Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Universal Product Code (UPC) and Stock Keeping Unit (SKU)

Universal Product Code (UPC) vs Stock Keeping Unit (SKU)

Managing the flow of products can be quite daunting as you increase the number of products that you handle. To make it easier for manufacturers and retailers, there are a number of methodologies created to make it easier. Two of these methodologies are the UPC, or Universal Product Code, and SKU, or Service Keeping Unit. The main difference between the UPC and the SKU is what they are actually linked to. A UPC is linked to an actual product; for example, the original Xbox would have a UPC, and the Xbox 360 would also have another UPC. In contrast, an SKU is linked to something billable but may not be a physical device. For example, if you got an Xbox 360 and opted to get the extended warranty, the Xbox 360 would have both an SKU and a UPC, but the extended warranty would only have an SKU. SKUs are also used for other non-physical billable items like services and the like.

Because many stores implement promos to entice customers to buy their products, there can be many SKUs for a single product. A regular product would have a different SKU from a discounted price product or from a product with freebies or bundled with other items. Even differently colored versions of the same product will have different SKUS despite having the same UPC. This helps retailers know which colors are selling more and which ones need to be ordered from the supplier.

Lastly, as the name implies, a UPC is universal. Regardless of where you get the product, it will still probably have the same UPC. But when it comes to the SKU, the codes may not be the same from one store to another. A large establishment like Target or Wal-Mart may have the same SKUs across all their stores, but they will not have equivalent SKUs with each other.


1.A UPC is linked to a product while an SKU is linked to a billable item.
2.A UPC is always linked to a physical object while an SKU can be linked to something non-physical.
3.A single UPC can have multiple SKUs.
4.A UPC is the same throughout the world while an SKU may be different from store to store.

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