World Class Mergers & Acquisitions  |  For Companies $5 Million to $100 Million in Revenue

Valuing Inventory Heavy Businesses

We get a significant amount of questions on businesses with large amounts of inventory.  More specifically, “how does inventory influence the value?”   There are a lot of opinions on the subject, and keep in mind “pricing” and “valuation” are different; most professional business appraisers will agree that inventory is an operating asset.  Should I be “added on” to a calculated value?  The answer is (yes, you guessed it depends.

Income Approach

The typical income approach starts with an income stream (benefit) and a rate of return (capitalization or discount rate).  In most cases, when using a traditional “net” cash flow approach. (net cash flow after taxes, working capital and capital expenditure requirements), a cap or discount rate is “built up” using publicly held data.  The cap or discount rate used makes the assumption there is “normal working capital” (which would include inventory).  Therefore, only excel working capital could be “added on” to a calculated value.

Market Approach

In calculating the market approach, the appraiser uses various databases to pull comparable transactions to extrapolate “price multiples.”  There are a number of databases, however, the most popular include Bizcomps, PeerComps, Pratt’s Stats, and the IBA Database.  All databases except “Bizcomps” include inventory in their pricing multiples…meaning, if using PeerComps, Pratt’s Stats, or IBA Databases, you would never calculate a value and then “add on” inventory.  You would only add inventory using Bizcomps.

I searched for liquor stores in Bizcomps and found 146 transactions.  The median multiple was 2.58x SDE (Sellers Discretionary Earnings).  I did the same search on PeerComps and found 141 liquor store transactions with a median price to SDE multiple of 3.44.  As you can see, PeerComps shows a much higher multiple, primarily because inventory is already included.

Excess Inventory

In either example (income or market approach), excess inventory can be “added pm” to the calculated value.  For instance, if a business is being sold during a seasonal period and inventory is $100,000 more than the average month, we could add the $100,000 to the calculated value.  There are also times when owners take advantage of bulk buying for discounts or keep large amounts of inventory on hand for convenience.  When appraising a company, we try to separate inventory into 3 categories…(1) normal operating inventory, (2) excess operating inventory, and (3) dead or obsolete inventory.  Normal operating inventory is included in the calculated value, excess operating inventory is added on to the calculated value, and obsolete inventory is not included.

There are a number of rules of thumb for various inventory driven companies and most will say “plus inventory.”  This is a pricing method, not a valuation method.  If using traditional valuation methodology, inventory will play a major role, but must be calculated and addressed correctly.

Steve A. Mize is the Managing Partner of GCF Valuation, Inc. and PeerComps, Inc.  Steve is an accredited Senior Appraiser with an extensive background in business valuation. Please free to contact him with questions on this article or with any other business valuation questions.

If you know of a business owner who’s thinking of selling or buying a business and who might benefit from a complimentary, confidential, consultation with us, have them contact me directly at:, or one of the other managing directors at Transworld M&A Advisors.


Mike Ertel, CBI, M&AMI, CM&AA
Managing Director
Transworld M&A Advisors
813.299.7862 Direct

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