What is a SKU? – A Beginner Friendly Crash Course

What are SKU numbers

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Managing a vast inventory is a complex puzzle for businesses. The solution? A Stock Keeping Unit, often abbreviated as SKU. 

A Stock Keeping Unit is a unique alphanumeric code meticulously tailored to each company’s specific needs, acting as the DNA for every item on the shelf.

SKUs are more than a mere string of numbers and letters; they are the unsung heroes of inventory management. SKU numbers provide a systematic approach to swiftly locate products, assess stock levels, and optimise sales strategies. 

This guide is designed to equip you with a comprehensive understanding of SKUs, from their creation to their strategic application. With this knowledge, you’ll be prepared to leverage SKU numbers for operational excellence and customer satisfaction. Let’s begin by understanding SKU numbers in more detail. 

What is a SKU Number?

What do you mean by SKU number

A SKU number, short for Stock Keeping Unit, is a unique alphanumeric code, often 8-12 characters long, that precisely identifies each product in a retailer’s inventory. Far from being just a random string, it is a carefully crafted identifier, reflecting the company’s internal classification and organisational system.

Creating a SKU number is a deliberate process, with each segment of the code often representing specific information such as product type, size, colour, or other attributes. This attention to detail allows retailers to track inventory with granular precision, facilitating various operational processes from ordering to sales analysis. (More on how to create SKU numbers in a later section).   

Unlike the Universal Product Code (UPC), which is standardised and universally recognised for each product across various retailers, SKU numbers are customisable and retailer-specific. This customisation gives retailers the flexibility to manage their inventory according to their unique business needs and strategies. 

SKU numbers are vital across the retail business, proving to be an essential instrument for inventory management. They assist retailers in determining the optimal time for product restocking, discerning sales patterns, and refining their merchandise mix. SKU numbers are also pivotal in predicting product demand, averting stock shortages, and sustaining a streamlined supply chain.

In retail stores and inventory management, SKU numbers function as a universal language, allowing seamless communication across various departments and sales channels. They are the foundation upon which a seamless operational process is built, ensuring that every product can be accounted for, monitored, and managed with ease.

Why are SKUs Important?

SKU numbers are critical in inventory management, enabling businesses to track their merchandise with pinpoint accuracy. They are essential for an efficient inventory system, ensuring products are stocked, located, and sold effectively, thus minimising the risk of ‘phantom inventory’—items that are accounted for on paper but not in stock.

The strategic value of SKUs lies in supply chain optimisation. By maintaining an accurate SKU count, companies can prioritise their best-selling products to meet consumer demand promptly.

Moreover, SKUs facilitate a more granular level of organisation within the inventory. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to stock management, SKUs allow for differentiation, categorisation, and prioritisation based on sales performance. This leads to a more streamlined supply chain, where resources are allocated more effectively, and products are less likely to sit idle on shelves.

Implementing a SKU system also brings technological advancements to the forefront of inventory management. With SKUs often encoded as barcodes or QR codes, a simple scan can reveal a wealth of information—from the raw materials used in a product’s construction to its category, warranty, and sales history. This instant access to data empowers staff to maintain a clear understanding of the inventory’s status and facilitates swift, informed decision-making.

In retail environments, SKUs are necessary to smoothly operate point-of-sale (POS) systems. They allow for the quick scanning and processing of purchases, ensuring inventory levels are automatically updated and key restocking data is captured. This efficiency helps maintain the availability of in-demand items, thereby improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Furthermore, SKUs are vital for regulatory compliance and accurate financial reporting. SKU numbers provide the detailed product tracking necessary for businesses to confidently report to stakeholders and regulatory bodies. In situations such as product recalls, or market shifts, the ability to quickly and accurately identify affected items via their SKUs can be the difference between a swift recovery and prolonged disruption. 

Who Needs SKUs?

List of nine industry sectors who needs SKUs

SKU numbers are not just for large retailers or businesses with extensive inventories. They are a critical component for various entities that deal with products or services. Here’s who needs SKUs:


Retail businesses, from small boutiques to expansive brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce sites, are perhaps the most frequent users of SKU codes. They leverage these codes to manage inventory, simplify checkout processes, and keep records of product sales and stock levels. 

Warehouses and Distribution Centers

Wholesalers and distributors manage vast arrays of products from multiple sources. SKUs are their lifeline for keeping track of such diverse inventories, simplifying the order fulfilment process, and ensuring that stock levels are managed with precision.


In the manufacturing sector, SKUs are instrumental in organising and overseeing production workflows. They are assigned to raw materials, individual components, and finished goods, enabling manufacturers to monitor their supplies and manage operations more efficiently.

Service Providers

Even service-based businesses that deal with physical assets can use SKUs. For example, an auto repair shop might use SKUs to track parts, or a rental company could use them to manage their rental inventory.

