Why is the lost sale more than the sale you lose?


Businesses need the right product in the right place and at the right time. If there is no product in place when your customer comes to buy it, you lose an opportunity to sell. And you lose profit that otherwise could have been earned. But is it only that?


A lost sale is one of the key indicators used to measure stock performance and evaluate the cost of the mistake. It also impacts customer satisfaction and loyalty. On the other hand, it shows actual potential for your sales growth. Only, in this case, the power to unleash that potential lies in the hands of inventory managers, not the sales team.

It is commonly agreed that a certain level of lost sales is economically acceptable. Total elimination of shortages would require significant investment in stock and would be too costly in comparison with the gains that it brings. Depending on the industry affordable lost sales value can vary, but it usually stays within 2%-3% of total sales. Anything less can point to overstock. Anything more shows that you have the potential to increase your sales without significant effort.

Measuring lost sales indicator

Lost sales can be measured in multiple ways. The simplest – is to calculate how many days your product was absent in stock. By dividing that number by amount of days in the year you can get an approximate feeling of how many more you could have sold if the product would have been available.

Lost Sales Indicator = COUNT ( Missing Stock Days ) / 365 * 100
Lost Sales Value = Yearly Turnover * Lost Sales Indicator

The more precise way to get lost sales figure is to calculate the difference between daily stock and average daily sales when the stock is lower than the average daily sale. That difference should be calculated on a daily basis and summed for a period of time.

Lost Sales Indicator = SUM ( Average Daily Sale – Daily Stock )
if Average Daily Sale > Daily Stock.

If product sales are sensitive to seasonal fluctuations, the Average Daily Sales should be measured in a period that represents the length of the season. In many cases, 90 days is sufficient to cover seasonal implications, but it can be adjusted individually

Lost Sales Indicator = SUM ( Average Daily Sale (90 days) – Daily Stock )
if Average Daily Sale (90 days) > Daily Stock.

It should be noted that the Average Daily Sale will also be impacted if the stock was missing during the period when that average daily sale is evaluated. In such a case, you can take into account only the days when the stock was available. Or replace missing sales with the average daily sale of a longer period.

Finally, such calculations determine only lost sales from the inventory management perspective. It does not represent lost sales in regard to market opportunities, assortment availability, or sales quality.

The true value of lost sales

One is to measure lost sales indicator. The other is to evaluate its significance and real costs. It is widely misinterpreted that the actual loss of lost sale equals the profit that was not earned. If there’s no product, so there are no actual costs related, the only profit that was not earned. But is it really so?

Imagine, that you have the best sales team, you prepared a perfect marketing campaign, you have outstanding logistics, and you invested in training and infrastructure. Your sales team did a perfect job to find and attract the customer. And the customer finally came to buy. But what if he finds no product in place?

In this case, all the investment to attract customers instantly turns into wasted money. Even worse, that’s how you usually send your customers to your competitors. And that’s much more than unearned profit. So if you want to evaluate the value of lost sales, multiply your fixed annual costs by the lost sale indicator, and you will be close.

Measuring stock performance can reveal sales potential in the areas you didn’t expect. Increasing sales in a highly competitive market by traditional marketing means will require skills, sales efforts, and significant investments in product promotion. All of the cost of potential profit. While sometimes, the elimination of lost sales can deliver the same result or even more, only without any additional effort. Check if you can benefit from that.


Want to get a free stock performance evaluation? Drop us a message, and we’ll be happy to help.