A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from February 14, 2009
“Sales is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is reality” ("Volume/ Turnover/ Revenue is vanity…")

"Sales is vanity, profit is sanity” (or “Volume is vanity,” “Turnover is vanity,” “Revenue is vanity") means that it’s not how much that one sells that really counts, but how much money is made. A business that sells one automobile at a high premium could have more profits than a business that sells ten automobiles. The origin of the saying is unknown, but it appears to be most popular in the United Kingdom. The first recorded citations are from the late 1980s/early 1990s.

“Cash” is often added to the end of the saying, making it “Sales is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is reality” or “Sales is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is king.”


14 January 1988, Chicago (IL) Sun-Times, “Cause for cheer at Housewares Show” by Edwin Darby: 
“Turnover is vanity for an owner,” he says. “Profit is sanity and we are one appliance company that is profitable.”

Google Books
Traffic World
By Traffic Service Corporation
Published by Traffic Service Corporation, 1989
Item notes: v.218 1989
Pg. 42:
“We have adopted a slogan from a sign I keep on my desk that says: ‘Volume is vanity, profit is sanity.’”

Google Books
The Corporate Paradox:
Power and control in the business franchise

By Alan Felstead
Routledge
1993
Pg. 159:
While the franchisor is more likely to prefer outlets which generate high turnover, franchisees are more likely to have their eyes on outlet profitability (for them the business adage ‘turnover is vanity, profitability is sanity’ applies).

1 February 1994, Charlotte (NC) Observer, pg. 1D:
“They don’t do dumb things. They have disciplined underwriting,’’ he said. “Berkley has a slogan - ‘Volume is vanity: profit is sanity.’”

Google Books
Using Management Games
By Chris Elgood
Published by Gower Publishing, Ltd.
1996
Pg. 75:
One basic lesson that can be learnt without any computer technology is the old accountants’ adage “Turnover is vanity: profit is sanity.”

Google Groups: rec.audio.misc
Newsgroups: rec.audio.misc, rec.audio.tech, rec.audio.opinion
From: (Rodney Gold)
Date: 1997/06/19
Subject: Re: Avoid THE AUDIBLE DIFFERENCE in Palo Alto, CA

Rules of business No 1 - turnover is vanity , profit is sanity
keeping extensive stock of the slower moving items is expensive , and so are the comfortable airconditioned sound rooms you like so much.

Google Groups: comp.sys.acorn.misc
Newsgroups: comp.sys.acorn.misc
From: Alastair France
Date: 1998/12/18
Subject: Re: Acorn in the Financial Times

Someone in the business world once told me:

Turnover is vanity
Profit is sanity

Guardian Unlimited
A bit on the side – and how to make it
Want to earn extra cash? Ignore those get-rich-quick ads, says Sue Fieldman, and look around at home instead, – but be prepared for some hard work

guardian.co.uk
Sunday May 2, 1999
(...)
Paul Hodge, a partner with Tonbridge chartered accountant NSP, says: ‘For an employee, there is not one iota of job security out there. Jobs for life are a thing of the past. If you have a skill, why not use it for your own financial benefit. Something very small can often grow to be very successful.’
(...)
Hodge says: ‘Cash is king, profit is sanity and turnover is vanity. In other words, you can be turning over millions, but still losing money. If there is no cash in the bank, you are dead meat

Google Groups: comp[.dcom.sys.cisco
Newsgroups: comp.dcom.sys.cisco
From: “Clayton Nash”
Date: 1999/05/12
Subject: fault tolerant routers

“Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is reality”

Google Groups: uk.finance.stockmarket
Newsgroups: uk.finance.stockmarket
From: “Neil Wilson”
Date: 2000/06/30
Subject: Re: Irresponsible reporting by the BBC?

I always like “Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity”. Words to live by in the dot.com era.

Google Books
Global Logistics and Distribution Planning
Edited by Donald Waters
4th edition
Kogan Page Limited
2003
Pg. 173:
KEEPING SCORE - A BASIC MANAGEMENT PRINCIPLE
Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity, and cash is reality.
Anon

The Financial Express
‘Sales is vanity, profit is sanity and cash is reality’
Surabhi Agarwal
Posted: 2008-01-10 00:00:00+05:30 IST
Updated: Jan 10, 2008 at 0023 hrs IST

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityBanking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Saturday, February 14, 2009 • Permalink