Cash Flow Cycle Definition

The cash flow cycle measures how long it takes for a firm to recover cash that it invests in ongoing operations.

KEY POINTS

  • In management accounting, the cash flow cycle also known as cash conversion cycle (CCC) measures how long a firm will be deprived of cash if it increases its investment in resources in order to expand customer sales.
  • It is thus a measure of the liquidity risk entailed by growth. However, shortening the CCC creates its own risks.
  • While a firm could even achieve a negative CCC by collecting from customers before paying suppliers, a policy of strict collections and lax payments is not always sustainable.
  • The term “cash conversion cycle” refers to the timespan between a firm’s disbursing and collecting cash.
  • Since a retailer’s operations consist of buying and selling inventory, the equation models the time between (1) disbursing cash to satisfy the accounts payable created by purchase of inventory, and (2) collecting cash to satisfy the accounts receivable generated by that sale.

Key Terms

retail

  • The sale of goods directly to the consumer; encompassing the storefronts, mail-order, websites, etc., and the corporate mechanisms, branding, advertising, etc. that support them, which are involved in the business of selling and point-of-sale marketing retail goods to the public.

cash flow

  • The sum of cash revenues and expenditures over a period of time.

balance sheet

  • A summary of a person’s or organization’s assets, liabilities and equity as of a specific date.

Cash flow cycle also is called “cash conversion cycle” (CCC). In management accounting, the CCC measures how long a firm will be deprived of cash if it increases its investment in resources in order to expand customer sales. It is thus a measure of the liquidity risk entailed by growth.

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However, shortening the Cash Flow Cycle creates its own risks: while a firm could even achieve a negative CCC by collecting from customers before paying suppliers, a policy of strict collections and lax payments is not always sustainable.

Cash Conversion Cycle

The cash conversion cycle refers to the time frame between a firm’s cash disbursement and cash collection. However, the CCC cannot be directly observed in cash flows, because these are also influenced by investment and financing activities; it must be derived from statement of financial position or balance sheet data associated with the firm’s operations.

Retail

Although the term “cash conversion cycle” technically applies to a firm in any industry, the equation is formulated to apply specifically to a retailer. Since a retailer’s operations consist of buying and selling inventory, the equation models the time between the following:

Disbursing cash to satisfy the accounts payable created by purchase of inventory; and
Collecting cash to satisfy the accounts receivable generated by that sale.
The Cash Flow Cycle must be calculated by tracing a change in cash through its effect upon receivables, inventory, payables, and finally back to cash, thus, the term cash conversion cycle, and the observation that these four accounts “articulate” with one another.

The equation describes a firm that buys and sells on account. Also, the equation is written to accommodate a firm that buys and sells on account. For a cash-only firm, the equation would only need data from sales operations (e.g., changes in inventory), because disbursing cash would be directly measurable as purchase of inventory, and collecting cash would be directly measurable as sale of inventory.

Cash Flow Cycle

However, for a firm that buys and sells on account, Increases and decreases in inventory do not occasion cash flows but accounting vehicles (receivables and payables, respectively); increases and decreases in cash will remove these accounting vehicles (receivables and payables, respectively) from the books.

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