Accounting for Merchandising Activities

merchandising activities

A merchandising company sells merchandise inventory to customers. Accounting for companies that sell inventory is more complex than for service companies.

This article is in Chapter 4: Recording Business Transactions. The chapter 4 articles include:

See all the financial accounting chapters in The Ultimate Guide to Learn Financial Accounting.

Income statement for a service company

A service company sells services for a fee. They do not sell any products. The income statement shows only revenues and expenses.

For a service company, the income statement shows the following format:

service company income statement

Income statement for a merchandising company

A merchandising company sells merchandise inventory to customers. Merchandisers can be manufacturers, wholesalers, or retailers.

  • A manufacturer buys raw materials to produce products for sale to customers.
  • A wholesaler buys inventory from manufacturers and sells it to retailers.
  • A retailer buys inventory to sell to customers.

merchandising company income statement

The income statement for a merchandising company shows several categories of expenses:

  1. Cost of sales
  2. Operating expenses
  3. Other expenses
  4. Income tax expenses

Cost of sales

Cost of sales is the cost of selling the products to customers. For most companies, the cost of sales is the largest expense on the income statement. The cost of sales is also called:

  • cost of goods
  • cost of goods sold (COGS)
  • cost of revenue

Operating expenses

Operating expenses are used to run the company. Operating expenses can also be called:

  • selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A)
  • general and administrative expenses (G&A)

Typical operating expenses include:

  • wages expense
  • salary expense
  • rent expense
  • insurance expense
  • depreciation expense

Other income and expenses

Other income and expenses are any nonoperating costs for the period. They are subtracted at the bottom of the income statement. These other expenses include the following items:

  • interest expense
  • interest revenue
  • currency gains/losses
  • write-offs

Note that other expenses can also include gains and revenue. So, if interest revenues are $40,000 and interest expenses are $25,000, other income is $15,000. If the interest expenses are $47,000, the other expense would be $7,000.

Income tax expense

Income tax expense is the last expense on the income statement. It is the cost of paying income taxes to state and federal governments.

Walmart income statement

Here is Walmart’s income statement for 2023:

Here is a summary of the 2023 income statement:

Total revenues$611,289
Cost of sales$463,721
Gross profit$147,568
SG&A expenses$127,140
Other income and expenses$ 3,412
Income tax expense$ 5,724
Net income$11,680
Walmart Income Statement Summary (in millions)

Merchandise Inventory Cycle

Inventory, or merchandise inventory, is a current asset for a company. The inventory cycle for a company is:

  1. Purchase inventory
  2. Pay cash on payables
  3. Sell inventory
  4. Receive cash on receivables

inventory cycle
Inventory Cycle

Inventory systems

There are two systems used to account for inventory:

  1. periodic inventory system
  2. perpetual inventory system

Periodic inventory records the cost of goods sold at the end of each period.

Perpetual inventory records the cost of goods sold at the time of sale. This method is easier with the increase in technology.

We will use the perpetual inventory system in the examples below.

Inventory SystemWhen Cost of Sales is Computed
Periodic inventoryat the end of each period
Perpetual inventoryat the time of sale
Periodic vs. Perpetual Inventory

Credit terms

Sellers set credit terms when extending credit to customers. Credit terms set the due date and the cash discount period.

For example, credit terms n/30 mean net 30 days. So, the total is due in 30 days.

Credit terms 2/10, n/30 give a 2% discount if paid within the first 10 days. The total is due by day 30.

For the seller, this cash discount is a sales discount. For the buyer, it is a purchase discount.

The following table shows common credit terms:

Credit TermsDiscountTotal Due
n/300%30 days
n/600%60 days
1/10, n/301% within 10 days30 days
1/15, n/451% within 15 days45 days
2/10, n/302% within 10 days30 days
2/10, n/602% within 10 days60 days
Credit Terms

Shipping terms

The seller sets the shipping terms for the sales transaction. The shipping terms show when the title of goods transfers from the seller to the buyer. The two shipping terms are FOB destination and FOB shipping point.

FOB destination means the title of the goods passes when the goods are shipped. So, the title passes to the buyer before the goods are delivered.

FOB shipping point means the title of the goods passes when the goods are received. The title passes to the buyer only when the goods arrive at their final destination.

The following table explains the shipping terms:

Shipping TermWhen Title PassesWho Pays Shipping Costs?
FOB destinationwhen deliveredSeller
FOB shipping pointwhen shippedBuyer
Shipping Terms

Inventory purchases

A merchandising company buys inventory for resale. The following shows entries related to buying inventory.

These entries assume perpetual inventory and the gross method.

Cash purchase

On June 1, John Company buys inventory and pays cash for $4,000.

purchase inventory for cash

Purchase with cash discount

On June 5, the company buys inventory on account. The credit terms were 2/10, n/30.

purchase inventory on account

On June 11, John Company pays its account within the discount period. The case discount is $6,000 x 2% = $120.

paid account with discount

Purchase without cash discount

John Company purchased inventory on June 14. The credit terms were 3/10, n/30. The shipping terms were FOB shipping point.

purchase inventory on account

On June 15, John Company paid $200 for delivery costs for inventory.

The company paid its account on June 27 from the June 14 purchase. They did not pay within the discount period.

paid account with no discount

Purchase returns

On June 30, John Company returned merchandise inventory costing $400. The company received cash.

Selling inventory

The following shows entries related to selling inventory. These entries assume perpetual inventory and the gross method.

Cash sale

On July 1, Zachary Co. sold inventory costing $4,000 for $7,000 in cash. Hint: There are two entries.

Sale on account with cash discount

On July 6, the company sold inventory on account for $8,500. The inventory cost $5,000. The credit terms were 2/20, n/30.

Zachary Co. collected cash on account from customers from the July 6 entry. The payment was within the discount period. The cash discount is $8,500 x 2% = $170.

For Zachary Co., net sales were $8,330 (sales $8,500 – sales discounts $170).

Sale on account without cash discount

On July 14, Zachary sold inventory on account for $6,000. The inventory cost $3,000. Zachary offered credit terms of 2/10, n/30.

Zachary collected cash on account from customers from the July 14 sale. The customers missed the discount period.

Sales returns

On July 31, Zachary refunded $600 to customers that returned inventory. The inventory cost $300.

Inventory shrinkage

When a merchandising company counts inventory, there can be a loss of inventory. This is because of damage, theft, or obsolescence. The loss is termed inventory shrinkage.

Assume Link Co. has an inventory account with a $12,500 balance. The physical count of inventory showed $12,050. So, the company recorded a loss of $450. This is a write-off of inventory.

This entry reduces the balance of inventory from $12,500 to $12,050.

Financial Accounting Chapters

Here are the financial accounting chapters in The Ultimate Guide to Learn Financial Accounting:

  1. Introduction to Accounting
  2. Recording Business Transactions
  3. Adjusting the Accounts
  4. Accounting for Merchandising Activities
  5. Inventory and Cost of Sales
  6. Time Value of Money
  7. Cash, Fraud, and Internal Control
  8. Accounting for Receivables
  9. Accounting for Long-Term Assets
  10. Accounting for Current Liabilities
  11. Accounting for Long-Term Liabilities
  12. Corporations
  13. Statement of Cash Flows
  14. Financial Statement Analysis
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