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Study Notes

Stock Turnover

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Inventory (or "stock") turnover is a financial efficiency ratio that helps answer a questions like "have we got too much money tied up in inventory"?

An increasing inventory turnover figure or one which is much larger than the "average" for an industry may indicate poor inventory management.

Inventory (Stock) Turnover Formula and Example

As a general guide, the quicker a business turns over its inventories, the better.

But, it is more important to do that profitably rather than sell inventory at a low gross profit margin or worse at a loss.

Interpreting the inventory turnover ratio needs to be done with some care. For example:

  • Some products and industries necessarily have very high levels of stock turnover. Fast-food outlets turnover their stocks over several times each week, let alone 8-10 times per year! A distributor of industrial products might aim to turn stocks over 10—20 times per year
  • Some businesses have to hold large quantities and value of stock to meet customer needs. They may have to stock a wide range of product types, brands, sizes and so on.
  • Stock levels can vary during the year, often caused by seasonal demand. Care needs to be taken in working out what the "average stock held" is – since that directly affects the stock turnover calculation

A business can take a range of actions to improve its stock turnover:

  • Sell-off or dispose of slow-moving or obsolete stocks
  • Introduce lean production techniques to reduce stock holdings
  • Rationalise the product range made or sold to reduce stock-holding requirements
  • Negotiate sale or return arrangements with suppliers – so the stock is only paid for when a customer buys it

The last point to remember is that stock turnover is an irrelevant ratio for many businesses in the service sector. Any business that provides personal or professional services, for example, is unlikely to carry significant stocks.

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