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Activity-Based Costing: Towels & More

Analysis for Towels & More


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Common costs refer to the cost of resources used by multiple divisions, departments, or another type of grouping. These types of overhead costs are not only incurred within a profit center, but in many other parts of the organization. One example is overhead or common fixed costs for distribution and client support. We’re using the latter for some hands-on experience in allocating common costs and analyzing the implications for T&M. Information follows below.

Towels & More (T&M) is a small family company that produces and sells towels. T&M sells the towels to three types of stores: major retailers, specialty retailers and gift shops. The company is doing well and the CEO wants to expand the business. The contribution margin ratio is the highest for the small gift shops, so the CEO feels that those are the type of retail outlets to pursue.

Below find T&M’s income statement for last year.

Towels & More
For the year ended 12-31-XX
Sales $600,000
Variable Production Costs 180,000
Contribution Margin $420,000
Fixed Costs:
Production Overhead $120,000
Selling & Distribution Costs 240,000 $360,000
Net Operating Income $60,000


Customer support & distribution costs are pretty high at T&M. The total amount was $240,000 last year. The marketing manager has recently been to a seminar and learned about applying ABC to analyze customer and distribution costs. He suggests that the company analyze overhead costs associated with supporting different types of customers before proceeding with an expansion. The marketing manager knows that the small shops require a lot of attention and is somewhat dubious about the CEO’s proposed strategy. The CEO accepts the suggestion and you are brought in as a consultant to prepare the analysis. The table below provides some information that may be pertinent for the analysis.

Description Customer Support & Distribution Costs Department Stores Specialty Shops Gift Shops
Activity Level Activity Level Activity Level
Sales (units) 10,000 5,000 5,000
Revenues $200,000 $100,000 $300,000
Contribution margin ratio 50% 80% 80%
No. of customers 5 45 250
Total costs/No. of orders places $40,000 10 90 900
Total costs/No. of sales calls $80,000 5 195 800
Total costs/No. of shipments $120,000 20 480 1,000

Note that the contribution margin ratio varies due to different quality of towels sold to the stores.


Computations (use Excel).

  • Calculate the customer support and distribution costs associated with the three types of customers.
  • Use a simple strategy first and allocate the costs based on revenues.
  • Recalculate the allocations using activity based costing (ABC) based on the information in the table above.
  • Determine contribution margin less customer support and distribution costs for both approaches above.

Memo (use Word).

Which type of customer should the company support and why? Refer to your analysis in your response. Write a four or five paragraph memo to the owner of the business. Start with an introduction and end with a recommendation. Each of the four or five paragraphs should have a heading.

Short essay (use Word).

Read the background information and do additional research as needed to comment on the following topics.

What are the characteristics of companies that may benefit from an ABC allocation system?

Start with an introduction and end with a summary or conclusion. Use headings. Maximum length of two pages.

Assignment Expectations

Submission should include two files: (1) An Excel file; and (2) A Word document. The Word document shows the memo first and short essay last. Assume a knowledgeable business audience and use required format and length. Individuals in business are busy and want information presented in an organized and concise manner.


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