Is a UPC an SKU? And Other Important Details

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If you answered NO, you are correct! Hooray!

While some people use the terms UPC and SKU interchangeably, they are actually different. UPCs, or Universal Product Codes, are standardized by an official organization, GS1. They provide a product description that, once scanned, anyone can read. On the other hand, an individual company can assign an SKU, or Stock Keeping Unit, to a product for stock-keeping purposes and internal operations.

Why you’d ever want two codes, I’m not sure — although I’m sure there’s a reason — but what I needed, once I decided to bring My Brush Betty to market and finalize my labels, was a UPC.

One of the scary things about doing something like this all by yourself is trying to figure out all these little things you don’t know. You literally wake up in the middle of the night thinking, “Do I need a UPC code? I have no clue how to get a UPC code? I wonder how complicated it is? I wonder how much it costs?”

I really didn’t feel like I could launch this product, even on Kickstarter, until I figured out a lot of these answers. I guess I like to plan a lot in advance for all the possibilities. …

Anyway, UPC codes — officially — come from GS1, an International not-for-profit association that is dedicated to streamlining supply and demand chains for products and parts.

They seem to be a very well-run group because getting a UPC code for your products, and different configurations of your products, was super straightforward. You have to become a member of the organization, which was $250. But they have a pretty good email newsletter for companies that sell stuff, which I’ve found useful.

All in all, this was one of the easier things I did. As it should be.

But as I learned with so many things as I worked on this project, there are scammers lurking everywhere on the Internet for people trying to bring consumer products to market.

So, of course, some consultants or companies will help you get a UPC code, for a fee. Which is totally not necessary for most people who can read and use a computer.

Don’t pay somebody else to get your UPC code. Spend a few minutes to read the GS1 website or call their office for help. It was super easy.


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By Sarah A. Webster
Founder
My Brush Betty