Healthcare Providers

Hospitals and clinics use SKUs to track medical supplies, medications, and equipment, ensuring that critical items are always in stock and easily accessible.

Food and Beverage Industry

Restaurants, caterers, and food suppliers use SKUs to manage ingredients, track food costs, and control inventory for multiple menu items.

Libraries and Educational Institutions

These organisations use SKUs to manage books, educational materials, and resources, facilitating easy tracking and lending processes.

Artists and Craftsmen

Even individual creators, such as artists and craftsmen, find SKUs useful for managing their materials and finished works. This organisation aids in the effective management of their creative outputs and sales. 

Non-Profit Organisations

Nonprofits that handle the distribution of goods utilise SKUs to efficiently manage their inventories, which is critical for ensuring that aid reaches those in need in a timely and organised manner.

In essence, any organisation that manages a variety of items, whether for sale or for internal use, can benefit from the organisation and clarity that SKU numbers provide. They are a universal tool for inventory management that can be adapted to the needs of any size and type of business.

What Products Need SKUs?

To put it simply, every product can—and arguably should—have a Stock Keeping Unit. The real magic of SKUs, however, lies in their ability to differentiate between product variants. 

Consider a product like a t-shirt; it’s not just one item but a collection of items, each differentiated by its own size, colour and pattern. A medium green t-shirt and a large black one are not interchangeable; hence, each variant is assigned a unique SKU.

Here’s a quick rundown of some common attributes that necessitate a unique SKU. 

  • Size
  • Colour
  • Design
  • Material
  • Packaging
  • Edition or Version
  • Package Quantity

How to Create SKU Numbers?

Creating SKU numbers is a straightforward yet vital process for inventory management. These unique identifiers must be created with precision so that no error occurs. 

To ensure you’re equipped to generate SKU numbers correctly, we’ve broken down this section into three informative parts:

  1. Anatomy of SKU Numbers – In this part, you will learn about the structure and elements that compose a SKU. Understanding these components is crucial for building a robust and functional SKU system.
  2. Creating a SKU Number – Here, we will provide a step-by-step guide on the methodology for creating and assigning your own SKU numbers. This process will be your roadmap to generating customised SKUs for your business’s specific needs.
  3. SKU Number Example – This section will offer you a practical example, illustrating how to apply what you’ve learned. You’ll see how a SKU is used in a real business context, reinforcing the concepts and guiding you through their application.


With these sections, we aim to provide you with a comprehensive understanding and practical know-how to create SKUs effectively. Let’s begin with the foundational knowledge of the anatomy of a SKU number. 

Parts of a SKU Number

parts of a SKU Number

Understanding the parts of a SKU number is like learning the alphabet before you write a sentence. Each SKU number is a unique combination of characters divided into three distinct parts, each serving a specific inventory categorisation and management function. These three parts are. 

  • Category Identifier: The SKU begins with this segment, typically two to three characters in length. This segment classifies the product into a broad category, such as a department, product type, or even a supplier code. It’s the broadest classification and the first filter to narrow a product search within a large inventory.
  • Product Attributes: Following the category identifier are the characters representing the product’s specific attributes. This middle section of the SKU is the most descriptive, often the longest, providing information about the item’s type, gender specificity (if applicable), brand, colour, size, or other defining characteristics. This part of the SKU is crucial for distinguishing between items that fall under the same broad category but have different features.
  • Sequential Identifier: The SKU concludes with a sequential number, which is two to three characters long. It chronologically denotes the addition of items to the inventory and assists in quantifying the stock within a particular category. For instance, in cataloguing blue jeans, the first pair SKU might end with ‘001’, the second with ‘002’, and so on, providing a clear sequence for inventory tracking.

How to Create a SKU Number?

Creating a SKU number is a critical task that requires attention to detail and an understanding of your inventory. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you create SKU numbers tailored to your business’s specific needs. 

Step 1: Define Your Categories

Begin by dividing your inventory into logical groups that reflect the range of your products. For a diverse inventory, categories might include ‘Electronics’, ‘Apparel’, ‘Homeware’, etc. 

Assign a unique two or three-character identifier to each category to facilitate easy recognition.

Step 2: Determine Product Attributes

Identify the key attributes that differentiate products within the same category. Prioritise these attributes by their importance for tracking and identification, such as size, colour, material, or style. These attributes will make up the central part of your SKU.

Step 3: Establish a Coding System

Create a simple and consistent coding system for each category and attribute. Use clear and distinct abbreviations or numbers that are easily recognisable and avoid ambiguity.

Step 4: Establish a Sequential Identifier

Implement a numerical sequence to identify individual items, starting from 001. This helps in tracking inventory chronology and managing stock levels.

