First, let’s define the accrual process in trade spend: The accrual process is the audited methodology to make a credit entry to the general ledger account which trade marketing costs are expensed. Typically, this is part of the month end close process. The entry could be a live accrual or a spending accrual, dependent on the agreed audit process. This same process is replicated for the year end close process.
The best practices for booking the accruals for end of year close ensures that the accrual entry on the general ledger will cover trade expense from the prior plan year, which has not hit the general ledger as an actual expense.
Kinds of Accrual Budgets
/ ac·cru·al /
An accrual is the accumulation or increase of something over time [like payments or benefits]. Accruals are a charge for work that has been done but not yet invoiced, for which provision is made at the end of a financial period.
Live Accrual: A live accrual refers to the rate per case or percent of revenue that’s earned on everything you sell in the current budget period.
Spending Accrual: Spending accrual is derived from an actualized metric from a trade promotion management (TPM) application.
Essentially, a CPG manufacturer account manager meets with a buyer [either in retail or foodservice], to determine a condition to promote their product. The condition can be a pricing or merchandising.
How the accrual is calculated: The account manager enters a pricing condition in the TPM application as a rebate for $1.00 off every case of product direct ship purchase between January 1 and January 7.
The end user defines that the purchaser will receive their rebate when they deduct. The end user inputs an estimated volume of 1,000 cases. The event starts January 1 using the input forecast. The spend liability [or spend accrual] is $1,000 = 1,000 cases x $1.00. A TPM maintains the spend liability metric.
The application is updated with actual invoiced volume of 1,100 cases, which updates the spend liability [or spend accrual] to $1,100.00.
Further actual expense impacts the spending accrual as partial settlements to the accrual. The purchaser deducts $500 of the $1,100 they are owed for the rebate. The $500 is cleared to the spend liability of the rebate adjusting the liability down to $500.
So essentially the spend liability [or spending accrual] are true expenses which are owed but have not been expensed to the general ledger.
This is the most conservative approach and best practice. Clients utilizing this methodology have an accrual accuracy of +/- .1%
Understanding the overage or underage of accruals is important for the financial success of the company. At the close of an organization’s fiscal year — prior to closing out the year — the controllers group must enter a general ledger entry to cover trade costs for that point and after close.
The expense entry impacts net revenue and contribution reporting.
An underage “surprise” accrual negatively impacts financials as unplanned spending.
An overage “surprise” accrual is a benefit to the bottom line, but the overage should have been used to invest and drive volume.
Live accrual: Due to high low planning, it’s difficult to align volume to spending because there’s a delay of which spending to volume hits the general ledger.
Surprise: Accruals of current year and prior year spending cannot be discerned.
Prior year accrual: Manufacturers arbitrarily book an accrual number based upon last years results.
Surprise: This can lead to an underage accrual due to incremental event activity or incremental products to prior year that were not accounted for in the accrual.
Surprise: This can lead to an over accrual in which additional trade dollars are accrued, but not deployed to drive additional revenue.
Accrual Best Practices
Since spending accruals are the moderate approach and preferred method, CPG manufacturers using the approach have an accrual accuracy of +/- .1%
Benefits of a spending accrual from a deployed and tracked trade plan:
- The entire trade marketing plan is in one TPM application.
- The TPM application contains budgets and objectives to compare to results
- Define the spend liability metric, and book the accrual metric directly from the TPM application
- Maintain the open spend liability compared to actual results