product sales. 


Businesses can raise operational efficiencies to improve contribution margins. You could invest in more productive machinery to make the same number of widgets in less time, reducing variable product costs. Also, the business might adopt lean manufacturing or more effective operational procedures. 


Managers can decide on various issues, such as whether to add or remove a product line, price a good or service, or set up sales commissions using the contribution margin as a guide. The most frequent application is to contrast products and choose which to keep and which to discard. 



A variable cost is an expense for a business that changes according to how much it makes or sells. Variable costs rise or fall with a company’s production or sales volume; they rise with rising production and decline with falling production. 


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