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Contribution Margin

The Contribution Margin is a key performance indicator in Business Studies that provides information on how much a company contributes to covering costs and generating a profit. In this article, the concept of contribution margin is explained in detail, its calculation methods are presented and the importance of this key figure for entrepreneurial activity is highlighted.

Contribution Margin Definition: What is the Contribution Margin?

The contribution margin is a key business figure that indicates how much a company contributes to covering fixed costs and making a profit by selling its products or services. It is calculated by deducting the variable costs from the sales revenue generated.

The contribution margin is an important tool in cost and performance accounting, as it makes it possible to assess the profitability of individual products or services. A positive contribution margin means that the product or service not only covers the variable costs, but also contributes to covering the fixed costs. A negative contribution margin indicates that the product or service does not even cover the variable costs and is therefore not profitable.

In summary, the contribution margin provides valuable insights into the financial health of a company and supports decision-making regarding product portfolio, pricing strategies and cost efficiency.

Types of Contribution Margins

There are several types of contribution margins used in cost and performance accounting to analyze a company's profitability and cost structure. The following different types of contribution margin provide different insights and help companies analyze their cost structures and profitability at different levels in detail. Here are the most important types of contribution margin:

Unit Contribution Margin Explanation: The contribution margin per unit of a product sold.
Calculation: Sales price per unit - variable costs per unit.
Benefit: Helps to analyze the profitability of individual product units.
Total Contribution Margin Explanation: The sum of all unit contribution margins for a specific product or product line.
Calculation: Unit contribution margin × quantity sold.
Benefit: Indicates the overall profitability of a product or product line.
Contribution Margin Ratio Explanation: The contribution margin as a percentage of sales revenue.
Calculation: (contribution margin / sales revenue) × 100.
Benefit: Provides a comparison of the profitability of different products or services as a percentage.
Direct Costing Explanation: A method in which only the variable costs are used to determine the contribution margin.
Benefit: Facilitates short-term decision-making, especially in pricing and production planning.
Multi-stage Contribution Margin Accounting Explanation: An extended form of contribution margin accounting in which the fixed costs are divided into several stages.
Calculation: Total contribution margin - division fixed costs = division contribution margin; division contribution margin - company fixed costs = company contribution margin.
Benefit: Enables a more detailed analysis of the cost structure and profitability at different levels (e.g. product, product group, company).
Single-level Contribution Margin Accounting Explanation: Single-level contribution margin accounting considers the contribution margin as the difference between sales revenue and variable costs. Only a single stage is considered, in which the fixed costs as a whole are deducted from the contribution margin.
Calculation: contribution margin=sales revenue-variable costs; operating result=contribution margin-fixed costs
Benefit: This method is quick and easy to implement. It is well suited for short-term decisions and for companies with a manageable cost structure.
Product Group Contribution Margin Explanation: The contribution margin for a group of related products.
Calculation: Sum of the contribution margins of all products in the group.
Benefit: Shows the profitability of entire product groups and supports portfolio optimization decisions.
Division Contribution Margin Explanation: The contribution margin of a specific business division or department.
Calculation: Total contribution margin of a division - division fixed costs.
Benefit: Helps to evaluate the profitability of individual business units and the allocation of resources.
Company Contribution Margin Explanation: The total contribution margin of the entire company after deduction of all fixed costs.
Calculation: Sum of all divisional contribution margins - company fixed costs.
Benefit: Provides an overview of the company's overall profitability and serves as a basis for strategic decisions.
Absolute Contribution Margin Explanation: The absolute contribution margin is the total amount that a product, service or business unit contributes to covering fixed costs and generating a profit. It is expressed in absolute figures.
Calculation: Sales revenue - variable costs.
Benefit: The absolute contribution margin indicates the actual amount available to cover fixed costs and maximize profit. It is helpful for assessing profitability in concrete monetary terms.
Relative Contribution Margin Explanation: The relative contribution margin puts the contribution margin in relation to a reference value, usually time or resource utilization. It indicates how efficiently a product or service contributes to covering fixed costs and maximizing profits in relation to a specific resource (e.g. production time, use of materials).
Calculation: Absolute contribution margin / reference value (e.g. number of units, working hours).
Benefit: The relative contribution margin helps to compare the efficiency and productivity of different products or services. It is particularly useful when resources are scarce and the optimal allocation of these resources must be decided.

