Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between UPC and SKU

barcodeUPC vs  SKU

UPC and SKU are codes that are assigned to products. But these two codes stand for different things. UPC or known as Universal Product Code is a standardized bar code that gives a vivid description of the products. On the other hand, SKU or Stock Keeping Unit is a specific number assigned by the store or the company for keeping a tab on the stock and also the price of the various products.

While UPC is considered to be a universal code the SKU is not universal. SKU is only applied to the products and services for in house mechanism.

The Universal Product Code is the exact number code affixed to a product, wherever it is sold. A product that is bought from one store if taken to another store will not have a change in the UPC. On the contrary, A retailer or a store or company affixes SKU to identify the products.

Stock Keeping Unit is unique to the companies or retailers. An identical product may have different SKUs if sold by different companies.

Another difference that can be seen between the two is that SKU comes with an 8 digit number and the UPC comes in 12 digit codes. Characters and letters are not used in UPC but only numerals are used. On the other hand, SKU is a string of alpha and numeric characters.

SKU helps in keeping track of the stock of the products very easily. But through UPC one cannot know what stock is left. UPC only gives details about the products like its price, contents, manufacturers and so on.

While the Stock Keeping Unit is beneficial to the company or stores, the Universal Product Code is of help to the customers.

Summary

1. UPC or known as Universal Product Code is a standardized bar code that gives a vivid description of the products.
2. SKU or Stock Keeping Unit is a specific number assigned by the store or the company for keeping a tab on the stock and also the price of the various products.
3. Stock Keeping Unit is unique to the companies or retailers. An identical product may have different SKUs if sold by different companies.
4. SKU comes with an 8 digit number and the UPC comes in 12 digit codes.
5. Characters and letters are not used in UPC but only numerals are used. On the other hand, SKU is a string of alpha and numeric characters.


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3 Comments

  1. That is not a valid UPC code graphic shown above. UPC codes are 12 digit numbers (11 assigned digits plus a 1 digit checksum). UPC codes show a single digit to the left of the bar code, two groups of 5 digits each under the bar code, and a single digit to the left of the bar code. See real examples at:

    http://www.barcodingfonts.com/barupc.htm

  2. hmm.. well at Kroger we can the barcode (UPC) to get the product count and other information. The UPC is also used for ordering. So I guess the scan gun is converting the UPC info into SKU form and then displaying that. Though, i can’t really see a reason to have 2 different sets of numbers. Essentially your just filing information under a number. Isn’t it easier to just keep the same number in both instances?

  3. There is a lot of confusion about UPC’s and SKU’s and the information provided here, although mostly correct, is leading to some confusion.

    - UPC – Universal Product Code – It is a universally agreed upon product identifier assigned by the manufacturer (or sometimes the retailer, but not as often). It uniquely identifies an item throughout the world. It can be numeric or even alpha. But it is most commonly used as a numeric number like in UPC-A.

    - SKU – Stock keeping Unit – This is an identifier assigned by a retailer that is used as the smallest unit by which they want to keep track of stock.

    That’s it. Any relation to pricing, inventory, size of the fields, or type (numeric vs. alpha) is completely arbitrary and is up to each individual retailer.

    Important points:

    - Pricing – A retailer can decide to keep track of pricing at any level they choose. Some keep track at the Style level, some at the SKU level, and some at the UPC level. There is even a concept called PLU (Price Look Up) that is not as common but can be used in conjunction with Styles and SKU’s. The point is, it is up to your system to decide at what level you want to keep track of pricing. Anyone who tells you it must be at a certain level is really just telling you what they have experienced with their system, not what is necessarily common in the industry.

    - Look up’s and Cross References – Someone above mentioned that they use the UPC barcode to look up prices and inventory. This may indeed be what is happening if your retailer’s system keeps inventory or pricing at the UPC level. However, it may be the case that when you scan that UPC on the package it actually does a “cross reference” or “look up” and substitutes the SKU behind the scenes. So just because you scan a UPC barcode and see a price does not mean that your system keeps track of pricing at the UPC level. The system could just be substituting a SKU for you automatically.

    - SKU length – SKU’s can be whatever length you want them to be as determined by your system. I’ve seen several places around the Internet where they say SKU’s are 10 digits. This is patently false. For example, our system supports 20 character SKU’s. It is true that you typically want SKU’s to be as short as possible, but there is no 10 digit limit or even convention in the industry. I’ve worked with a 3000 store retailer who used 5 and 6 digit SKU’s. And I’ve worked with a 10 store retailer who used 15 digits. It all depends on how many items they stock and what their system supports.

    - Keeping Stock – SKU’s can also be arbitrary. The SKU is really the lowest level of granularity with which you WANT to see stock levels. Some retailers give every single item a different SKU because they want to see stock levels on every single item. Other retailers will give multiple items the same SKU because they don’t care to get individual stock levels on those items. For example, one retailer might take a shirt and have different SKU’s for small, medium, and large versions of that type of shirt. By doing so, they can tell how many of each size they have (at the expense of having to do inventory on all of the different sizes). Other retailers may give all of those different sizes the same SKU. At that point they can’t tell how many small vs medium shirts they have. But that is their choice. The benefit of such a system is that they don’t need to do inventory on all of the different sizes. They just need to count shirts. The point is, the concept of SKU is completely arbitrary. In a “dollar store” I could have one single SKU and give it the price of $1. It’s possible, but not very useful. Although I would have the simplest Point of Sale system around, I’d never be able to keep track of all of the different items I had in the store because they would all be sharing the same SKU.

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