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What is Markup Pricing?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated: Feb 26, 2024

Markup pricing refers to the difference between the cost to produce and market an item for sale, and the retail price that is charged for that item. Typically, the markup is expressed as a fixed percentage, and is determined by applying that percentage to the actual cost of the item. There are many reasons for markups, with the desire to make an equitable amount of profit on each item sold one of the main considerations.

When determining the market pricing, it is important to know exactly how much it costs to produce each unit of an item that is manufactured for sale to consumers. In order to determine this figure, it is necessary to take into consideration the cost of raw materials, the production process itself, administrative and clerical support, packaging, and shipping costs. This total cost serves as the benchmark of how much money the business must earn on each item in order to break even.

After identifying the total cost of the item, the next step in calculating markup pricing is to get an idea of the industry standard for markup. Often, this standard is determined by factors such as the demand for the items, the number of companies that already produce similar items, and the opportunity to gather market share. For example, if the standard markup in the industry is 20% above cost, the company is likely to consider this figure as the starting place for determining the retail price.

To arrive at both the retail price and the true markup pricing, that industry percentage is converted into a decimal and subtracting that figure from 1. For example, if the standard markup in the industry is 20%, this is converted to 0.20, and subtracted from one to yield an answer of 0.80. By dividing the actual cost of the item by 0.80, it is possible to determine what retail price should be set. At the same time, the difference between the retail price and the actual cost, as expressed in currency rather than percentages, is revealed.

There is the possibility that the retail price that results will be lower than the price used by competitors, if the business is able to produce the item for less money. When this is the case, the company may choose to retain the markup pricing that is based on industry standards, or seek to earn a slightly higher profit by adjusting the markup pricing by a few percentage points. By employing the basic markup pricing formula, the company can set the retail price at a level that will attract consumers while still allowing the business to earn a decent profit on each unit sold.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By amypollick — On Sep 27, 2011

@Sara007: One of the biggest price markups is alcohol. Your average bar buys beer at wholesale prices. Say they pay $1 for a bottle of Bud Light. Then, they sell that same bottle for $2 or $3 -- a 100-200 percent markup. Same with wine. They get a bottle of average wine for $5, get five glasses out of it for $6 each. That's $30 from a $5 bottle.

Even more outrageous are prices for cocktails. They may buy a bottle of decent liquor (say, Jack Daniels) for maybe $9. They get about 17 shots from a fifth of bourbon, at $7 a drink. That's $119 from a bottle, or $110 pure profit, less the cost of the bottle.

They charge $8 for a Jack and Coke, which has the same amount of liquor, and about a nickel's worth of Coke in it.

Get into the "designer" martinis, and you're talking real money.

My husband used to work for a restaurant, and often signed the liquor manifests for the deliveries, so I know how much, roughly, this stuff costs wholesale. The markup is absolutely insane.

By Sara007 — On May 14, 2011

Does anyone know what the worst goods are for price markups?

I would love to save some money by knowing what to avoid. Some things I have read about that have big markups include bottled water, and movie theater popcorn.

If you buy bottled water, you can face a markup of around 4,000%. The sad thing is about 40% of it is the same tap water you get for free at home.

Also, while most people realize concessions at movie theatres are super expensive, it's shocking to learn that popcorn has a 1,275% markup. I may rethink sneaking in my own snacks or eating before hand!

By MrSmirnov — On May 12, 2011

Most companies use markup pricing to make incredible profits. It is much more than just getting their expenses back and gaining a little capital.

A good example of this is with something like medication. There are great generic varieties of most drugs available, but I read an article that revealed that to get a brand name, the pills can be marked up anywhere from 200% to a 3,000%.

This kind of price gouging on life-saving goods is rather sickening. I believe that corporations have made enough money and there needs to caps placed on the markup on certain goods.

The same way they decide what gets taxed and what doesn't.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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