Retail Barcodes Fact Sheet

We were new to barcodes once too. There are many misconceptions about how barcodes work and what the numbers mean. In fact they are very simple identifiers. This fact sheet will get you up to speed so you’ll have all the basics covered.

– Barcodes increase efficiency for retailers. Barcodes are used on products so retailers can quickly recall product information.  Their primary y role is quick retrieval of product data at Point of Sale (P.O.S.) and stock tracking.  This helps retailers recall product data accurately without having to do any manual entry saving them both time and money.

– The two main retail barcode formats used worldwide are EAN-13 and UPC-A.  We supply both EAN-13 and UPC-A formats with each order.  Our EAN-13s have a leading zero (13 digits total) and our UPCs have the leading zero dropped (12 digits total). Our prefix range is 060 – 089 in EAN or 60 – 89 as UPC.

– A unique barcode number is required for each unique product or variant.  Once a barcode is on a single product that product can be sold countless times using the same barcode.  If that product has a variant such as large or small a unique barcode is needed for each variant e.g. a dress that comes in 3 sizes and three different colours requires a total of 9 unique barcodes.  

– Barcodes are not legally required. There are no specific laws for barcodes but there are industry standards and guidelines as outlined by GS1 (The Global Standards Body). Almost all retailers require barcodes to stock and sell products.  Retailers often have their own barcode requirements that can differ from store to store. A small number of large retailers require direct GS1 membership of vendors.  Others simply require a barcode verification report (our barcodes pass verification reports) or a barcode that meets GS1 standards. See our barcode acceptance page for further information.

– Barcodes only contain the numerical information below the bars.  The product data itself is registered on a retailer’s database (not within the barcode).  There is no centralised database you need to register product data to.  Retailer’s have their own internal databases that are independent of each other. e.g. a local convenience store will not use the same database as a major supermarket.

– There is no centralised database that holds all individual barcode/product information globally.  Given the amount of barcodes in circulation it would be practically impossible to implement one.

– Retailers register your product data. Retailers will record your product’s barcode number in their database when on-boarding your product.  This is done by either scanning or manually entering the number into thier database along with the relevant product details. Once this is done the product information will appear at Point of Sale (P.O.S.).  Some larger retailers and online platforms will have forms to enter your product and barcode information.

– GEPIR does not show product information. GS1’s GEPIR only shows the original holder of the barcode searched and no product information.  There are many online databases and smartphone apps that provide product information along with the barcode number.

– GS1 (formerly UCC) is the originator of all retail barcode numbers. GS1 is a voluntary membership organistaion, not a mandatory requirement.  However all globally unique retail barcodes sold or licensed originate with GS1/UCC. Our barcodes originate with the same numbering system as GS1 and can be legally sold and used on products.

– Barcodes do not show the Country of Origin of a product.  The “Country Code” only shows which branch of GS1 first issued the barcode, not the where the actual product is manufactured e.g. a product made in the United States can have a 600 (China origin) prefixed barcode while a product made in China can have an 078 (US orgin) prefixed code.

Made up or free generator barcodes are only suitable for internal use.  This is perfectly fine for tracking items within your own store. They otherwise risk collision with GS1/UCC barcodes.

Barcode assignment is the responsibility of the product owner.  This is the case if you obtain your barcodes through a 3rd party such as us or directly through GS1.

– Our EAN-13 and UPC-A barcodes are GTINs (Global Trade Item Numbers) and can be scanned in any country worldwide.

Our EAN-13 and UPC-A barcodes are suitable for all retail products except Books, Magazines and Pharmaceuticals.  Books require ISBN numbers from an ISBN Agency and Magazines require ISSN numbers from an ISSN Agency.  Pharmaceuticals require pharmacodes or Datamtrix codes.

– QR Codes, Code39s etc are not a suitable substitute for retail barcodes (EAN-13 and UPC-A) e.g. a QR Code cannot be scanned at P.O.S.