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Registering UPC Codes: Avoid UPC Mismatches and Properly Register UPCs

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April 20, 2017
February 10, 2019

It happens like this...

Some unsuspecting seller buys a block of barcodes (UPCs) they found from some website claiming to sell valid UPCs. They proceed to assign these UPCs to each of their heretofore UPC-less SKUs.

Now two possible things happen:

  1. The UPC codes you purchased already exist legitimately. The joke in our office is the unsuspecting hardware parts seller that started listing to Keystone Light branded merchandise on Walmart. Talk about some confused customers and some unhappy customer service reps... Doh!
  2. Some other seller already purchased an overlapping set of UPC codes from another sketchy service or even the same service.

Don't be that seller. Lean on this article to learn the ins and outs of how to use UPC codes and how to register your company properly with GS1, the governing body that assigns company prefixes and UPCs.

How to Register UPC Codes (The Right Way)

1. Get a GS1 US-Issued Company Prefix.

2. Choose Product (GTIN) for physical products. GTIN means Global Trade Item Number. You've probably heard of UPC, EAN, ISBN -- they're different types of GTINs.

3. Determine the type of barcode. UPC-A is what you'll want if you're selling products online or in physical stores.

4. License a company prefix from GS1 US. This is a variable length number based on the number of unique SKUs you need to barcode.

5. Use GS1 US Data Hub to create and manage UPCs. This is a free account for single user accounts but there is a fee to purchase your company prefix -- pricing schedule is provided below.

6. Place UPC codes on your products. This can be done gradually since you'll likely want to incorporate it in your packaging process.

GS1 Prefix Pricing Schedule

<table class="tg">  
 <tbody><tr>
   <th class="tg-yw4l">Number of items needing a barcode</th>
   <th class="tg-yw4l">Initial fee</th>
   <th class="tg-yw4l">Annual renewal fee</th>
 </tr>
 <tr>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">1 – 10</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">$250</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">$50</td>
 </tr>
 <tr>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">1 – 100</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">$750</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">$150</td>
 </tr>
 <tr>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">1 – 1,000</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">$2,500</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">$500</td>
 </tr>
 <tr>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">1 – 10,000</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">$6,500</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">$1,300</td>
 </tr>
 <tr>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">1 – 100,000</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">$10,500</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">$2,100</td>
 </tr>
</tbody></table>

UPC Code Prefix Allocation Schedule

<table class="tg">  
 <tbody><tr>
   <th class="tg-yw4l">If your U.P.C. Company Prefix is…</th>
   <th class="tg-yw4l">You can create this many U.P.C. barcodes...</th>
 </tr>
 <tr>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">6 digits</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">100,000</td>
 </tr>
 <tr>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">7 digits</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">10,000</td>
 </tr>
 <tr>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">8 digits</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">1,000</td>
 </tr>
 <tr>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">9 digits</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">100</td>
 </tr>
 <tr>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">10 digits</td>
   <td class="tg-yw4l">10</td>
 </tr>
</tbody></table>

Avoid UPC Code Mismatches and Related Issues

  1. Don't buy UPCs from vendors that are not certified by GS1. Use GS1 US Data Hub or a GS1 US Solution Provider.
  2. Don't make up your own UPCs using some math formula you found online.
  3. If you are not the brand owner and you want to assign UPCs to their products that you sell, contact the brand owner and send them this article.

Additional resources:

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Zentail is a multichannel software platform that makes it easy to sell on Amazon, eBay, Walmart Marketplace, Jet.com, Google Shopping, Shopify, Bigcommerce and a growing selection of channels. Centrally manage product information, listings, inventory, orders, business analytics and reordering from one beautiful interface. Get more done faster.

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