What Is Contribution Margin? Definition and Guide

what is contribution margin

A business’s contribution margin—also called the gross margin—is the money left over from sales after paying all variable expenses associated with producing a product. Subtracting fixed expenses, such as rent, equipment leases, and salaries from your contribution margin yields your net income, or profit.

Calculating a contribution margin

Your contribution margin is calculated by taking:

Product revenue generated – product variable costs/product revenue generated

So, if a company generated $250,000 from product sales that had associated variable costs of $100,000, the contribution margin would be:

250,000 – 100,000/250,000 = .60 or 60%

What is a good contribution margin?

The closer a contribution margin percent, or ratio, is to 100%, the better. The higher the ratio, the more money is available to cover the business’s overhead expenses, or fixed costs.

However, it’s more likely that the contribution margin ratio is well below 100%, and probably below 50%.

The contribution margin ratio can be used as a measure of a company’s profitability as well as a measure of how profitable a particular product line is. Evaluating the contribution margin ratio for a certain brand or product can help determine if it makes sense for the company to continue selling it at its current price.

If the contribution margin is extremely low, it likely isn't profitable enough to keep producing. Eliminating low contribution margin products can positively impact a company’s overall contribution margin.

Improving contribution margin

In order to improve a company’s contribution margin, you either need to reduce variable costs, such as raw material and shipping expenses, or increase the price of your products and services.

The lower your contribution margin, the more difficult it is for your business to cover your fixed costs. Cutting those costs, such as by relocating into less expensive space or eliminating non-essential positions, is one way to improve your financial position.

Contribution Margin FAQ

What is the meaning of contribution margin?

Contribution margin is a measure of the amount of revenue left over after subtracting the variable costs associated with producing a product or service. This measure is used to determine how much of each sale contributes to covering fixed costs and ultimately to the profit of the business.

What are the examples of contribution margin?

  • Sales of a product or service
  • Cost savings from reducing overhead expenses
  • Increase in volume or prices of goods or services
  • Reduction in cost of goods sold
  • Increase in efficiency of production processes
  • Increase in sales of higher margin products
  • Decrease in selling, general and administrative expenses
  • Increase in sales of lower margin products
  • Increase in pricing of goods or services
  • Increase in market share

How is contribution margin calculated?

The contribution margin is calculated by subtracting the total variable costs from the total sales revenue. The formula is: Contribution Margin = Total Sales Revenue – Total Variable Costs.

What is contribution margin vs profit margin?

Contribution margin is the amount of revenue left over after all variable costs have been deducted from total sales. It is a measure of the profitability of individual products or services. Profit margin, on the other hand, is the amount of net income divided by total sales. It is a measure of the overall profitability of a business.

What is contribution margin and breakeven point?

Contribution margin is the amount of money left over after all variable costs have been deducted from sales. The breakeven point is the point at which total revenue equals total costs and there is no net income or loss. It is the point at which the total cost line and the total revenue line intersect.