Step 5: Combine the Elements

Construct your SKU by combining the category identifier, the product attributes, and the sequential identifier. Ensure that the SKU is not too long to be impractical nor too short to be non-descriptive. 

For example, for a generic product, a SKU might read ‘CAT-ATTR1-ATTR2-001’, where ‘CAT’ stands for the category, ‘ATTR1’ and ‘ATTR2’ represent different attributes, and ‘001’ is the sequential identifier.

Step 6: Check for Uniqueness

Before finalising the SKU, ensure it is unique and not already in use. It should distinctly identify a product and not cause confusion with other items.

Step 7: Implement and Test

Once you have created your SKU, implement it into your inventory system and test it to ensure it works well with your point-of-sale system, accounting software, and other operational tools.

Step 8: Monitor and Update

Continuously evaluate your SKU system, especially when introducing new products or adjusting your inventory system. Adapt the SKUs as needed to maintain efficiency and accuracy.

By following these steps, you can create a SKU system that improves your inventory management efficiency and helps your business run more smoothly.

SKU Example for an Alcohol Shop in Australia

In an Australian alcohol shop, SKU numbers are essential for managing a diverse inventory of beverages. 

The shop categorises its products by type, such as wines, beers, and spirits, and further distinguishes them by brand, volume, and specific attributes like variety or brew type. Each product type is assigned a unique identifier, with wines starting with ‘WN’, beers with ‘BR’, and spirits with ‘SP’. 

Brands are abbreviated to two or three letters, and volumes are noted in millilitres. Attributes are coded to reflect the product’s unique characteristics, such as ‘CHD’ for Chardonnay or ‘LGR’ for Lager. 

Finally, a sequential identifier is added to each SKU to indicate its entry into the inventory, ensuring each item is uniquely traceable. 

This systematic approach allows for efficient inventory tracking, accurate ordering, and a streamlined customer experience at checkout.

Here is a SKU example table. 

SKU Code
Product Type
Sequential ID
Product Description
Jacob’s Well
750 ml
Jacob’s Well Chardonnay 750ml Bottle #101
Aussie Brew
330 ml
Aussie Brew Lager 330ml Can #205
Jack Daniels
700 ml
Jack Daniels Whiskey 700ml Bottle #3
Monte Creek
750 ml
Monte Creek Shiraz 750ml Bottle #205
Hops Bay
500 ml
Hops Bay Ale 500ml Bottle #69
Grey Valley
1000 ml
Grey Valley Vodka 1000ml Bottle #6
River Run
750 ml
River Run Merlot 750ml Bottle #450
Coastal Brew
330 ml
Coastal Brew IPA 330ml Can #88

This table showcases a well-structured SKU system that simplifies inventory management and enhances the accuracy of stock levels and sales process efficiency. The shop integrates these SKU numbers into its point-of-sale and inventory management systems, ensuring that every transaction is recorded against the correct item.

Regular reviews and updates to the SKU system are conducted, typically on a quarterly basis, to accommodate new stock and phase out discontinued items, maintaining the integrity of the inventory management system. 

Are you aware of the stringent labelling requirements for alcoholic beverages in Australia? If you’re in the alcohol industry, our comprehensive guide on how to label alcoholic beverages is here to assist you in navigating these regulations with ease.

Key Uses of SKU Numbers

Seven key uses of SKU numbers

Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) are essential tools in modern business operations, offering a range of applications that streamline processes and enhance efficiency across various industries. Let’s delve into the key uses of SKU numbers and explore how they contribute to effective business management.

Inventory Tracking and Management

SKUs are fundamental in inventory tracking and management. They allow businesses to monitor stock levels accurately, identify when items need to be reordered and manage inventory across multiple locations. This real-time tracking is crucial for dynamic decision-making. 

A hardware store, for example, might use SKUs to monitor fast-moving items like nails and screws, automatically triggering orders when stock falls below a predetermined level.

Sales Insights and Trend Analysis

By analysing sales data linked to specific SKUs, companies can identify which products are bestsellers and which are underperforming. This data, combined with customer feedback, can refine product offerings. 

For instance, a clothing retailer might notice that SKUs for a particular style of jeans are consistently high sellers, indicating a trend that can inform future stock purchasing decisions.

Streamlining Checkout and Order Fulfilment

SKUs streamline the checkout process and order fulfilment. They ensure quick, accurate billing and efficient order processing in warehouses, enhancing customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

Product Identification and Customer Service

SKUs simplify product identification, aiding staff in locating items quickly. This efficiency enhances the customer experience through faster service and accurate product information, especially when handling returns, exchanges, or queries.

Inventory Auditing and Supplier Management

SKUs provide the granular data needed for financial reporting, inventory valuation, and predictive analytics for inventory management. This enables businesses to conduct thorough inventory audits, ensuring the actual stock matches recorded data. 

