Retail Dogma

Gross Margin Types: Intake Margin vs. Realized Margin

It is very important to be able to differentiate between the different types of gross margin in retail.

Most people starting a retail business think about gross margin in one way only, but we will explain here in detail how there are different types, based on the sales process and markdown applied to the products.

What is Gross Margin?

Gross margin is simply the profit (%) you gain out of the sale price of a certain product

Gross Margin Formula

Gross Margin (%) = (Sales Price – Cost) ÷ Sale Price x 100

Example: We bought a product at 40$ and sold it at 100$

Gross Margin = (100$-40$) ÷ 100$ x 100 = 60%

Difference Between Gross Profit & Gross Margin

Gross profit is a dollar amount and gross margin is when you divide this amount by the sale price, and then multiply this by 100 to get the percentage.

Example: We bought a product at 40$ and sold it at 70$

Gross Profit = 70$ -40$ = 30 $

Gross Margin = (70$-40$) ÷ 70$ x 100 = 42.9%

Gross Margin Formula in Excel

You can create this formula in excel by entering the function in the picture below. If you want to show % sign then you can format the cell as “percentage” but in this case remove the “*100” from the formula.

Gross Margin Formula Excel

You can also download the gross margin excel calculator, with other retail math calculators and cheat sheet from below.

Intake Margin vs. Realized Margin

Here is the part where it gets confusing, especially when you are planning for your sales budget or buying budget.

Your gross margin for the same product will differ based on the amount of discount you applied to it during the sales process. You should be able to differentiate between intake margin vs realized margin, and both of them are types of gross margin.

Intake Margin

Intake margin is the margin you get when you sell the product at full price, without any discount. It is called “intake” because this is the initial price you have set the product at when you first received it.

Learn how to set your intake margin correctly

Realized Margin

Realized margin is the actual gross profit margin you realize at the end from the product, after exposing it to different discounts and markdowns.


Let’s look at an example with the same prices we used before

If the product cost me 40$ and will be priced at 100$ my gross margin is 60%.

This is called intake margin; i.e the margin at which I initially priced the product at when it arrived.

If I apply 50% discount this month, so it will sell at 50$, my gross margin for the product will be 20% as per the same formula

(Sale Price – Cost Price ) ÷ Sale Price x 100

(50$-40$) ÷ 50$ x 100 = 20%

In this case my gross margin is NOT equal to my intake margin and is also called realized margin

Why Is This Important ?


This is very important for the retail budgeting process, whether you are budgeting your sales, buying or the final P&L budget.

You will need to include the profit you expect to realize from your sales in each type of these budgets, and as we have shown with the formulas above there is a big difference in profitability between 60% & 20%.

If you make your entire planning for the year based on how much you bought the product and how much you initially priced it at (i.e intake margin), you will be committing a costly mistake. You will almost never have a full year going without some sort of discount to promote your products or move the unwanted ones out of the door.

That’s why you will find by practice that it is actually the realized margin that matters. This is the margin that will appear in your P&L and this is what is going to pay the bills.

Read More: P&L Management


The intake margin is still important when it comes to planning your buying budget, because it determines the cost you are going to pay for purchasing the goods (COGS).

Even in the buying budget you are still going to need the realized margin to determine the cost of products that you have sold or planning to sell. The difference between both will determine your level of markdowns (discounting)

Confusing between the two types in this budget will result in wrong planning and consequently wrong buying.

Read More: Open to Buy: The Complete Guide


Another time you will need to differentiate between intake margin & realized margin is when you initially set your prices. In order to get the margin that you want at the end of the year (realized margin), you will have to price at a level (intake margin) that takes into consideration all the price skimming and markdowns that you will run later on.

Use our markdown planning tool to determine the intake margin you need to price at, based on your level of discounting and markdown events.

How to Plan for Realized Margin

To put it simply: Your realized margin will depend on the amount of markdowns and discounts that you expect to expose this product to throughout the planned period.

This will be done mainly in the sales budgeting phase, where you are going to plan your marketing events in advance and plot them in your marketing calendar, and then apply this change to the intake margin, so that it reflects the actual margin that will be realized after applying those events.

For example: If your sale month is in December and your intake margin is 60%, you can never plan the month of December to end at 60% margin. You have to plan this month at a much lower margin, based on how much discount you are giving.


As we have shown here, confusing between two types of gross margins (intake margin vs realized margin) could make the biggest difference on your end profitability as well as your buying plans.

As we always say: “Retail is a numbers game”. It could be intimidating to deal with numbers for some people, but if you want to succeed as a merchant you have to master this game.

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