What is Return on Sales?

The return on sales is a ratio used to derive the proportion of profits generated from sales. The concept is useful for determining the ability of management to efficiently generate a profit from a given level of sales.

Return On Sales (ROS) is a ratio widely used to evaluate a company’s operational efficiency. ROS is also known as a firm’s “operating profit margin”. It is calculated using this formula:


The return on sales formula is earnings before interest and taxes, divided by net sales. The calculation is:

Earnings before interest and taxes / Net sales = Return on sales

For example, a business reports net profits of $50,000, interest expense of $10,000, and taxes of $15,000. The net sales reported for the same period is $1,000,000. Based on this information, the return on sales is 7.5%, which is calculated as follows:

($50,000 Earnings + $10,000 Interest + $15,000 Taxes) / $1,000,000 Net sales
= 7.5% Return on sales

Because of the exclusions relating to finances and taxes, the result of the ratio is the proportional return on those sales generated by core operations. This information is most useful when tracked on a trend line, to determine the ability of management to earn a reasonable return on a given sales volume. A possible outcome to look for is that the return cannot be sustained as sales increase, because management is forced to look into less-profitable niches to find sales growth opportunities. This results in a gradual decline in the return on sales.

The return on sales concept can also be applied to industry analysis, to determine which companies within an industry are being most efficiently run. Those with the highest returns are likely to attract the highest buyout offers from potential acquirers.