Additionally, SKUs help manage inventory received from suppliers, providing clear data for negotiations and maintaining consistency in stock levels.

Regulatory Compliance and Safety

In sectors like pharmaceuticals and food, SKUs are crucial for ensuring regulatory compliance and safety. They help track batch numbers, expiration dates, and other essential details necessary for product recalls or safety checks. 

For example, a pharmacy can use SKUs to efficiently manage and track medication stocks, ensuring patient safety and regulatory adherence.

Integration With Business Systems

SKUs integrate seamlessly with various business systems, including a POS system, inventory management, and accounting software. This integration enhances data accuracy and operational efficiency and leads to automation in various business processes. 

For example, when a sale is made, the SKU-based system automatically updates inventory levels and financial records, providing real-time data for informed decision-making.

Benefits of a SKU Number

List of nine advantages of SKU numbers

Utilising SKU numbers brings a host of benefits crucial for business optimisation and customer satisfaction. Let’s explore the major advantages of using SKU numbers.  

Improves Precision in Stock Management

SKUs enhance inventory accuracy, ensuring that each item is correctly logged and tracked. This precision prevents discrepancies and mismatches in inventory records, leading to more reliable stock management and better decision-making.

Boosted Sales and Marketing Effectiveness

By analysing SKU-level sales data, businesses can tailor their marketing efforts to individual customer preferences. This data-driven approach allows for personalised recommendations, targeted promotions, and enhanced customer engagement, leading to increased sales and customer loyalty.

Optimises Use of Business Resources

SKUs allow for a more efficient allocation of resources, including labour and storage. By understanding which items are in demand, businesses can better manage workforce scheduling and warehouse space, reducing costs and improving operational efficiency.

Facilitates Smoother Operations with Suppliers

Effective SKU management also improves relationships with suppliers. With precise data on product performance, businesses can negotiate better terms, optimise order quantities, and collaborate more effectively with suppliers for product development and replenishment strategies.

Reduces Inventory Shrinkage and Errors

Implementing SKUs can significantly reduce risks associated with inventory shrinkage and clerical errors. Accurate tracking minimises the chances of mistakes in order processing, safeguarding business assets.

Prevents Errors and Fraud

SKUs play a crucial role in reducing errors and preventing fraud. By using SKU numbers, businesses can quickly identify discrepancies in stock levels, detect unusual sales patterns, and take appropriate action. This level of oversight is critical for maintaining accurate inventory records and safeguarding against theft and fraud.

Enhanced Business Scalability

SKUs are essential for businesses looking to scale. They provide a robust framework for managing an increasing range of products, making it easier to expand into new markets or increase product lines without compromising operational efficiency.

Enhanced Data Analysis and Data-Driven Decision Making

SKUs provide valuable data that can be analysed to make informed business decisions. By tracking sales and performance metrics at the SKU level, companies gain insights into which products are bestsellers and which are underperforming. This information is crucial for strategic planning, such as optimising product ranges, pricing strategies, and marketing efforts.

Facilitates Multichannel Sales

For businesses selling across multiple channels, SKUs are essential for consistency. They help maintain uniformity in product information across various platforms, making it easier to manage listings on e-commerce sites, in physical stores, and in catalogues. This consistency is key to providing a seamless shopping experience for customers, regardless of where they make their purchases.

Best Practices for Generating a SKU Number

List of fifteen best practices for generating a SKU number

Implementing SKU numbers effectively is crucial for inventory management. Here are some best practices to consider when creating SKU numbers. 

Keep It Simple and Intuitive

The SKU should be easy to understand and remember. Avoid overly complex codes that could lead to confusion. 

For instance, if you’re categorising footwear, use straightforward abbreviations like ‘MNS’ for men’s shoes and ‘WMNS’ for women’s shoes. This approach makes it easier for staff to identify and work with the products.

A practical example would be ‘MNS-RUN-BLK-42’, representing men’s black running shoes in size 42. This straightforward approach aids staff in quickly identifying and managing products.

Prioritise Key Traits

It’s crucial to focus on the most important characteristics of your products when creating SKU numbers. Typically, products can be distinctly identified using three or four key features. 

Arrange these features in the SKU from the most general to the most specific. For example, start with broader categories like brand or type, followed by specifics like colour or size. This method ensures that similar items, like men’s jeans in different sizes, are easily distinguishable.

Avoid Starting SKUs With a Zero

Starting a SKU with zero should be avoided, as computer systems often misinterpret zeros at the beginning as null characters, leading to potential confusion and errors in inventory management. 

For instance, a SKU ‘01234XYZ’ might be read as ‘1234XYZ’. 

Therefore, to avoid such errors, start your SKU with a non-zero character, preferably an alphabet that represents a significant attribute of the product, which helps in maintaining accuracy.

