Wall Street Prep

Gross Sales

Guide to Understanding the Gross Sales Concept

Learn Online Now

Gross Sales

How to Calculate Gross Sales (Step-by-Step)

Gross sales, also known as “gross revenue”, is the all-inclusive monetary value generated by a company from the delivery of goods and services to customers in a specified period.

Unlike the net sales metric, a company’s gross sales is calculated prior to the following three adjustments:

  • Returns → The reversal of payment, which is typically initiated by the customer (and typically requires the customer to also return the product in question).
  • Discounts → As an incentive to increase sales volume, a company can offer a discount to reduce the sales price, whereby the lower price is contingent on the customer completing a pre-specified event (e.g. submitting an earlier payment or an on-time payment could trigger a discount) — however, on the date of the actual sale, the company is unaware if the customer will meet the criteria to qualify for the discount.
  • Allowances → A sales allowance refers to the reduction in the amount paid by a customer because of minor product defects that the customer points out. However, in such cases, rather than requesting a full refund, the seller and buyer come to an agreement in which a sales allowance (effectively a post-purchase discount) is granted to the buyer (who keeps the defective item).

These three adjustments to gross sales are deemed contra-accounts — more specifically, these adjustments would show up as a credit to the sales account as opposed to a debit, since they are designed to offset (and reduce) the sales amount.

Interpreting Gross Sales vs. Net Sales

Conceptually, the total of all three deductions represents the difference between gross sales and net sales, i.e. if a company has no records of any returns, discounts, or allowances, then its gross sales will be equal to its net sales for the period.

Product returns or discounts incentivize customers to make more purchases and are usually a normal part of a company’s day-to-day operations.

The difference between gross sales and net sales is tracked and compared over time because a lower difference between the two metrics implies that a company’s products or services are of higher quality and meet customer expectations more effectively (and vice versa if the difference is growing, i.e. could be indicative of issues with quality control).

By itself, the gross sales metric could be misleading, which is why net sales are viewed as a more useful indicator of a company’s financial performance.

Gross Sales Formula

The formula for calculating gross sales is as follows.

  • Gross Sales = Net Sales + Returns + Discounts + Allowances

The formula above can be rearranged to calculate net sales, as shown below.

  • Net Sales = Gross Sales – Returns – Discounts – Allowances

Gross Sales Calculation Example

Suppose an eCommerce store had a total of 200k product orders in the past fiscal year.

Further, we’ll assume that the average sale price (ASP) of the company’s product line is $40.00 per item.

The store’s gross sales are the product of the ASP and the number of units sold, which amounts to $8 million in gross sales.

  • Gross Sales = 200,000 x $40.00 = $8 million

Net Sales Calculation Example

In order to calculate the store’s net sales from our gross sales value, we must now deduct the three items as discussed earlier:

  1. Returns from Customers
  2. Discounts Offered
  3. Sales Allowances

For our hypothetical scenario, we’ll assume that a 10% discount was offered to customers that paid early, which was the case in 5% of all completed customer transactions.

The discount adjustment can be calculated as the product of the two inputs.

  1. (ASP x 10% Discount)
  2. (Number of Sales x 5% of Transactions)

The discount value comes out to $40,000.

  • Discount = ($40.00 x 10%) x (200,000 x 5%) = $40,000

As for returns, we’ll multiply the number of returned transactions by the average selling price (ASP).

If we assume 4% of all transactions were returned, there was a total of 8k returns, meaning that the downward adjustment to gross sales is $320k.

  • Returns = 8,000 * $40.00 = $320,000

Finally, we’ll assume that there were no sales allowances during this period.

In closing, the net sales of our company in the period are $7.64 million.

  • Net Sales = $8 million – $40,000 – $320,000 = $7,640,000
Step-by-Step Online Course

Everything You Need To Master Financial Modeling

Enroll in The Premium Package: Learn Financial Statement Modeling, DCF, M&A, LBO and Comps. The same training program used at top investment banks.

Enroll Today
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

The Wall Street Prep Quicklesson Series

7 Free Financial Modeling Lessons

Get instant access to video lessons taught by experienced investment bankers. Learn financial statement modeling, DCF, M&A, LBO, Comps and Excel shortcuts.