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Main Street Monday — Exiting a Business? Selling the Business vs. Selling the Inventory

January 25, 2016
by Ben T. Nicholson
President of Fortis Business Advisors

Main Street Monday — Exiting a Business? Selling the Business vs. Selling the Inventory

Every business owner ultimately contemplates getting out of his/her business, either voluntarily or involuntarily. The owner may be seeking a new challenge, exhausted, addressing a downturn or bankruptcy, or dealing with the onset of personal challenges.

The two most common methods to exit an inventory-driven business are selling the business as an ongoing concern, or selling the assets through an orderly liquidation. When the decision to exit has been made, it is prudent for the owner to:

  • Advise any lenders carrying outstanding loans
  • Order a business analysis and certified valuation/appraisal
  • Consult a Business Intermediary, CPA and Attorney

Following a systemic approach drives an efficient and effective exit strategy yielding the highest possible return.

Selling as an Ongoing Concern

When valuing a business for sale, the most common method to arrive at a marketable selling price is through a Cash Flow Multiple. When industry standards, perceived risk and growth factors are taken into account, it is not uncommon for the multiple to be 3x to 6x a business’s expected/future cash flow stream, commonly referred to as EBITDA (Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization).

For inventory-driven businesses, because inventory is commonly the most valuable asset, to ensure the highest possible selling price from the valuation, it is advisable to place particular focus on efficient inventory turns, the cost of goods sold, and the value, quantity and age of the inventory.

Promotional Sale

When high cost of goods and low inventory turns are present, the timeliest and most effective means to repair this condition is through the execution of a storewide promotional sale, the results of which include:

  • Effective sell-off of surplus and unwanted merchandise
  • Correction of Key Performance Indicator inefficiencies
  • Additional cash generated from monetized assets

Upon completion of the promotion new and updated inventory can be purchased for restock, thereby presenting to a prospective buyer a business with the most updated inventory and an efficient turn-key operation, which will allow for minimal negotiation of the sale price.

Going Out of Business Sale

It is not uncommon for an inventory-driven business to yield a higher return from a public selloff of the businesses inventory, furniture, fixtures and equipment than selling the business as an ongoing concern, especially if negative cash flow and high inventory levels are present.

When equipped with an accurately appraised valuation of the assets, the results of a total liquidation may include:

  • Returns exceeding 90% -110% of the cost of inventory
  • Inventory and FF&E monetized and sold-off to the bare walls
  • Completion of the program within a 60-90-day period

Depending on the size and scope of the business and the merchandise to liquidate, multiple firms are available to meet the needs and conditions of the individual client and situation.

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