Prioritise Information in SKU Codes from General to Specific

When organising product information into SKU codes, it’s crucial to establish a clear hierarchy of features. 

Typically, most products can be identified using three or four key attributes. Start by listing these attributes in the SKU, beginning with broad identifiers like the brand and concluding with a sequential number that pinpoints the specific variant. This order ensures that your SKU codes effectively convey essential information from the outset, enhancing clarity and functionality.

Use a Consistent Format

Establish a standard format for all your SKUs. A common approach is to start with a broad category code, followed by specific product attributes, and end with a unique identifier. 

For example, ‘WN-RED-750-001’ could represent a 750 ml bottle of red wine, the first of its kind in your inventory.

Don't Rely on Manufacture Numbers; Develop Your Own SKU System

Using manufacturer numbers for your SKUs can be overwhelming, especially if you source products from multiple manufacturers. Each manufacturer may have a different method for creating product codes. Therefore, developing a customised SKU system tailored to your business needs is advisable. 

This custom SKU system will allow you to focus on the traits most relevant to your inventory and customer inquiries, ensuring efficient management and easier product tracking.

Avoid Ambiguous Characters

Steer clear of characters that look similar and can be easily misread, like ‘0’ (zero) and ‘O’ (the letter O), or ‘1’ (one) and ‘I’ (the letter I). This reduces the risk of misinterpretation and errors in inventory management.

Always Use Capital Alphabets

In your SKU system, consistently use capital letters for all alphabetical characters. This practice eliminates confusion that can arise from the similarity between certain lowercase and uppercase letters, such as ‘l’ (lowercase L) and ‘I’ (uppercase i).

Using only capital letters also ensures greater clarity and reduces the likelihood of misreading or misinterpreting SKU codes, particularly during manual data entry or when scanning barcodes.

Refer to the following guides to learn more about barcoding technology. 

Limit the Length

While detail is important, excessively long SKUs can be cumbersome. Aim for a balance between informativeness and brevity, ideally keeping SKUs under 12 characters. This makes them easier to work with, especially during manual processes.

Reflect Your Inventory

Your SKUs should reflect the nature of your inventory. Consider the most common defining characteristics of your products and the queries of your customers, such as brand preferences or specific attributes like material or colour. The composition of your inventory should guide the format of your SKUs, with simpler identifiers for less varied stock and more detailed codes for larger, diverse inventories.

For example, for a clothing store, SKUs might include information on size, colour, and style. ‘WMN-JNS-BLU-S’ could denote women’s blue jeans in size small.

Avoid Special Characters

Using special characters like slashes, asterisks, or ampersands can cause compatibility issues with software systems, barcode scanners, and other technological tools. Stick to alphanumeric characters to ensure seamless integration across various platforms.

Update and Review Regularly

As your inventory changes, so should your SKU system. Regularly review and update your SKUs to reflect new product lines or discontinued items. This keeps your inventory management system accurate and up-to-date.

Train Your Staff

Ensure that all relevant staff members understand the SKU system. Proper training reduces errors and improves efficiency in inventory management. 

Test for Compatibility

Before finalising your SKU system, test it for compatibility with your existing software and operational processes. Ensure that it integrates well with your point-of-sale system, inventory management software, and other operational tools like barcode scanners.

At Triton, we take your barcode scanning capabilities to the next level. We offer a wide range of top-notch solutions from reputable brands such as Zebra and Honeywell.

Our extensive inventory features various barcode scanner models, including mobile terminals, general-purpose barcode scanners, rugged barcode scanners, fixed scanners & sensors, USB barcode scanners, wireless barcode scanners, 2D barcode scanners, and Bluetooth barcode scanners. This diverse selection ensures that we can meet a wide range of needs.

But we don’t stop at scanners. Triton is committed to excellence, and we offer a carefully curated range of essential barcode scanner accessories and spare parts and cables to ensure that your equipment always performs at its best.

When you choose Triton, you’re choosing unparalleled quality and support. Don’t hesitate to engage with our experts via the live chat widget below for personalised assistance.

Plan for Future Expansion

When designing your SKU system, it’s essential to consider the future growth of your business. This foresight prevents the need for a complete overhaul as your inventory expands. 

Ensure that your SKU format has enough flexibility to accommodate new product lines, variations, or categories. For example, if you start with a category code, ensure there are sufficient unused codes to include future product categories. 

Also, if you use numerical sequences for unique identifiers, leave enough room for expansion. For instance, starting with ‘001’ instead of ‘1’ anticipates a larger range of products. 

How to Design SKU Labels?

Template of BarTender SKU Label

Designing effective SKU labels is crucial for efficient inventory management. Here are some basic tips for designing SKU labels, along with useful resources and software recommendations to streamline the process.

