The Retail Inventory Method: Definition, Use, and Calculation

October 13, 2023

The retail inventory method (RIM) is an accounting technique employed by many retail businesses to estimate their ending inventory at retail prices, based on the proportionate relationship of the cost and retail value of merchandise available for sale. It has been a popular method for decades because of its simplicity and practicality, especially for businesses with large quantities of diverse merchandise.


The Retail Inventory Method is an approach to estimating the value of ending inventory in a retail setting. Instead of counting each item’s cost, it uses the cost-to-retail ratio, taking into consideration the beginning inventory, purchases, and sales during the period.


Inventory Estimation: It provides a consistent and systematic way of estimating the ending inventory without doing a physical count. This is particularly helpful for interim periods.

Financial Reporting: RIM provides a more accurate representation of inventory levels in financial statements, thus giving stakeholders a clearer picture of a company’s financial health.

Loss Detection: If physical counts reveal significant discrepancies from the RIM estimates, it might indicate problems like theft, spoilage, or other forms of inventory shrinkage.

Budgeting and Forecasting: By understanding the relationship between cost and retail price, retailers can better anticipate future inventory needs and sales projections.


Calculate the Cost-to-Retail Percentage
This is done by dividing the cost of merchandise by its retail price. It’s crucial to ensure all discounts, allowances, and price changes are considered when determining the retail value.

Cost-to-Retail Percentage = Cost of Goods Available for Sale at Cost / Goods Available for Sale at Retail


Cost of Goods Available for Sale at Cost = Beginning Inventory at Cost + Purchases at Cost + Additional Markups – Markup Cancellations + Freight Charges

Goods Available for Sale at Retail = Beginning Inventory at Retail + Purchases at Retail + Additional Markups – Markup Cancellations – Markdowns + Markdown Cancellations

Calculate the Ending Inventory at Retail

Ending Inventory at Retail = Goods Available for Sale at Retail – Sales at Retail

Estimate the Ending Inventory at Cost
Now, apply the cost-to-retail percentage to the ending inventory at retail to estimate the ending inventory at cost.

Ending Inventory at Cost = Ending Inventory at Retail x Cost-to-Retail Percentage


Let’s say a store begins with inventory that costs $5,000 but is valued at $10,000 in retail price. Throughout the month, the store makes additional purchases that cost $2,500 and are valued at $5,000 in retail. The store has sales totaling $9,000 in retail value.

Cost-to-Retail Percentage = ($5,000 + $2,500) / ($10,000 + $5,000) = $7,500 / $15,000 = 0.50 or 50%

Ending Inventory at Retail = $15,000 – $9,000 = $6,000
Ending Inventory at Cost = $6,000 × 50% = $3,000
Hence, the estimated ending inventory at cost is $3,000.

In Conclusion

The retail inventory method provides an efficient way for retailers to estimate their inventory levels, especially when dealing with vast numbers of diverse items. While it might not replace the need for physical counts entirely, it offers a consistent approach to valuating inventory and can highlight discrepancies that need further investigation. As with any accounting method, it’s essential for businesses to understand its principles thoroughly and apply them consistently.

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