Mastering Inventory Valuation Methods: Boost Profitability with Effective Strategies

  • Mar 9, 2023
  • 8 min read
Cover: Mastering Inventory Valuation Methods: Boost Profitability with Effective Strategies

Inventory is the main and most important asset of any business. Balanced inventory management secures sales, profits, warehouse and logistics processes, customer order fulfillment, and staff productivity. Overall retail business performance greatly depends on its ability to count, classify, and manage inventory.

Inventory valuation is a process of estimating the monetary value of the items found on a company’s balance sheet at the end of each financial period. Inventory valuation accuracy has a direct impact on a company’s financial statements and performance indicators.

Methods of inventory valuation

There are different ways and methods that help companies to manage their inventory balance sheets. Basically, there are three most popular and widely-used methods of inventory valuation: 

  • FIFO (First-In-First-Out);
  • LIFO (Last-In-Last-Out);
  • WAC (Weighted Average Cost).

All these methods have their specific features, their pros and cons.

How to choose inventory valuation method? 

The choice of method usually depends on the nature of goods and the region you are operating in. 

Accounting standards and principles vary – for example, businesses in the USA work under GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), while the majority of other countries operate under IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards). This is an important factor to consider, as the LIFO inventory valuation method is not accepted by the regulations of the IFRS. 

Another very important thing to remember – financial reporting allows the use of a single valuation method, so switching or combining them isn’t possible.

First of all, consider the accounting standards and regulations accepted in your region. Second, consider the nature and type of your products. And remember, once you have chosen the method, you will not be able to choose another one or combine them. 

FIFO method: definition, pros/cons and examples

First-In-First-Out (FIFO) method of inventory valuation is easy, accurate and quite logical: it is based on the assumption that the products which are purchased from the supplier (or produced) earlier are sold first. So, FIFO method takes the cost of the oldest inventory as a basis of COGS (Cost of Goods Sold) formula.

In retail, COGS is a main performance indicator, that calculates all the direct costs associated with your products sale (storage, shipping, customs clearance, store rental etc.) COGS does not include indirect expenses, such as marketing or advertising, staff salaries etc. The formula of COGS calculation is pretty simple: Cost of Goods Sold = Beginning Inventory + Direct Expenses – Ending Inventory. As a retailer you must always remember that the higher your COGS is, the less money you make

If a company uses FIFO as a primary inventory valuation method, it has to understand that the goods that arrived earlier from the supplier (or manufacturer) may sometimes be cheaper than the newer ones. It depends on the supplier’s pricing strategy, but usually, the prices tend to rise rather than fall. So, in this case, COGS will be lower and profit figures will be higher. That will result in a higher base for taxation.

In addition to being easy to manage and understandable, the FIFO method helps retailers to cut waste and spoiled goods quantities, as you always sell the older inventory first. That is why the FIFO method is so popular among businesses dealing with fast-spoiling goods, such as fresh milk, vegetables, meat, eggs, fruits, etc.

One of the biggest and most considerable disadvantages of the FIFO inventory valuation method is a high level of dependence on prices. In the case of inflation, the base of taxable income may rise dramatically and distort financial performance.

How to calculate inventory value using FIFO method?

Disclaimer: This example is only used for illustration, as milk and dairy products can be spoiled, and therefore such products can not be stored for too long.

In January a village grocery purchased fresh milk - at first, 100 bottles of full-fat milk, 1$ per bottle and then, 200 bottles of same full-fat milk from another manufacturer, 2$ per bottle.

By the end of January, 50 bottles of milk were sold.

So, using FIFO we calculate the cost of goods sold for the first batch of milk. We take the FIFO product price and multiply it by the number of products sold. 

Cost of Goods Sold = 1$ x 50pc = 50$ 

We have another 50 bottles of milk on the shelves and 200 bottles of full-fat milk from another manufacturer. Let’s calculate the inventory value:

Inventory value in January = (1$ x 50pc) + ( 2$ x 200pc) = 450$ 

LIFO method: definition, pros/cons and examples

The Last-In-Last-Out method is the opposite to FIFO. It assumes that the most recent products are sold first. Under the LIFO method, the inventory that was acquired first remains on the company’s balance sheet while the newer items are being sold. The LIFO method is used in the US, as it is acceptable under the GAAP regulations.

