WHAT IS CONTRIBUTION MARGIN?: Formula and Calculations

what is contribution margin

When assessing your business’s financial performance, it’s tempting to focus solely on the “bottom line.” In other words, are you making a profit or not? If the answer is yes, many business owners may pause, pat themselves on the back, and promise to continue doing the same. However, there is always a potential for improvement. And what you’re doing now could not work as the business expands. The contribution margin is an important indicator to monitor, especially for organizations that manufacture physical goods. Let’s look at the contribution margin formula, how to calculate it, and the application of the ratio in businesses.

What is Contribution Margin?

The contribution margin is the difference between a company’s sales revenue and its variable costs. The resulting contribution dollars can be used to meet fixed costs (such as rent), and any excess is deemed earnings once those costs are met. The contribution margin (as a percentage or in actual amounts) can be expressed as a total amount. This is the total amount for each product line, the total amount per unit product, or a ratio or percentage of net sales.

Contribution Margin Formula

In terms of calculating the total:

Net Sales Revenue – Variable Costs = Contribution Margin

Fixed Costs + Net Income = Contribution Margin

Contribution Margin Formula

To calculate the ratio:

Contribution Margin Ratio =(Net Sales Revenue – Variable Costs) / (Sales Revenue)

Contribution Margin Ratio Formula

Example of How To Calculate the Contribution Margin

The net sales of Good Company are $300,000. Its goods have sold 50,000 units. Each unit has a variable cost of $2 per unit. Determine the contribution, margin of contribution per unit, and contribution ratio.

  • The company makes $300,000 in net sales.
  • The total number of units sold was 50,000.
  • Selling price per unit would be ($300,000 / 50,000) = $6.
  • Variable cost per unit is $2.00.

The formula for contribution margin per unit is = (Selling price per unit – Variable cost per unit) = ($6 – $2) = $4 per unit.

The contribution would be $200,000 ($4 * 50,000).
Contribution / Sales = $200,000 / $300,000 = 2/3 = 66.67% is the contribution ratio.

In this case, if we were provided the fixed expenses, we might calculate the firm’s net profit.

What are Variable Costs?

Variable costs are the direct and indirect expenses spent by a business as a result of the production and sale of goods or services. These prices vary according to the number of units produced or services provided. Variable costs rise as output volume increases and decline as output volume drops.

It is also worth noting that a large proportion of variable costs relative to fixed costs often indicates that a business can run with a low contribution margin. High fixed costs relative to variable costs, on the other hand, tend to necessitate a high contribution margin for a business to sustain profitable operations.

Variable costs include the following:

  • Direct materials: They are raw materials that are principally required in the manufacture of commodities.
  • Production supplies: Items used to maintain equipment, such as oil and lubricants.
  • Per unit labor: The amount paid to workers for each finished unit.
  • Billable wages: Amount paid to employees based on their billed labor hours.
  • Commissions: The amount paid to salespeople for each unit sold.
  • Freight in/out costs: Shipping or transportation expenses incurred solely when goods for delivery are requested by customers.
  • Variable utilities: These include electricity and water that are utilized to manufacture large quantities of goods and services.

What are Fixed Costs?

Fixed costs are expenses that do not change in response to changes in production output or services provided. These are costs that are unrelated to business operations and cannot be avoided. Fixed costs are used in break-even analysis to determine the price and amount of output in order to assure profitability.

So, here are some examples of fixed costs:

  • Depreciation: This is the amortization of purchase expenses for property, plant, and equipment over the useful life of the asset.
  • Interest expense: The interest rate on a loan that must be paid on a regular basis.
  • Insurance premiums: These are payments made under an insurance contract.
  • Rent: This is a recurring expense for leasing a property.
  • Property taxes: These are imposed by the government and are calculated based on the assessed value of the property.
  • Salaries: A fixed amount provided to workers or employees in exchange for their services, regardless of the number of hours performed.
  • Fixed utilities: These are the costs of power, water, and gas that are commonly used in office management.

What Constitutes a Good Contribution Margin?

The higher the contribution margin percentage, or ratio, the better. The higher the ratio, the more money is available to meet the business’s fixed costs or overhead expenses.

However, the contribution margin ratio is more likely to be much below 100%, if not below 50%.
The contribution margin ratio can be used to assess a company’s profitability as well as the profitability of a specific product line.

Evaluating a brand’s or product’s contribution margin ratio can assist determine whether it makes sense for the company to continue selling it at its present pricing. If the contribution margin is exceedingly low, there is probably not enough profit to keep it. The elimination of low-contribution margin products can improve a company’s overall contribution margin.

