What is Contribution Margin? (Definition, Formula, Example, and Explanation)


The contribution margin is basically the sales price less variable cost. The contribution margin in percentages is calculated by sales price less variable cost and then divided by sales price. Mostly we use net sales to calculate the contribution. Variable costs are direct costs, including direct materials, direct labor, and other direct costs.

The total contribution margin is the accumulation of all contributors for a period of time without including total fixed costs and operating expenses.

The contribution is significant for management to control its performance as it is linked to the break-even point. And to measure how much the entity needs sales to cover the fixed cost and operating expenses.

In general, the company always has an annual budget for Net of Profit set by the board of directors. To make sure the company could hit this budget, we must know how much it could sell for the year, total contribution, cost of goods sold, fixed cost, operating expenses, and other expenses.

It could be because of production design, production process, cost of raw material, or other factors based on the investigation. The contribution margin also helps management analyze its company’s margin with competitors or the market as a whole. If the company has a low margin than its competitor, then the product’s variable cost might have problems.

Contribution Margin Formula

The following is the formula of Contribution Margin,

Contribution Margin Per Unit = Sale Price Per Unit – Variable Cost Per Unit

Total Contribution Margin = Total Sales – Total Variable Costs

Total Contribution Margin in Percentage = (Total Sales – Total Variable Costs) / Total Sale



This is quite straightforward. You could either calculate the contribution per unit or total contribution based on your requirement.

And if you want to calculate its ratios, you need to contribute to the sale.

Contribution Margin Example

Now let’s move to the example for your better understanding,

ABC is the company operating cloths manufacturing for the high class, and it has the transactions as the following,

Total sales per year are USD 2,000,000, and the cost per unit is USD20. The variable cost is $10 per unit and the fixed cost for the years is USD 500,000.

Now let us perform calculation,

The variable cost per unit is USD10. Therefore, the contribution per unit is USD10. Then,

Total Sales 2,000,000

Total Variable Cost (1,000,000) 100,000*10

Contribution Margin is 1,000,000

If you want to calculate the contribution margin ratio, we could calculate the total contribution over sales like this.

1,000,000/2,000,000 or 50%

Contribution Margin Analysis

ABC contribution is quite good, and it is 200% over the fixed cost of USD 500,000. It might be because the ABC Cloths are unique and branded. That is why the customers don’t hesitate to pay for the clothes. As said in the exam, ABC clothes are for high-class people.

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However, to perform better analysis, we probably need the data and information about the competitors in the market and industry average to assume how goods the margin of ABC over the competitors.

In other words, a high contribution margin means the variable cost of the product is low. And the rest of the cost is fixed cost. That is the main reason why the contribution is high.

Even the margin is good, ABC might still need to review and maintain its purchasing system to ensure that the materials are purchased at the lowest with acceptable quality.

It is essential to control both the cost and quality of clothes. The low price of material and better Contribution Margin.

Another thing that ABC needs to review and make sure it is at the best performance in the production process. Labor is probably the most important cost and process in ABC as cloth manufacturing.

Frequency Question Relate to Contribution Margin

Is contribution margin the same as profit?

Gross profit is a measure of a company’s profitability that is calculated by subtracting the total cost of goods sold directly related to the goods sold during a specific period from the total sales during that same period.

Net profit, on the other hand, is calculated by subtracting general and administrative expenses as well as tax expenses from the company’s gross profit during the same period. This provides a more accurate measure of a company’s profitability after deducting all expenses.

Another metric used to assess profitability is contribution margin. This is calculated by deducting the variable cost from the net sales of a product, providing insight into the amount of revenue available to cover fixed costs and ultimately generate net profit.

Overall, these measures help companies evaluate their financial performance and make informed decisions about their business strategies.

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What Is a Good Contribution Margin?

A good contribution margin is one that allows a company to cover its fixed costs and generate a profit. The exact level of a good contribution margin will depend on various factors such as the industry, market conditions, and competition.

Generally, a higher contribution margin indicates a stronger ability to cover fixed costs and generate profits. However, it is important to consider other factors such as pricing strategy and volume of sales when evaluating the overall profitability of a product or service.

Ultimately, a good contribution margin should be viewed in the context of the company’s overall financial goals and objectives. It should be sufficient to cover fixed costs and generate a profit, while also supporting the company’s long-term growth and sustainability.

Do the Company Want a High or Low Contribution Margin?

In general, a company would want a high contribution margin. A higher contribution margin means that there is more revenue available to cover the company’s fixed costs, such as rent and salaries, and generate a profit.

A high contribution margin also provides more flexibility for a company to adjust pricing or invest in new initiatives.

However, it is important to balance this with the company’s overall objectives and market conditions. For example, in a highly competitive market, a company may need to lower its prices to remain competitive, which could result in a lower contribution margin.

Ultimately, a company should aim for a contribution margin that allows it to meet its financial goals and sustain its operations over the long term.

How To Improve Contribution Margin?

Certainly, here are 9 ways to improve a company’s contribution margin:

  1. Increase prices: Raising the prices of products or services can increase the contribution margin. This can be done strategically by analyzing the market conditions and the value the product or service provides to customers.
  2. Reduce variable costs: Reducing the costs of raw materials, labor, and other variable expenses can help improve the contribution margin. This can be achieved through renegotiating contracts, seeking cheaper suppliers, or optimizing production processes.
  3. Increase sales volume: Increasing sales volume can help to spread fixed costs across a larger base, thereby increasing the contribution margin. This can be done through targeted marketing campaigns or expanding the product line.
  4. Focus on higher-margin products or services: Prioritizing the sale of higher-margin products or services can increase the overall contribution margin. This can be achieved through strategic product line management and marketing.
  5. Adjust the product mix: Adjusting the product mix by offering more profitable products or discontinuing unprofitable ones can help to increase the contribution margin. This can be done through market analysis and product line management.
  6. Reduce fixed costs: Reducing fixed costs such as rent, utilities, and salaries can help to increase the contribution margin. This can be done through cost-cutting measures and improving operational efficiency.
  7. Optimize production processes: Optimizing production processes can reduce the costs of producing goods, which can help to increase the contribution margin. This can be achieved through automation, lean manufacturing, and continuous process improvement.
  8. Seek economies of scale: Seeking economies of scale through bulk purchasing and production can help to reduce the costs of producing goods and increase the contribution margin.
  9. Implement cost-sharing measures: Implementing cost-sharing measures such as joint ventures, partnerships, and outsourcing can help to reduce costs and increase the contribution margin.
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What the Limitation of Contribution Margin?

While contribution margin can be a useful metric for evaluating a company’s profitability and financial performance, there are some limitations to its use:

  1. Does not account for fixed costs: Contribution margin only takes into account variable costs and does not consider fixed costs, such as rent or salaries. This can limit its usefulness in evaluating overall profitability.
  2. Ignores long-term investments: Contribution margin does not take into account the long-term investments a company may need to make to remain competitive, such as research and development or capital expenditures. This can result in a short-term focus that may not align with long-term goals.
  3. Assumes constant sales mix: Contribution margin assumes a constant sales mix, meaning that the proportion of sales of different products or services remains constant over time. However, in reality, the sales mix may change, which can impact profitability.
  4. Limited use in service industries: Contribution margin is primarily used in manufacturing industries where costs are more easily traced to specific products. In service industries, where costs may be more difficult to allocate, other metrics may be more appropriate.
  5. Does not consider external factors: Contribution margin does not take into account external factors that may impact profitability, such as changes in the economy or competition. Therefore, it should be used in conjunction with other metrics and analysis to provide a comprehensive view of a company’s financial performance.

Written by Sinra