  • Clarity and Readability: Ensure that the text, especially the SKU number, is clear and easy to read. The font size should be large enough to be easily readable but not so large that it overwhelms the label. Generally, a font size between 10 to 12 points is recommended. However, this can vary based on the label size and the amount of information included. Always choose a clear, sans-serif font for better readability. Fonts like Arial, Helvetica, or Calibri are often used because of their clean and uncluttered design. Avoid decorative or script fonts as they can be difficult to read, especially at smaller sizes. 
  • Use of Colour: While keeping the design simple, use colour strategically. Black text on a white background is the standard and most recommended for SKU labels. This high-contrast combination ensures maximum legibility under various lighting conditions and scanning scenarios. While black and white are standard, you can also use colours strategically. For instance, different colour borders or backgrounds can be used to signify different product categories or priority items. However, ensure that the text colour and background colour contrast well. Avoid light-coloured text on light backgrounds or dark text on dark backgrounds.
  • Consistent Layout: Maintain a consistent layout across all labels. This helps in quickly locating information and reduces confusion.
  • Include Essential Information: Alongside the SKU number, include critical information like product name, size, colour, and any other relevant details.
  • Quality Material: Use durable materials for labels, especially if they will be exposed to various environments like cold storage or outdoor conditions.

For more detailed insights on designing labels, please refer to our comprehensive guides:

These articles provide in-depth knowledge about the nuances of barcode and label design, helping you avoid common pitfalls and adopt industry best practices.

When it comes to designing SKU labels, Seagull Scientific’s BarTender Software is an excellent tool. This software offers a specialised SKU template that can be linked to databases, streamlining the SKU label creation process. The software’s flexibility allows for customisation and scalability, making it suitable for businesses of all sizes.

At Triton Store, we offer the BarTender software at unbeatable prices, a deal you won’t find elsewhere. Our range includes all editions – Starter, Professional, Automation, Enterprise, and the latest BarTender Cloud. Each edition is tailored to different business needs, ensuring you find the perfect fit for your label designing requirements.

Investing in BarTender Software through the Triton Store means you get flexibility, security, and support essential for effective barcode creation. This software not only simplifies the design process but also enhances the overall efficiency of your inventory management.

To discover how BarTender Software can revolutionise your label printing experience, feel free to contact us via our live chat widget. For more detailed information about the software, read our article: What is BarTender Software.

How to Print SKU Labels?

Printing SKU labels efficiently and accurately is a key part of inventory management. There are various methods available for printing, each with its own set of advantages and considerations.

Different Methods for Printing SKU Labels

  • Inkjet Printers: These are commonly used for their colour printing capabilities but are not typically favoured for SKU label printing due to slower print speeds and higher running costs.
  • Laser Printers: Known for their speed and efficiency in printing large volumes, laser printers are a good choice for office environments but may not be the best for harsher industrial settings.
  • Thermal Printers: These are widely regarded as the best option for printing SKU labels.

Why Thermal Printers Are the Best Choice?

Thermal printers stand out for several reasons:

  • Durability: Labels printed from thermal printers are more resistant to fading, smearing, and environmental factors like heat and humidity.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: These printers generally have lower ongoing costs as they don’t require ink or toner.
  • Efficiency: Thermal printers offer faster printing speeds, making them ideal for high-volume printing tasks.
  • Quality: They produce sharp, high-quality images essential for barcode scanning and legibility.

For a more detailed comparison of thermal printers with other types, refer to our articles:


At Triton Store, we understand the critical role that reliable, high-quality thermal printing plays in efficient inventory management. That’s why we’ve meticulously curated an exceptional selection of thermal printers designed to meet the diverse needs of businesses like yours.

We proudly offer an extensive collection from industry leaders such as Epson, Element, Senor, Honeywell, Zebra and TSC. Our inventory caters to a wide array of printing needs, encompassing everything from direct thermal printers and thermal transfer printers to specialised barcode label printers, desktop printers, industrial printers, mobile printers and receipt printers. Whatever your printing requirement, we have a solution that fits.

Recognising the unique requirements of different businesses, we also feature a vibrant range of coloured label printers from OKI. This selection ensures that you have access to printers that perform exceptionally and match your business’s specific aesthetic and functional needs.

Our commitment to your printing needs doesn’t stop at the printers themselves. We provide a comprehensive suite of accessories and parts to keep your equipment running smoothly. This includes durable spare printer parts and accessories, waterproof printer enclosures, cables and cleaning wipes, all tailored to prolong the life and efficiency of your printers.

To guarantee the best performance from your printers, we offer premium thermal print heads from renowned brands like Zebra, Honeywell, TSC, Intermec, Datamax, SATO, and Bizerba. These print heads are the heartbeat of your printers, ensuring consistent, high-quality printing every time. 

