How to Calculate a Trade Discount

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A trade discount is a reduction in the listed price of an item when it's sold for resale, generally to someone in a related role in the same industry. Trade discounts are usually offered to dealers and high-volume sellers or when the manufacturer is trying to establish a new distribution channel. The discount might be stated as a dollar amount or as a percentage. A trade discount is not the same as an early-payment discount.

Purpose of a Trade Discount

Manufacturers might offer trade discounts for a variety of reasons. They may be able to sell a larger volume of product at a lower price when they offer a trade discount. For example, imprinted tote bags for a trade show might cost $1.12 each for 250-to-499 units, but only 97 cents for 500-to-999. Also, a seller who buys a large number of items might be able to demand a lower price to continue doing business with the manufacturer.

Finally, the manufacturer might offer a substantial discount to establish a new distribution channel. For example, Company A sells a widget to Corporation Z. Company B invents a new version of the widget and wants to convince Corporation Z to switch suppliers for the widget. They might offer to sell the widget to Corporation Z at a 40-percent discount if they are the exclusive vendor for the widget.

Calculate a Trade Discount

A trade discount might be stated in a dollar amount or as a percentage. Many times, the dollar amount discount shows in the catalog pricing. It may say that 1-to-100 units are $5 per unit, while 101-to-200 units are $4 per unit which equals a $1-per-unit trade discount.

If the discount is a percentage, you calculate the trade discount by converting the percentage to a decimal and multiplying that decimal by the listed price. If the reseller is purchasing $1,000 worth of items at a 30-percent discount, the trade discount would be 1,000 x 0.3, which equals $300.

Accounting for Trade Discounts

The manufacturer does not record the trade discount in its books. Instead, they record the revenue from the sale at the amount on the customer's invoice. If they were to record the total sale including the discount, it would inflate the gross sales. Since gross sales are integral to several financial ratios, this would not be an accurate representation. The journal entry for the transaction in the manufacturer's books is a credit to revenue and a debit to either cash or accounts receivable.