Periodic Inventory System: Pros, Cons, & Alternatives


The main benefits of employing a periodic inventory system are the ease of implementation, its lower cost and the decrease in staffing needed to run it. Simple counts on legal paper can suffice for collecting product data, especially if you only offer a few goods. A basic count during the day or week is often enough for a small business to get an adequate handle on their inventory. This means there is no need for expensive or complicated equipment, just essential information collection tools – pen and paper. Many companies may start off with a periodic system because they don’t have enough employees to do regular inventory counts. But this can change as companies grow, which means they may end up using the perpetual inventory system when their labor pool expands.

  • Refer to the table below to understand how the accounts would look like in the periodic inventory method.
  • The software you introduce into the workflow will make it easier for you to update and maintain your inventory.
  • A company will choose the software based on its needs and the requirements of its products.
  • In this entry, the debits are in the ending inventory rows and the COGS row, and the credits are in the beginning inventory and the purchases rows.
  • Before we dive into the COGS details for the periodic system, begin to familiarize yourself with this chart.

As opposed to the perpetual inventory system, in periodic inventory methods, the inventory is not tracked each time a sale or a purchase is made. Here, inventory is monitored at the beginning and end of the accounting period. The perpetual inventory method of accounting inventory, as the name suggests, is about tracking inventory ‘perpetually’ as it moves throughout the supply chain. A periodic inventory system is best suited for smaller businesses that don’t keep too much stock in their inventory.

When a periodic inventory system is used

If you have a larger company with more complex inventory levels, you may want to consider implementing a perpetual system. The software you introduce into the workflow will make it easier for you to update and maintain your inventory. The company uses a periodic inventory system to account is the income tax voluntary for sales and purchases of inventory. A periodic inventory system is an inventory valuation where you do a physical inventory count at the end of a defined accounting period. The periodic inventory system is ideal for smaller businesses that maintain minimum amounts of inventory.

  • You can assume that both the sales and the purchases are on credit and that you are using the gross profit to record discounts.
  • Since physical inventory counts are time-consuming, few companies do them more than once a quarter or year.
  • The basic difference between a return and an allowance is that we usually don’t return the goods if they are damaged or unsatisfactory in some way.
  • One day you get an order for a woolen coat that has been very rarely asked, and it’s a summer season.
  • This is simple when the products are large items, such as cars or luxury technology goods, because the company must give each unit a unique identification number or tag.

On the plus side, this means you don’t necessarily need to rely on complex software or technology to maintain inventory accounts. In the end, picking between a perpetual and periodic inventory system — and the right inventory valuation method — really depends on what works best for your specific business and resources. By spending less time on inventory tracking, businesses can focus on other growth areas such as sales, marketing, and customer service. It’s straightforward to calculate the cost of goods sold using the periodic inventory system. There are many inventory valuation methods available for businesses to use, and picking the right valuation method can have long-lasting effects. One of the more common and simplistic valuation methods is a periodic inventory system.

In contrast, the perpetual inventory system is a method that continuously monitors a business’s inventory balance by automatically updating inventory records after each sale or purchase. FIFO means first-in, first-out and refers to the value that businesses assign to stock when the first items they put into inventory are the first ones sold. Products in the ending inventory are the ones the company purchased most recently and at the most recent price. In a periodic FIFO inventory system, companies apply FIFO by starting with a physical inventory. In this example, let’s say the physical inventory counted 590 units of their product at the end of the period, or Jan. 31. Cost flow assumptions are inventory costing methods in a periodic system that businesses use to calculate COGS and ending inventory.

Shipping on Inventory Purchases (Freight In)

The ending inventory under LIFO would, therefore, consist of the oldest costs incurred to purchase merchandise or materials inventory. Periodic inventory systems rely on a lot of manual data entry, which can be time-consuming for some businesses. Materials requirement planning is an inventory method based on sales forecasts.

A periodic inventory system is a method of inventory valuation where the account is periodically updated. In other words, the factor that determines changes to recorded inventory balance is not triggered by each new order but rather an overall time period. As periodic inventory is an accounting method rather than a calculation itself, there is no formula.

What are the advantages of using a periodic inventory system?

However, more advanced inventory management systems can add costs and complexity to your operations. For small businesses and entrepreneurs, it’s important to know when to choose simplicity over the latest tech. Here are some common questions that business owners have about periodic inventory systems with answers to give you some guidance. That means companies with a high inventory turnover rate, large SKU count, multichannel inventory management needs, or that need real-time data are better suited for alternative methods. Periodic inventory systems are relatively simple to implement as it requires fewer records than other valuation methods.


Technology advances have enabled businesses to track inventory with exceptional detail, including real-time stock counts and forecasts based on artificial intelligence (AI). This simplicity in use also makes the system more cost-effective, as it can be managed manually, and businesses won’t need to hire a trained bookkeeper or invest in expensive accounting software. Hence, the system is easier to implement, requires little accounting knowledge, and records changes in inventory through very few simple calculations. When merchandise is sold, an entry is made to record the sales revenue, but none to record the cost of goods sold, or to reduce the inventory.

If you use a periodic system, you don’t know the exact number of units you have in stock until the end of the accounting period when you do your physical count of inventory. In contrast, the perpetual inventory system gives you real-time inventory counts because it updates each time a unit moves in or out of your inventory. A periodic inventory system measures the inventory levels periodically through physical counts. The perpetual method continuously updates inventory records after each sale or purchase, monitoring the inventory balance. Small business owners with less inventory benefit more from periodic systems than larger merchants.

Here’s an example for calculating your cost of goods available and cost of goods sold at the end of the quarter. To see our product designed specifically for your country, please visit the United States site. Examples of these types of businesses include art galleries, car dealerships, small cafes, restaurants, and so on. Build a growing, resilient business by clearing the unique hurdles that small companies face. Synchronize sales, marketing, customer service and technical support activities.

The company then applies a first-in, first-out (FIFO) method to compute the cost of ending inventory. The perpetual inventory system keeps track of inventory balances continuously. This is done through computerized systems using point-of-sale (POS) and enterprise asset management technology that record inventory purchases and sales. It is far more sophisticated than the periodic system of inventory management. This is because your accounting records are only modified at the end of your year, or the end of a preestablished accounting period, to reflect your physical inventory count.

Does Amazon Use Periodic or Perpetual Inventory?

In this entry, the debits are in the ending inventory rows and the COGS row, and the credits are in the beginning inventory and the purchases rows. The company purchases $250,000 worth of inventory during a three-month period. After a physical inventory count, the company determines the value of its inventory is $400,000 on March 31.