We also provide thermal print consumables. Our selection of print consumables is designed to provide superior adhesion and enduring print quality. From thermal transfer ribbons and thermal labels to thermal carton labels, thermal carcase tags, food-compliant thermal inserts, receipt rolls and shipping & freight labels, our consumables are crafted to meet the highest standards of quality and reliability. 

At Triton Store, we’re not just about offering superior products; we’re about offering them at unbeatable prices. Combined with our dedicated customer service team, ready to assist you at a moment’s notice, we ensure a seamless and satisfying shopping experience.

Connect with us through our live chat widget below for personalised assistance and explore our thermal printing solutions. Whether you’re looking to upgrade your current setup or venturing into thermal printing for the first time, Triton Store is here to guide you every step of the way.

What's the Difference Between SKU and UPC?

Dissimilarities between UPC and SKU codes

When managing inventory, it’s crucial to distinguish between a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) and a Universal Product Code (UPC). Though they are often mistakenly used interchangeably, they serve different purposes and have distinct characteristics. 

The fundamental difference between UPC and SKU lies in their scope and application. 

  • SKU (Stock Keeping Unit): This is a unique identifier that is business-specific. As a business owner, you have the flexibility to create your own SKUs based on your specific needs and internal management systems. SKUs are tailored to help businesses track products, manage stock levels, and streamline operations. They are not standardised across different businesses, meaning the same product can have different SKUs in different stores.
  • UPC (Universal Product Code): In contrast, a UPC is a standardised, universally recognised barcode used globally for tracking products in stores and managing inventory. Unlike SKUs, UPCs are the same for a particular product regardless of where it’s sold. The assignment of UPCs is regulated by GS1, an international organisation, ensuring each product has a unique, universal identifier. This standardisation makes it easier for retailers to sell and manage products from different suppliers and for customers to identify products. Check out our What is a UPC Code article to learn the nitty gritty of UPC barcodes. 

In practice, most products carry both a SKU and a UPC. The UPC codes facilitate universal product recognition and tracking across different retail platforms and supply chains. At the same time, the SKU allows individual businesses to manage their internal inventory and sales data more effectively.

For a more in-depth comparison and understanding of SKUs and UPCs, and how they can be effectively utilised in your business, check out our dedicated article: UPC vs. SKU. This article delves into the nuances of each system, offering valuable insights for business owners and inventory managers on how to leverage both identifiers for optimal inventory management and sales tracking.

Is SKU the Same as a Serial Number?

No, SKUs and serial numbers are different types of tracking identifiers, each serving a different purpose.

A SKU is a code that a company assigns to products for internal tracking, inventory management, and categorisation. It’s not unique to each individual item; rather, it groups similar products together. For example, all shirts of the same style and size would share the same SKU. 

In contrast, a serial number is a unique identifier for an individual item. It’s used to track a specific product for purposes like warranty, service, or recall. Each unit of a product will have a different serial number, distinguishing it from others, even if they are of the same model or type. 

Thus, while SKUs categorise groups of products, serial numbers uniquely identify each item within those categories.

Is a Barcode a SKU?

A barcode is not the same as a SKU, although they are closely related in retail and inventory management. 

A barcode is a visual, machine-readable representation of data, typically shown in a pattern of parallel lines that can be scanned. It often encodes information like a product’s manufacturer and specific item, which can include the SKU. Refer to our Barcode 101 guide to learn more about barcoding technology. Our Barcode Learning Centre will also come in handy.   

On the other hand, a SKU is an alphanumeric code assigned by a company to products for internal tracking and inventory management. 

While a barcode is a universal method for encoding product information (like SKUs or other identifiers) for quick scanning, a SKU is specifically designed by a business to categorise and manage its inventory. 

In many cases, the SKU is encoded within a product’s barcode, allowing for easy scanning and tracking of the item.

What is a Seller SKU on Amazon?

A Seller SKU on Amazon is a unique identifier used by sellers to manage and track their products on the Amazon platform. It serves a similar purpose to the standard SKU used in retail but is specific to the Amazon marketplace. 

Sellers have the option to create their own Seller SKUs, which allows them to align these identifiers with their internal inventory systems for consistency and ease of management. In cases where a seller does not specify their own SKU, Amazon will automatically generate one. This auto-generated SKU is unique to each product listing on Amazon. 

The Future of SKU Numbers

As we look towards the future, SKU numbers are set to become an even more integral part of inventory management, largely due to technological advancements and evolving market dynamics. The incorporation of technologies like RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) is transforming how businesses track and manage their inventory. 

RFID technology, for instance, enables more efficient and accurate inventory tracking by allowing bulk reading of items, significantly reducing the time and effort required compared to traditional barcode scanning. This technology ensures real-time inventory level updates, enhancing stock management accuracy. 

