GS1, a US nonprofit that sets standards for international commerce, is the group responsible for doling out the 12-digit numbers under barcodes on products. The numbers are called universal product codes (UPC).
Businesses pay to join GS1 US. Then the business is assigned a unique identification number that appears as the first part of its UPC. Typically, companies use different UPC codes for each product they sell, even if it is just a different size. So companies will add more numbers to their GS1-issued identification code to identify each of their products. Each UPC can be used to produce a specific barcode that can then be printed out and attached to products or, ideally, incorporated into the product design so that it is easily scanned at the register.
GS1 US membership costs an initial fee of least $750 and then an annual maintenance fee of at least $150. Fee amounts depend on the number of unique products you sell plus your annual revenue.
Another option is to go to an Internet-based company such as BuyABarCode.com that resells UPC codes for less than $100. This way, small businesses don’t have to pay to join GS1 themselves.
This way, your company is paying for the use of that company’s identification number instead of a unique number of your own. Your products’ UPC will begin with another company’s ID number. This situation works if you are just starting out and don’t have the cash to apply for to GS1 US, or if working with small or independent retailers who don’t mind, and if you’re just selling one or two products. Be ware – the cheaper route won’t work if you plan to sell through major retailers because they generally require product makers to have their own identification numbers.
A GS1 US membership form can be filled out online on GS1’s Web site, www.gs1us.org.
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