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

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

The Universal Product Code (UPC) and the Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) are both identifiers for products. However, there is a big difference between the two. The UPC is a global product identifier, while the SKU is specific to a retailer or wholesaler. Let’s take a closer look at these two identifiers and see how they differ.

What is Universal Product Code (UPC)?

Universal Product Code (UPC) is a barcode symbology that is widely used in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand for tracking trade items in stores.

  • UPC consists of a 12-digit numeric code, which is divided into four sections: a 4-digit manufacturer code, a 5-digit product code, a 1-digit check digit, and a 2-digit country code.
  • The check digit is used to ensure that the barcode is correctly read, and the country code indicates the country of origin of the product. UPC codes can be printed on labels or directly on products, and they are scanned by electronic devices at checkout.
  • Universal Product Code (UPC) has been superseded by newer barcode formats such as GS1 DataBar and EAN-13, but it remains in use due to its wide adoption.

What is Stock Keeping Unit (SKU)?

Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) is a unique code that is used to identify a product in inventory. SKU codes are typically assigned by manufacturers and help retailers keep track of products on their shelves. The code typically includes information such as the product’s name, size, color, and price. In some cases, the SKU code may also be used to track inventory levels and reorder products when necessary. While SKU codes are not required, they can be helpful in managing inventory and ensuring that products are properly stocked.

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

Universal Product Code (UPC) and Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) are two acronyms that are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to two different things. A UPC is a barcode that is assigned to a product by the manufacturer. This barcode consists of 12 digits that uniquely identify the product.

An SKU, on the other hand, is a code that is assigned to a product by the retailer. This code is used to track inventory and can be any combination of numbers and letters. While UPCs are always the same for a given product, SKUs can vary from one retailer to another.


UPC and SKU are two different types of product identifiers. A Universal Product Code (UPC) is a 12-digit barcode that is assigned to products sold in the United States and Canada. The Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) is an identifier for products that is used by retailers to track inventory, but it is not as widely used as the UPC. If you are selling products in the United States or Canada, you will need a UPC code for your products. You can get a free UPC from GS1 US.

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