Is Your Revenue at Risk? How Sales Audits Protect the Bottom Line

Aug 23, 2023By Jeremy Brown
Jeremy Brown

For any retailer, sales revenue is the lifeblood of the business. But with large volumes of transactions occurring daily across multiple stores and sales channels, how can retailers be confident that all sales data and reporting are accurate and free of errors or fraud? This is where the essential function of sales audits comes in.

Sales audits are independent reviews of a sample of sales transactions, records, and related processes regularly. While often associated with the finance department, well-structured sales audits provide immense value to retail operations, loss prevention, inventory control, and overall governance. For public retailers, audits also ensure sales data that feeds into financial reporting is valid and compliant.

Let’s explore some of the key reasons sales audits matter so much in retail:

Validate Transactions are Recorded Properly

A primary goal of sales audits is to verify the accuracy and completeness of sales records. Auditors will select a sample of transactions across stores, tills, and time periods to examine in detail. They will check that transactions are classified under the correct product, SKU, and department, priced correctly based on current rates and any discounts, processed according to payment terms, and adequately documented based on the type of sale. Any errors are recorded so patterns can be analyzed. This helps confirm sales figures reported across the organization are valid.

Guard Against Discount Abuse

The multitude of coupons, percentage-off deals, 2-for-1 offers, and other promotions used in retail to drive sales and clearance can also open the door for abuse if not monitored. Sales audits assess whether discounts are being applied properly based on the terms and conditions of the promotion. Auditors also check for fraudulent use of expired coupons or manipulated discount codes. This oversight protects revenues from unnecessary leakage.

Prevent Cash Theft and Fraud

Cash theft is a constant threat in retail. Auditors pay special attention to cash sales, monitoring the frequency of no-sales or cancelled sales openings on cash registers as well as voided sales. This may signal fraudulent skimming of cash. The proper use of cash deposit bags and storage safes is examined. Cash register counts are compared to system sales reports to identify discrepancies. Oversight of cash protects against internal and external theft.

Assess Inventory Record Accuracy

Inventory loss is a $50 billion problem annually in the retail industry. Sales audits play a fundamental role in assessing the accuracy of inventory records to account for missing goods. Auditors verify perpetual inventory counts match actual warehouse or store backroom inventory quantities for a selection of high-value goods. Inventory record integrity minimizes shrinkage issues.

Ensure Tax Compliance

Sales tax regulations continue to grow in complexity across thousands of jurisdictions. Sales audits verify that tax collection on sales transactions is done properly based on taxability rules. This includes checking taxability based on product type, sourcing rules for online sales, and exemption management. Proper sales tax management reduces audit penalties and ensures compliance.

Monitor Employee Conduct

Employee theft and collusion are always a concern. Sales audits serve as a form of monitoring to identify suspicious trends that may indicate misconduct. Auditors look for sales voids or returns only conducted by particular associates, abnormal patterns of discounts, or other red flags that warrant further fraud investigation. Observing staff behaviour also deters fraud.

Optimize Loss Prevention and Security

Sales audits assess whether loss prevention and security policies are consistently followed across the retail organization. This includes compliance with store merchandise display standards, storage and return processes, customer checkout procedures, and other anti-theft protocols. Identifying policy gaps allows tightening of security measures to reduce shrinkage.

Support Financial Statement Integrity

Public retail companies rely on sales audits as an important deterrent and detective control for ensuring the accuracy of revenues, receivables, inventory, and other account balances reported externally on financial statements. Auditors look for evidence of manipulated sales and assess sales cut-off procedures around year-end reporting dates. This protects the integrity of financial results.

While they require significant time and focus, regular in-depth sales audits are invaluable for retail organizations. They validate reported sales data, protect revenue, optimize inventory management, reduce fraud and theft, minimize tax compliance risks, and bolster customer confidence that effective controls are in place. Integrating sales audits into operations and Loss Prevention department functions is smart governance.