What Can Contribution Margin Tell You?

The contribution margin serves as the foundation for break-even analysis in product cost and sales price planning. The contribution margin separates the fixed cost and profit components of product sales and can be used to determine a product’s selling price range, the profit levels that can be expected from sales, and the structure of sales commissions paid to sales team members, distributors, or commission agents.

Gross Profit Margin vs. Contribution Margin

The contribution margin is distinct from the gross profit margin, which is defined as the difference between sales revenue and the cost of goods sold. While contribution margins only account for variable costs, the gross profit margin accounts for all costs incurred by a company in order to earn sales.

After the company has reached the breakeven threshold, the contribution margin reveals how much additional revenue is created by producing each additional unit product. In other words, it calculates how much money each incremental sale “contributes” to the total profits of the company.

Contribution Margin Uses

The contribution margin can assist firm management in making a decision between various different goods that compete for the same set of production resources. Assume a corporation has a pen-manufacturing machine capable of producing both ink pens and ball-point pens, and management must choose between the two.

If an ink pen’s contribution margin is higher than that of a ball pen, the former will be given production preference due to its higher profit potential. Such decision-making is typical in organizations that manufacture a diverse portfolio of products, and management must allocate available resources to products with the biggest profit potential in the most efficient manner.

Investor Contribution Margin

Investors and analysts may also attempt to calculate a company’s contribution margin for its blockbuster goods. A beverage company, for example, may offer 15 various products, yet the majority of its income may come from one unique beverage.
Vigilant investors, along with corporate management, may keep a careful eye on the contribution margin of a high-performing product relative to other goods in order to analyze the company’s reliance on its star performer.

The company shifting its attention away from investing in or increasing manufacturing of the star product, or the advent of a competing product, may suggest that the company’s profitability and, eventually, its share price would suffer.

When Should Contribution Margin Analysis Be Used?

Investors look at contribution margins to see if a company is making the best use of its revenue. A high contribution margin suggests that a business makes more money than it spends.

Contribution margin levels that are extremely low or negative imply economically unviable products whose manufacturing and sales consume a big amount of the revenue.
Because variable costs are higher in labor-intensive industries such as manufacturing, contribution margins are low, but contribution margins are large in capital-intensive industries.

Contribution margin can be applied at many levels of manufacturing, business divisions, and goods. The figure can be determined for a full firm, a specific subsidiary, a specific business division or unit, a specific center or facility, a distribution or sales channel, a product line, or individual goods.

Contribution Margin Analysis’s Limitations

When utilizing this metric, keep in mind that the contribution margin does not account for the influence of a product on a company’s bottleneck operation. A minimal contribution margin may be perfectly fine as long as the bottleneck operation consumes little or no processing time. In this situation, a business is still generating some incremental margin, which contributes to the business’s overall profit without affecting its bottleneck operation.

How to Increase Your Contribution Margin

To enhance a company’s contribution margin, you must either minimize variable costs such as raw material and transportation prices or raise the price of your products and services.
The lower your contribution margin, the harder it is for your business to fund its fixed expenditures. One strategy to improve your financial situation is to cut expenditures, such as by relocating to a less expensive location or reducing non-essential employment.

What Is the Difference Between Contribution Margin and Profit Margin?

The profit margin is the amount of revenue that remains after deducting direct manufacturing costs. The contribution margin is a measure of the profitability of each particular product sold by a business.

What Is the Importance of Contribution Margin in Business?

The contribution margin is usually used as a reference for analysis when a corporation decides on the price of selling a product. Because fixed costs are typically high, the contribution margin must be significant in order to cover the costs of running a business.

A low or negative contribution margin implies that a product line or business may not be profitable, hence continuing to manufacture the product at its current sales price level is not recommended unless it is a very high-volume product.

For breakeven or goal income analysis, the contribution margin must be evaluated. Divide the fixed costs by the contribution margin per unit to obtain the goal number of units that must be sold in order for the business to break even.

The contribution margin can be used to determine which items offered by the business are more profitable and thus more advantageous to create, given restricted resources, in order to resolve bottlenecks. Products with a large contribution margin are given preference.


The contribution margin is the revenue gained by selling each extra unit of a product or service. This is one of the measures that organizations and investors use to make data-driven business decisions. Contribution margins, like other numbers, must be considered in connection to other metrics rather than in isolation.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like