Backorder Costs: The Cost of Extending Delivery Times

Backorder Costs: The Cost of Extending Delivery Times

In business operations, backorders occur when customer demand exceeds the available inventory, resulting in unfulfilled orders. While backorders can indicate strong demand, they also come with costs and challenges for businesses. Backorder costs encompass various aspects, including lost sales, customer dissatisfaction, additional operational expenses, and potential damage to a company’s reputation. This article aims to explore the concept of backorder costs, their implications for businesses, and strategies to effectively manage them.

Comprehending Backorder Costs

Comprehending Backorder Costs

Backorder costs refer to the expenses incurred by businesses due to unfulfilled customer orders. These costs arise from multiple factors, each having a unique impact on a company’s financials and operations. Key components of backorder costs include:

Lost Sales

When customers encounter backorders, they may choose to cancel their orders or switch to alternative suppliers, resulting in immediate revenue loss. Lost sales not only impact current profitability but also have potential long-term effects on customer loyalty and market share.

Customer Dissatisfaction

Backorders can lead to customer dissatisfaction and a decline in customer loyalty. Unfulfilled orders can result in delays, increased waiting times, and potential damage to a company’s reputation. Negative customer experiences can lead to decreased customer retention and reduced future sales.

Additional Operational Expenses

Businesses often incur additional costs to manage backorders effectively. These expenses include expediting shipments, rush orders from suppliers, expedited production processes, and overtime wages for employees. These costs can strain a company’s resources and reduce overall profitability.

Inventory Holding Costs

Backorders can disrupt inventory management and increase carrying costs. Companies may need to hold larger safety stocks or expedite production to fulfill backorders, resulting in higher storage costs, increased depreciation, and the risk of inventory obsolescence.

Opportunity Costs

Backorders may prevent businesses from accepting new orders or pursuing other sales opportunities. This lost potential revenue represents an opportunity cost that impacts the company’s growth and market expansion prospects.

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Strategies to Manage Backorder Costs

Strategies to Manage Backorder Costs

Effectively managing backorder costs is crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction, optimizing operational efficiency, and preserving profitability. Here are some strategies businesses can implement:

Accurate Demand Forecasting

Implement robust demand forecasting techniques to anticipate customer demand accurately. Analyze historical data, market trends, and customer behavior to forecast demand patterns, enabling better inventory planning and reducing the likelihood of backorders.

Inventory Optimization

Utilize inventory management systems and techniques to optimize stock levels. Employ just-in-time (JIT) inventory principles, prioritize fast-moving items, and establish efficient reorder points to minimize the occurrence of backorders.

Supplier Collaboration

Foster strong relationships with suppliers to ensure timely and reliable deliveries. Collaborate with suppliers to establish flexible ordering arrangements, negotiate favorable terms, and secure priority access to inventory during high-demand periods.

Transparent Communication

Proactively communicate with customers about potential stock shortages and backorder situations. Keep customers informed about estimated delivery times, offer alternatives if possible, and provide updates on order status to manage expectations and mitigate dissatisfaction.

Prioritization and Allocation

Implement allocation strategies to prioritize backorders based on factors such as customer importance, order value, or long-term relationship potential. This ensures that limited inventory is allocated to the most valuable customers or critical orders, minimizing the impact of backorders on key accounts.

Efficient Production Planning

Optimize production planning processes to reduce lead times and improve production efficiency. Implement lean manufacturing principles, streamline workflows, and leverage technology to increase production capacity and meet customer demand more effectively.

Collaboration Across Departments

Foster cross-functional collaboration among departments such as sales, marketing, and operations. This facilitates better coordination, alignment of goals, and more efficient order fulfillment, minimizing backorder occurrences.

Continuous Improvement

Regularly evaluate backorder performance metrics, identify root causes of backorders, and implement continuous improvement initiatives. Measure key performance indicators (KPIs) such as backorder rate, order cycle time, and customer satisfaction to drive ongoing optimization efforts.

Backorder Inventory Model

Backorder Inventory Model

We will first assume that this joint model allows for pre-order and out-of-stock stocking. In addition, the company’s sales are not sold out due to being out of stock. We will also re-order any need that is not met.

B: Cost of backordering per unit each year
b: until the next order arrives, the amount backordered
Q-b: Remaining units once the backorder has been fulfilled
Annual Setup Cost + Annual Holding Cost + Annual Backordering Cost = Total Annual Cost

Cost of annual setup (ordering) = (D/Q).S

Annual Operating Cost = (Average Inventory Level).H

We can deduce from the graphical ratios that T1/T= (Q-b)/Q

As a result, if we replace T1/T in the above equation, we get

Backorder Inventory Model Average Inventory Level = (Q-b) 2/2Q

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Example of Backorder Cost

Example of Backorder Cost

Backorders can have various cost implications for businesses, highlighting the importance of effective inventory management and customer communication. Let’s explore two new examples:

Example 1

Company X is a popular electronics retailer known for its high-demand products. During a new product launch, the company receives a surge of pre-orders for a limited edition smartphone. The initial stock allocation is quickly exhausted, leaving a significant number of customers on backorder. The backorder costs in this scenario include:

  1. Lost Sales Opportunities: Some customers may choose to cancel their orders or purchase the product from a competitor who has it in stock. This results in immediate revenue loss for Company X.
  2. Expedited Shipping Expenses: To fulfill backorders promptly, Company X may need to incur additional costs for expedited shipping from suppliers or manufacturers. The faster delivery helps reduce the waiting time for customers but adds to the overall fulfillment expenses.
  3. Customer Dissatisfaction and Potential Reputation Damage: Extended wait times for backordered products can lead to customer frustration and dissatisfaction. Unsatisfied customers may share negative reviews or experiences, potentially harming Company X’s reputation and future sales.

Example 2

Manufacturer Y produces high-quality furniture, and a major retail chain places a large order for a new line of dining tables. However, due to unforeseen production delays, Manufacturer Y can only deliver a portion of the ordered tables on time. The backorder costs in this scenario include:

  1. Potential Penalties or Fines: If the retail chain’s contract specifies strict delivery deadlines, Manufacturer Y may face penalties or fines for failing to fulfill the complete order on time. These financial consequences directly impact the company’s profitability.
  2. Rush Production and Overtime Wages: To expedite the production process and meet the backordered quantity, Manufacturer Y may need to operate additional shifts or pay overtime wages to its workforce. These expenses increase the cost of production and affect the company’s bottom line.
  3. Customer Loyalty and Future Business: Delayed delivery or partial fulfillment of the order can negatively impact the retail chain’s trust and confidence in Manufacturer Y. This can result in a loss of future business opportunities or a damaged long-term relationship.

To mitigate these backorder costs, businesses can employ strategies such as proactive communication, offering alternatives or incentives to customers affected by backorders, and prioritizing efficient production or procurement processes to minimize lead times. By managing backorders effectively, businesses can minimize costs, maintain customer satisfaction, and safeguard their reputation in the market.


Backorder costs pose significant challenges to businesses, affecting revenue, customer satisfaction, and operational efficiency. By understanding the components of backorder costs and implementing effective management strategies, businesses can mitigate the negative impact of backorders. Accurate demand forecasting, inventory optimization, supplier collaboration, transparent communication, prioritization, efficient production planning, cross-departmental collaboration, and continuous improvement are key elements in successfully managing backorder costs. By doing so, businesses can enhance customer satisfaction, preserve their reputation, and optimize profitability in a highly competitive marketplace.

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