The Lower of Cost or Market of Inventory: Definition & Method

The Lower of Cost or Market of Inventory: Definition & Method
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  • 0:06 LCM Defined
  • 1:19 Cost
  • 2:13 Market
  • 4:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebekiah Hill

Rebekiah has taught college accounting and has a master's in both management and business.

No matter what kind of inventory a company has, that inventory has value. In this lesson, we'll talk about valuing inventory using the lower of cost or market rule.

LCM Defined

I love to shop, and I'm a sucker for a sale. There's just nothing better than going shopping and coming home with things that I have purchased for less than half of their original price. And having racks and racks of choices, well, that's just icing on the cake!

Sometimes the accounting fanatic comes out in me and I find myself wondering what the value is of all the inventory in my favorite stores. I know that generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), which are the guidelines for financial recording and reporting, require that on hand inventory at the end of an accounting period be valued at the lowest value possible, but how is that done, and what exactly is inventory valuation anyway?

Inventory valuation is the total dollar amount that is attributed to the inventory on hand. Though there are three GAAP-approved ways to value inventory, in this lesson, we're going to discuss one of those: the lower of cost or market. The lower of cost or market, which is also known as LCM, is the inventory valuation method that records inventory value as the lower of cost or market. That seems simple enough, doesn't it?


Well, now let's break it down into the two components: cost and market. Cost is the acquisition price of inventory. Now notice that I didn't just say it was the purchase price of the inventory, because it isn't. Cost, in this case, is the sum of the purchase price, shipping costs, storage costs, and any other costs that are directly associated with the inventory item. It can be a little confusing, so let's look at a quick example.

I own a retail store. I purchased 50 scarves to sell in my store. I paid the supplier $150 for the scarves. Shipping costs were $18. Storage costs for keeping the scarves in inventory and ready for sale were $13. So the total cost of the scarves that would be used for inventory value would be $181, or $3.62 per scarf.


Market, which is the other part of this concept, is a bit more complex. Market is defined as the amount that would have to be paid to replace a unit of inventory with an identical product. Market has limits on the amount that it can be. The upper limit, which is called the ceiling, is the net realizable value of the inventory. The net realizable value (NRV) is the sales price of an item minus the selling costs associated with that item. The lower limit, which is called the floor, is the net realizable value minus the expected profit of the item. I know, that's quite a few terms, so let's look at another example to bring this concept into perspective.

Remember the scarves that I purchased to sell in my store? I paid $3.00 per scarf when they were purchased. The current replacement cost of each scarf is $2.80. I'm selling the scarves for $7.00 each. I expect to incur $2.50 in selling expenses per scarf. Using these numbers, it's easy to see that the NRV per scarf is $4.50. Since the ceiling is equal to the NRV, then the market ceiling is $4.50.

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