Important technical terms and synonyms on the topic
Contribution Margin

Terms relating to the Contribution Margin

Term Explanation
Contribution margin The difference between sales revenue and variable costs. It indicates how much contributes to covering fixed costs and generating a profit.
Sales revenue The total amount that a company generates from the sale of its products or services.
Variable costs Costs that are directly related to the production and sale of a product and change with production volume, such as material costs and production wages.
Fixed costs Costs that remain constant regardless of production volume, such as rent, salaries and depreciation.
Break-even point (BEP) The point at which sales revenue covers total costs (fixed and variable costs). At this point, the company begins to make a profit.
Contribution margin accounting A business management method for determining the contribution margin. It is used to analyze the profitability of individual products or business areas.
Total contribution margin The sum of the contribution margins of all products or services of a company.
Unit contribution margin The contribution margin per unit of a product sold. It is calculated as the difference between the sales price per unit and the variable costs per unit.
Contribution margin ratio The percentage share of the contribution margin in sales revenue. It is calculated as (contribution margin/sales revenue)×100.
Direct costing A cost accounting method in which only the variable costs are used to determine the contribution margin.
Multi-stage contribution margin calculation An extended form of contribution margin calculation in which the fixed costs are divided into several stages to enable a more detailed analysis.
Short-term price floor The minimum price that must be achieved to cover the variable costs. At this price, no contribution margin is achieved to cover the fixed costs.

These terms and explanations provide a comprehensive overview of the main concepts related to the contribution margin and their business relevance.

Calculate Contribution Margin: Contribution Margin Formula

The following formula is used to calculate the contribution margin:

Here is a step-by-step guide to calculating contribution margin:

  1. Determine Sales Revenue: This is the total amount of money a company makes from the sale of its products or services. Sales revenue can often be found on invoices or in the company's sales overview.
  2. Determining Variable Costs: Variable costs are the costs that are directly related to the production and sale of a product and vary with the production volume. These include material costs, production wages, distribution costs, etc.
  3. Subtraction of Variable Costs from Sales Revenue: The difference between the sales revenue and the variable costs gives the contribution margin.

Contribution Margin example calculation

Assume a company sells a product at a price of 50 euros per unit. The variable costs per unit are 30 euros. The company sells 1,000 units.

  1. Sales Revenue: Sales revenue = sales price per unit × number of units sold
    • Sales revenue = 50 euros×1,000 = 50,000 euros
  2. Variable Costs: Variable costs=variable costs per unit×number of units sold
    • Variable costs = 30 euros×1,000 = 30,000 euros
  3. Contribution Margin: Contribution margin=sales revenue-variable costs
    • Contribution margin = 50,000 euros-30,000 euros = 20,000 euros

In this example, the contribution margin is 20,000 euros. This means that the company has 20,000 euros available to cover its fixed costs and make a profit.

Why is the Contribution Margin important?

The contribution margin is of great importance to companies for several reasons, which are outlined below.

Overview: Some important Reasons for the Contribution Margin

The following diagram shows an overview of some important reasons for the contribution margin.

Explanation: Some important Reasons for the Contribution Margin

Overall, the contribution margin plays a key role in understanding a company's economic situation, making informed business decisions and ensuring long-term competitiveness.

Decision-Making

The contribution margin supports management in strategic decisions, such as the introduction of new products, the discontinuation of unprofitable products or the optimization of the production program.

Resource Allocation

Companies can use the contribution margin to allocate resources more efficiently by prioritizing those products or services that have a higher contribution margin and thus higher profitability.

Financial Planning

In financial planning, the contribution margin provides a basis for forecasting and budgeting, as it enables a realistic assessment of the company's financial performance.

FAQ

What is Contribution Margin 1 2 and 3?

Contribution margin 1 is the difference between the sales revenue and the variable costs of a product or service. Contribution margin 2 is calculated by deducting the area-specific fixed costs from CM1, i.e. the fixed costs that can be directly allocated to a specific product area or product group. Contribution margin 3 is calculated by deducting from CM2 the other fixed costs that are incurred at company level and cannot be directly allocated to a specific area.

How do you calculate the Contribution Margin as a percentage?

The contribution margin as a percentage is calculated by dividing the absolute contribution margin by the sales revenue and multiplying the result by 100. The formula is

Contribution Margin in Percent = (Contribution Margin / Sales Revenue) × 100

Is Contribution Margin Equal to Break- Even Point?

No, the contribution margin is not the same as the break-even point. The contribution margin shows how much contributes to covering fixed costs and making a profit, while the break-even point is the point at which sales revenue exactly covers total costs (fixed and variable costs) so that there is neither a profit nor a loss.

What is the Difference Between Contribution Margin and Profit?

The contribution margin is the difference between the sales revenue and the variable costs and shows how much contributes to covering the fixed costs. Profit, on the other hand, is the amount that remains after both the variable and fixed costs have been fully covered. Profit is therefore what remains after deducting all costs from sales.

How do you calculate the Contribution Margin per Unit?


The contribution margin per unit is calculated by reducing the sales price per unit by the variable costs per unit. The formula is

Contribution Margin per Unit = Sales Price per Unit - Variable Costs per Unit

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