If a company uses LIFO as a reference inventory valuation method, it eventually has higher COGS but lower profit and taxable income indicators. When a company uses the Last-In-Last-Out inventory valuation method, the earnings and financial statements shown are lower and the taxable income is less. This may be good when the time to pay taxes comes, but, on the other side, it may present the company as a less reliable contractor and lower the chances of getting investor or credit funding.

How to calculate inventory value using the LIFO method?

Disclaimer: This example is only used for illustration, as milk and dairy products can be spoiled, and therefore such products can not be stored for too long.

Let’s continue using a grocery store example, and let’s calculate the end of January’s inventory value using LIFO. 

So, we take 200 bottles of full-fat milk we purchased later at the price of 2$ per bottle. 50 bottles were sold, as we know. 

So, using LIFO we calculate the cost of goods sold for the second batch of milk. 

Cost of Goods Sold = 2$ x 50 = 100$

And the 100 bottles of milk purchased at the beginning of the months (1$ each) are still unsold. 150 bottles of milk (2$ each) are also unsold. So, let’s calculate the inventory value in January:

Inventory value = (1$ x 100) + (2$ x 150) = 400$ 

WAC method: definition, pros/cons and examples

The WAC inventory valuation method stands for Weighted Average Cost. Under the WAC method, a retailer estimates a weighted average by dividing the COGS by the number of items available. So, the retailer can then have the actual picture of inventory available on hand, an average between the newest and oldest products.

Inventory optimization

Inventory management involves overseeing and optimizing the storage, tracking, and organization of a company's goods or assets to ensure efficient.

WAC inventory valuation method is basic and simple and is sometimes referred to as a starting point for retail business. WAC deals with simple similar items, that are easy to track. The calculations are easy and you do not have to invest time and money into sophisticated accounting and record tracking systems, or hire a lot of people.

On the contrary, if you use the WAC valuation and your products belong to different price categories, you can lose money by taking the average price as a reference point and blurring the difference between expensive and cheap goods.

How to calculate inventory value using the WAC method?

Disclaimer: This example is only used for illustration, as milk and dairy products can be spoiled, and therefore such products can not be stored for too long.

Let’s illustrate using the same example. All in all, grocery store bought 300 bottles of milk (100pc+200pc) and paid 500$ (100$ + 400$). 

Here comes the weighted average cost. 

WAC = 500 / 300 = 1.66$ per bottle.

At the end of the month we have sold 50 bottles, so the COGC = 50pc x 1.66$ = 83$ 

Inventory value = 250 x 1.66 = 415$ 

Regardless of the inventory valuation method chosen, real-time data records and accurate calculations is a must-have. Keeping detailed spreadsheets for each SKU can be ineffective and time-consuming, especially for large retailers that own dozens, hundreds and thousands of SKUs across several locations and sales outlets. We recommend using more sophisticated automated software which can accommodate any valuation method you choose, keep your calculations up-to-date, and take care of all your business needs.

Inventory valuation is easy with LEAFIO

We propose the Leafio Inventory Optimization Solution based on our customers' years of experience in different retail areas. We have analyzed all the weaknesses of the business and created the most effective inventory management system. 

This cloud-based solution will help you to identify areas that require special attention quickly and accurately. This will help streamline ordering and delivering in the shortest possible time, which will lead to the successful implementation of the company's subsequent development strategy.

Visually pleasing business intelligence modules create transparency for every aspect of the replenishment process: from demand forecast and supplier management to chain-wide inventory performance. Making strategic data-driven decisions is now easier than ever before. 

<i>&nbsp; Strategic&nbsp;<a href="">dashboard</a>&nbsp;in Leafio Inventory Optimization system&nbsp;&nbsp;</i>
  Strategic dashboard in Leafio Inventory Optimization system  

The system has a powerful BI module with dozens of reports - inventory costs, sales, overstocks, lost sales, inventory turnover, and service level. These and many other specific inventory management issues are deeply and visually analyzed in Leafio inventory optimization. We offer not just a set of reports. Our analytics module is the key takeaway from our many year's supply chain experience.

<i>Lost sales for the set period report in Leafio Inventory Optimization system</i>
Lost sales for the set period report in Leafio Inventory Optimization system

Besides, with the Leafio Inventory system, you can minimize the human error factor in the inventory process. Read also what effects our client Aversi achieved by implementing Leafio Inventory Optimization Solution.

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