Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Perpetual Inventory


Perpetual inventory is a method of accounting for inventory that records the sale or purchase of inventory immediately through the use of computerized point-of-sale systems and enterprise asset management software. It continually updates accounting records for inventory levels, which results in a real-time estimate of inventory on hand. This system provides direct knowledge about levels of inventory at all times, which aids businesses in managing their stock more effectively.


The phonetics of the keyword “Perpetual Inventory” is: Perpetual: pər-ˈpe-chə-wəlInventory: ˈin-vən-ˌtȯr-ē

Key Takeaways

  1. Real-Time Tracking: A perpetual inventory system allows for real-time tracking of inventory levels. Each time a sale or purchase is made, the system automatically updates the quantity of items in stock. This helps businesses to maintain accurate and up-to-date records.
  2. Improved Accuracy: Because every transaction is immediately recorded, businesses using a perpetual inventory system can more accurately track their economy. A business can quickly identify shrinkage, excessive expenses or deficits in its inventory, reducing financial losses and helping to improve overall efficiency.
  3. Enhanced Decision Making: Businesses using perpetual inventory systems can make better-informed decisions since they always have accurate and current data about their inventory levels. This can help with forecasting future demand, adjusting pricing strategies, and managing supplier relationships.


Perpetual inventory is a crucial concept in business/finance as it refers to an inventory management system where inventory quantities are updated in real-time after every sale, purchase, or transaction. This system is important because it provides an up-to-date and accurate picture of the inventory levels and the cost of goods sold, which aids in making informed business decisions such as when to reorder stocks, identifying potential inventory theft, and managing cash flow. Moreover, for a financial standpoint, it assists with the accurate reporting of the company’s current assets on balance sheets, thereby ensuring compliance with financial standards and providing valuable insights to stakeholders. Overall, the use of perpetual inventory contributes to efficiency, accuracy, and better financial management within a business.


Perpetual inventory is mainly used by businesses to obtain an immediate, real-time understanding of their inventory levels. This constant, sophisticated tracking system enables businesses to make critical decisions based on up-to-the-minute data, continuously updating inventory records for each sale, purchase and return, as and when they occur. The automation of these records provides a very accurate account of inventory at any point, which helps businesses identify sales trends, manage their stock effectively, and make informed decisions about what items to reorder and when.

Moreover, perpetual inventory is vital in managing the liquidity of products, preventing potential stockouts, better understanding and planning spend, and elevating overall business responsiveness. In essence, the role of perpetual inventory in the financial world extends beyond stock control – it significantly impacts profit margins, cash flow, and fiscal health too. By helping to decrease the risk of overstocking or understocking items, this method aids businesses in effectively managing warehousing costs and ensuring customer satisfaction by having products available when needed. Additionally, perpetual inventory system also aids in the smooth and accurate process of financial audits and diligence.


1. Retail Stores: Many retail stores, such as Target or Walmart, utilize the perpetual inventory system to keep track of their stock. They use electronic barcode systems to monitor sales and update inventory in real-time. For instance, when an object is scanned and sold at the register, that item is immediately subtracted from the inventory count in their system.

2. Online Businesses: Amazon and other e-commerce platforms utilize perpetual inventory systems to continuously update their inventory levels. Each time a customer places an order, the inventory is adjusted in real time. This allows Amazon to fulfill orders more efficiently, maintain accurate stock levels, and easily understand when it’s time to reorder products.

3. Food Industry: Fast-food chains like McDonald’s operate on a perpetual inventory system. They constantly monitor items used through their point of sale systems. For instance, if a burger is sold, the system automatically deducts the ingredients used for that burger from the inventory. This ensures that they never run short of ingredients and can replenish their stocks on time.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Perpetual Inventory?

Perpetual Inventory refers to a method of accounting for inventory that records the sale or purchase of inventory immediately through the use of computerized point-of-sale systems and enterprise asset management software.

How does Perpetual Inventory work?

In a Perpetual Inventory system, every time a product is added or removed from the inventory, the system updates the total number of units and cost available real-time. Thus, perpetually keeping track of the inventory balance.

What is a notable benefit of using a Perpetual Inventory system?

A major benefit of using a Perpetual Inventory system is having accurate and real-time inventory levels. This helps in better inventory management and can prevent both overstocking and running out of stock.

How does Perpetual Inventory compare with Periodic Inventory?

Unlike in a Perpetual Inventory system where updates are made continuously, a Periodic Inventory system updates inventory count on a periodic basis like monthly, quarterly, or annually.

What industries or businesses commonly use Perpetual Inventory systems?

Businesses that deal with large quantities of inventory, like retail and e-commerce stores, typically use Perpetual Inventory systems. Industries like manufacturing, automotive, and food services may also use this inventory method.

What software can be used to manage a Perpetual Inventory system?

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, Inventory Management software, and Point-Of-Sale (POS) software that constantly update inventory count are typically used to manage a Perpetual Inventory system.

Can Perpetual Inventory systems prevent theft or inventory shrinkage?

While it can help in identifying discrepancies and potential instances of theft, a Perpetual Inventory system is not foolproof and cannot prevent theft. Regular physical inventory checks are usually combined with the system for better accuracy.

Related Finance Terms

  • Inventory Management: The processes and methods used to control and track the quantity, location, and status of products within an organization.
  • Stockkeeping Unit (SKU): A specific item in a specific unit of measure, stored in a specific place.
  • Cycle Counting: An inventory management technique where inventory is counted on a cyclic schedule rather than once a year.
  • Just-in-Time (JIT) Inventory: An inventory strategy companies employ to increase efficiency by receiving goods only as they are needed in the production process.
  • Economic Order Quantity (EOQ): The number of units that a company should add to inventory with each order to minimize the total costs of inventory—such as holding costs, shortage costs, and order costs.

Sources for More Information

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More