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Gross Margin


Gross margin, a financial metric, refers to the total sales revenue of a company minus its cost of goods sold (COGS), which are the direct costs attributable to the production of the goods sold. It is represented as a company’s net sales revenue left over after all those direct costs have been paid. In other words, it’s the money left over from sales after the company pays for the goods it sells.


The phonetics of “Gross Margin” is /ɡrōs ˈmärjən/.

Key Takeaways

  1. Indication of Profitability: Gross margin i.e., (Sales – Cost of Goods Sold) / Sales, is a key profitability ratio that represents the percentage of total sales revenue that the company retains after incurring the direct costs associated with producing the goods and services sold.
  2. Measure of Efficiency: A high gross margin indicates that a company operates efficiently, yielding more returns on each dollar spent in production. A higher percentage means the company is retaining more on each dollar of sales, giving it more money to invest in other business operations or expenses.
  3. Variability Across Industries: Gross margin can vary significantly across different industries. For example, technology companies might have high gross margins because their cost of goods sold does not include many direct costs, while retailers might have relatively low gross margins due to the costly nature of physical products.


Gross margin is a critical business metric because it provides insight into a company’s financial health and profitability by showing the proportion of money left from revenues after accounting for the cost of goods sold (COGS). It serves as the source for paying additional expenses and future savings. A high gross margin indicates that a company can make a reasonable profit on sales, as long as overhead costs are controlled, implying effective management of labor and supplies. Therefore, understanding and monitoring gross margin is essential for gauging a company’s efficiency, pricing strategy, and overall performance. By comparing the gross margin ratio over time, or against industry peers, businesses can identify trends, potentials for growth, and areas for improvement.


The gross margin, also referred to as the gross profit margin, is a fundamental and vital financial key performance indicator (KPI) for any business. Its primary purpose is to gauge a company’s financial health by revealing the proportion of money left over from revenues after accounting for the cost of goods sold (COGS). Essentially, it serves as a measure of production cost efficiency and portrays how well a company generates revenue from direct labor and direct materials or other direct costs associated with production.Gross margin is crucial for strategic decision-making related to pricing strategies, product lines, or entering new markets. It provides insights about how profitably a company can sell its products. For instance, if a company’s gross margin is declining over a period, it might be an indication of production issues, increased costs, or price reductions, which are adversely affecting profitability. Moreover, gross margin is used to compare a company’s business model and profitability with competitors, particularly within the same industry. It is particularly important when comparing businesses of different sizes, as it can illustrate which companies are more efficient with their resources.


1. Apple Inc.: For a real-world example of gross margin, take a look at Apple Inc. In 2020, Apple’s annual gross profit margin was around 38%. This indicates that for every dollar of revenue generated, Apple had 38 cents remaining to cover operating expenses (like R&D and marketing), interest, taxes, and net profit.2. Walmart Inc.: For the year ended in January of 2021, Walmart had a gross profit margin of around 24.3%. Walmart is an example where margins tend to be low since they are in the general merchandise retail business which is highly competitive with abundant substitutes and a cost-conscious client base.3. Tesla Inc.:Tesla, a leading electric car manufacturer, had a gross margin of 21.3% in 2020. This means that after deducting the direct costs of producing the electric cars (cost of materials, labor), Tesla had 21.3 cents for every dollar left to cover their operating expenses, interest, and taxes. Note, the gross margin may vary significantly from one industry to another. High tech companies like Apple may generate higher gross margins than a retailer like Walmart or a car manufacturer like Tesla.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Gross Margin?

Gross Margin refers to the total sales revenue a company earns after incurring the direct costs associated with producing the goods and services it sells. It’s the profit made before deducting operating expenses, interest, taxes, etc.

How is Gross Margin calculated?

Gross Margin is calculated by subtracting the cost of goods sold (COGS) from the total revenue earned by a company. The result is then divided by the total revenue and multiplied by 100 to get the gross margin percentage.

Is a higher Gross Margin always better?

Generally, a higher gross margin suggests the company is more efficient at converting raw materials and labor into sales, which could mean more profits. However, an unusually high gross margin could indicate potential issues, such as overpricing or cost-cutting on the quality of materials or labor.

What is the difference between Gross Margin and Profit Margin?

While Gross Margin only accounts for direct costs involved in production, the Profit Margin takes every operating cost into account, including taxes, overheads, and interest paid on debt.

How can a company improve its Gross Margin?

A company can improve its Gross Margin by increasing the prices of their goods or services, decreasing the costs of goods sold, or a combination of both.

Can Gross Margin be negative?

Yes, if the cost of goods sold exceeds the revenue, the Gross Margin can indeed be negative. This may imply that the company has significant problems with cost control or pricing strategies.

What does a change in Gross Margin indicate?

A change in Gross Margin may indicate changes in the company’s cost of goods sold, production efficiency, pricing strategy, or mix of products sold. It’s crucial for a business to understand the reasons behind these fluctuations, so they can make smart financial decisions.

Is Gross Margin the same in different industries?

No, Gross Margin can significantly vary between different industries. For example, technology companies often have a much higher Gross Margin compared to retailers due to different business models and cost structures.

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