If you’re considering integrating RFID technology into your business or simply wish to learn more about it, the following guides will be immensely useful.

  • What are RFID Printers?: Discover the role and functionality of RFID printers, how they differ from standard printers, and their significance in creating RFID tags for efficient tracking and inventory management.
  • What are RFID Tags?: Dive into the world of RFID tags. Learn about their types, how they work, and their applications in various industries for real-time tracking and data collection.
  • QR Code vs RFID: Explore the comparative analysis of QR codes and RFID technology. Understand their distinct features, benefits, and suitable applications to determine which technology aligns best with your business needs.
  • RFID vs Barcode: This guide contrasts RFID technology with traditional barcodes. It covers the advantages and limitations of each, providing you with a comprehensive understanding to make informed decisions about adopting these technologies.

Simultaneously, AI and machine learning are bringing a new depth to SKU management. These technologies are capable of analysing vast amounts of SKU data to forecast demand, identify purchasing trends, and optimise inventory levels. This predictive analysis helps businesses to minimise overstocking and understocking situations, leading to more efficient inventory control and reduced costs.

Moreover, there’s a notable shift towards more dynamic and adaptable SKU systems. In an ever-changing market where new products are constantly being introduced, and consumer preferences are evolving, having a flexible SKU system becomes crucial. This adaptability allows businesses to quickly incorporate new products into their inventory system and adjust to market changes without the need for overhauling their entire SKU structure.

To stay ahead in this rapidly changing environment, businesses need to not only adopt these emerging technologies but also ensure that their SKU systems are designed for adaptability and scalability. Integrating data analytics into SKU management can provide valuable insights for strategic planning and decision-making. It’s about leveraging the data behind SKUs for more than just tracking; it’s about using it to understand customer behaviours, optimise stock levels, and ultimately drive business growth.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Identify the SKU?

The SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) can typically be identified as a unique 8 to 12 character alphanumeric code that typically combines letters and numbers assigned to a product. 

Where is the SKU Number Generally Found?

The SKU number is typically located on the product’s label or tag, often above the barcode. It can also be found on the product’s packaging, in the product description on websites or in catalogues, and on purchase receipts or invoices. 

In retail store and warehouse settings, SKU numbers are frequently listed on the shelf or bin labels where the product is displayed. 

For online stores or inventory management systems, the SKU is usually visible in the product’s listing details or within the inventory management interface. 

Do All My Products Need a SKU?

It is not mandatory for all products to have a SKU code. However, ideally, every unique item in your inventory should have its own SKU. Having unique SKU numbers will help in efficient tracking, managing stock levels, and simplifying the ordering and reordering processes.

Are SKUs Always Numbers?

No, SKUs are not always purely numerical. They typically consist of a combination of letters and numbers designed to provide a quick reference to important product attributes like category, size, colour, etc.

Can Two Products or Items Have the Same SKU Number?

No two products cannot have the same SKU number.   

Each SKU is a unique identifier that is assigned to a specific product, distinguishing it from all other items in inventory. The uniqueness of a SKU is crucial because it allows for precise tracking, management, and analysis of each individual product. 

If two different items were to share the same SKU, it would lead to inventory management confusion, order fulfilment errors, and challenges in tracking sales and product performance. 

Is a SKU Number the Same as an Item Number?

Not necessarily. An item number can be a broader term and might refer to different types of product identifiers, including SKUs. However, a SKU is specifically used for internal inventory management and tracking.

Does Shopify Require SKU Numbers?

While Shopify doesn’t mandatorily require SKU numbers for listing products, it’s highly recommended to use them. SKUs on Shopify help in better inventory tracking, order management, and analysis of sales patterns.

The Bottom Line

SKUs are not just mere identifiers; they are pivotal tools for tracking, organising, understanding inventory and making smarter inventory purchasing decisions. They enable businesses to enhance efficiency, accuracy, and customer satisfaction by systematically categorising and managing products.

This guide has journeyed through the creation, implementation, and future of SKU numbers, highlighting their indispensable value in a business’s operational framework. We’ve delved into the best practices for generating, designing, and managing SKUs and distinguishing them from other identifiers like UPCs and serial numbers. Moreover, we’ve explored the impact of emerging technologies like RFID and AI on SKU management, preparing you for the evolving landscape of inventory control.

As you conclude this guide, let it serve as both a resource and an encouragement to implement or refine your SKU system. Whether you’re building a new system from the ground up or optimising an existing one, the insights and strategies provided here are vital. 

A robust and well-thought-out SKU system is not just an asset; it’s a necessity in today’s dynamic market. With a solid SKU management system in place, your business is well-positioned to operate efficiently, respond to market demands swiftly, and grow sustainably.

Thanks for reading! 

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