Obsolete Inventory and What to Do About It

In this case, your excess stock can be written off as a loss on your financial statements. Obsolete inventory is any excess products or stock a small business has and doesn’t expect will sell, usually due to lack of demand. Also known as dead inventory, obsolete inventory is at the end of its product life cycle—often because it has been replaced in the market by newer, updated versions of the product. Without proper inventory planning — including the tools and technology to help track inventory in real time — optimising inventory levels can be a challenge. Whatever your options to reduce inventory levels, the first step is to identify which items are potentially in excess and at risk of becoming problematic, whether raw materials or finished goods. Hopefully, this offers you a new method to identify inventory issues before they become a financial burden.

  • As Accounting Coach says, clothes go out of fashion, food ages, and new tech comes out before you’ve sold the old stuff.
  • Inventory write-off is when a company formally acknowledges the products have lost all value and are now unsellable.
  • Obsolete inventory must be written off as an expense at the end of the fiscal year, but business owners should see this as a last resort.
  • Obsolete inventory is any excess products or stock a small business has and doesn’t expect will sell, usually due to lack of demand.

Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years. This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute financial, legal, or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.

What to Do With Slow-Moving Inventory

Likewise, inventory audits can help companies get a better idea of their holding costs, which in turn can reduce inventory obsolescence. Companies report inventory obsolescence by debiting an expense account and crediting a contra asset account. For companies selling physical products, there’s a fine balance between holding too much inventory and too little. Inventory management, customer behaviour and business experience will usually help get the balance right and avoid excess inventory. But with the best will in the world, you can still end up with dead stock – excess inventory which no longer sells and costs your business money. As per GAAP regulations, organizations must have an inventory reserve account where they can add obsolete inventory on the balance sheet.

A write-down occurs if the market value of the inventory falls below the cost reported on the financial statements. A write-off involves completely taking the inventory off the books when it is identified to have no value and, thus, cannot be sold. The objective of IAS 2 is to prescribe the accounting treatment for inventories. It provides guidance for determining the cost of inventories and for subsequently recognising an expense, including any write-down to net realisable value.

What is Obsolete Inventory?

Real-time access to data across the supply chain is beneficial for real-time inventory management. This gives you the most current information about inventory levels along with other details, such as warehouse receiving and production time lines. Having robust inventory management softwarecan help you track inventory, predict future selling trends, and identify slow-moving items before you put in your next repurchasing order. Without proper inventory planning — including the tools and technology to help track inventory in real time — optimizing inventory levels can be a challenge. Obsolete inventory refers to a product that has reached the end of its lifecycle. It happens when a business considers it to be no longer sellable or usable and most likely will not sell in the future due to a lack of market value and demand.

Obsolete inventory FAQ

Another reason could be the intense competition in the industry, where you cannot just catch up with your competitors. This Iconotech video looks at the cost savings if you switch from pre-printed case inventories to generic case inventories. Plus, visual inventory systems like Sortly allow you to see what you have on hand—an extra helpful tool when determining whether certain items are at risk of becoming obsolete. Unlike running a sale on bundling inventory, liquidation will not aim to cover costs.

Terms Similar to Obsolete Inventory

At, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don’t guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services. To learn more about how ShipBob can help you optimise your supply chain, click the button below to start the conversation. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Roger received his accounting degree from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Pepperdine University. The following analysis relies heavily on reporting from your inventory system.

Usually, inventory items become obsolete stock after a certain time period has passed and after they reach the end of their lifecycle. Companies can avoid obsolete inventory by improving forecasting techniques, using a more adequate inventory management system, making smart purchasing decisions, and accurately predicting lead times. It can be symptomatic of poor products, poor management forecasts of demand, and/or poor inventory management.

With more visibility, you can find ways to optimize inventory to meet demand and avoid common inventory issues, such as overstocking. While no small-business owner wants to run out of stock, having too much inventory can be equally problematic. Obsolete inventory doesn’t just collect dust in a forgotten corner of the warehouse—it also has a negative impact on a company’s bottom line.

But factors like suboptimal inventory control, supply chain snags, and unexpected demand fluctuations can cause more products to sit on the shelves with little or no chance of selling. What’s worse, the inventory could expire, become damaged, or even grow useless. This article will define obsolete inventory and help you understand how to reduce your risk of obsolescence and handle inventory that’s grown too outdated to sell. Inventory obsolescence is a minor issue as long as management reviews inventory on a regular basis, so that the incremental amount of obsolescence detected is small in any given period. However, if management does not conduct a review for a long time, this allows obsolete inventory to build up to quite impressive proportions, along with an equally impressive amount of expense recognition.

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