Distributor margin, profit and retail price in FMCG and other industries

Distributor warehouse
If you are a manufacturer or supplier, and you want to sell your products to consumers, you will have to work with distributors and retailers, both in your home country and abroad. The margin for a distributor may range from 3% to 30% of the sales price, the margin for the retailer may range from very little to 60%. This all depends on the type of product and who pays for the marketing activities.

Not all distribution margin is profitMargin-distribution

You know the cost price for your goods, and you should have an idea of the sales price for the consumer, excluding any taxes. Anything in between is margin that you will have to share with your distributors, retailers or value added resellers.

However, not all margin is profit. In order to earn the margin, distributors and retailers have to make costs, for example for shipping, storage, financing and of course selling the goods. They also have their overhead, leaving only part of the margin as their profit. When negotiating with the parties further in the distribution chain, you will have to take this into account.

Average retail margin and distribution margin

Product category Distributor Retailer
Fast moving consumer goods 3-10% 8-40%
Clothing and apparel 15-30% 20-50%
Electronics like mobile phones 3-7% 3-7%
Cars 5-15%
Furniture 30-50%
Jewelry 30-60%
Electrical equipment and lights 5-7% 15-25%

Please note that these figures are indications and especially for distributors heavily depend on the tasks that a distributor should do. For fast moving consumer goods 3 to 10% may be fine for just the physical distribution, but if the distributor also does promotional efforts, this percentage should be much higher. Therefore we have to look into detail in the various roles of the parties in the distribution chain.

What is the role of the retailer in distribution?

A retailer sells goods to the public in relatively small quantities for usage or consumption rather than for resale. A retailer can for example be a supermarket, preferably with multiple outlets. The retailer is the last shackle in the distribution chain and has the best information on what sales price is still acceptable.

The actions of most retailers are aimed at maximising the margin on their assets. And their most important asset is shelf space. So they will multiply the volume of your product with their margin to see how much they can earn and compare it with other products that they could have on the shelve.

What is the role of the distributor?

The distributor is the middle men between the manufacturer and the retailer, or between the manufacturer and businesses that integrate the product or use it for their own consumption. There can be a chain of distributors, for example a global distributor who sells to specialised distributors for certain industries. In B2B markets, e.g. for desks, complicated machinery or cleaning services, you generally have no retailers.

The main assets of a distributor are his sales force, transportation means and storage. He will try to optimise the margin he can get with these assets. So it helps if you create an easy ordering process for him, with packaging that he can easily split and handle, and good documentation for his sales force.

Distributor price and retail price

Your distributors and retailers should be able to cover their costs and make a small margin. Therefore the next step is to list their activities and add a value to it. These activities could include:

  • Transportation
  • Packaging and unpackaging
  • Storage
  • Financing
  • Marketing
  • Sales, either in personal sales or by putting the product in their shops

Adding up the estimated costs of these activities will give you a good basis for negotiations. Discussing the list will also help to clarify expectations, which is especially important if you work with foreign distributors.

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Available retail and distributor margin calculation

How to calculate the distributor margin or retailer margin? The first step is to calculate what margin is available and which part of it should go to your distributors.

  • The process begins with determining the cost of your goods. Be clear about which units you sell your products in, and be consistent in you calculations to take that as a basis.
  • The next step involves establishing a MSRP (Manufacturer suggested retail price). You must configure your MSRP by considering the profit earned across all your sales channels and the product competition in the market. Also take into account applicable taxes, like VAT.
  • Distributors and retailers typically get discounts on the MSRP in exchange for selling your products on behalf of you. Distributors usually command large discounts due to the bulk of their orders, and the number of retailers ordering from them. They don’t usually need too much support, except for notifications of new promotions and progress of the prices on your products.
  • You must anticipate hidden costs. Damages or product losses could occur during shipments. To avoid this, you should ensure quality containers which would require additional costs. Include it in your calculation of unit sales to adjust your margins. Most distributors and retailers would also ask for as many samples of your products as possible. Reasonable margins for your distributors should be computed only when all costs (including hidden variables and miscellaneous) are known.

The second step is to divide the margins along the distribution chain, e.g. between you, the distributor and the retailer. Keep in mind the work that each party has to do and the risks they take. In general the profitability of a product is lower for the distributor than for the retailer but distributors have more sales due to the sheer volumes that they deal with. Try to determine with what transfer prices it still is interesting for your distributor and when applicable your retailer to sell your products.

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This entry in Uncat was updated on 23 May 2022 by specialist.