Boaz David and Jane Hamill at the DG Expo Trade Show NYC
Boaz David and Jane Hamill at the DG Expo Trade Show NYC

In today’s post, my friend and colleague, Boaz David, founder of Human B Designer, answers a question from a clothing designer. Take it away, Boaz!

QWhat’s the skinny on bar codes/upc codes. Do I need to buy these for my hang tags?

A. To answer the question I’d like to first explain what a UPC code is and why it is used.

UPC, Universal Product Code, is a bar code that encodes product information (company, product style, size, color, etc.) in a visual pattern that can be read electronically. For example, major department stores who have an electronic point of sale system at the checkout use UPCs to keep track of their stock, sales, and to reorder products by scanning the barcode.

There are 2 formats of UPC codes

  1. Dimension (linear) code – Black lines with white spaces in between which are for the machines to “read” and an x-digit (usually 12). These are usually seen on products you buy in the supermarket or department stores. To find out more on how it works read this.
  2. Dimension code – A square pixelated image like the kind you see on movie tickets.

UPC Code sample

How to obtain a UPC code

Only GS1 US can issue your company a globally unique “GS1 Company Prefix” that is used to create UPC numbers. This expense depends on the number of products that you are looking to code and is a combination of an initial fee + annual renewal fee, it can get pricey for a new line. Check the prices here. You can also check out an article on UPC codes from the Wall Street Journal here.

Do I need a UPC code?

Now that we know all this info, let’s examine if you need to obtain a UPC for your fashion products.

The main determinant is how you plan on selling and distributing your product:

  • If you are selling products directly to customers (on your website, private events, etc.) – you don’t need it.
  • If you are selling wholesale to small boutiques – most likely you will not need it (unless they specifically ask for it you don’t need to offer it).

If you are selling to a big retailer/distributer such as a big department store or any major national retailer (including Amazon) you will most likely need to have UPC codes; HOWEVER, check with the retailer first if you are required to have them. Major retailers will provide you with their shipping guide when they place an order. UPC code information will be included and if for some reason it’s not, you can always ask your buyer.

I hope this helps clear up the issue for you. If this article was helpful to you, will you please LIKE it and share it?

And I have a question for you…

Are you using UPC codes? What advice do you have for us about them? Let me know in the comments below.

Boaz David is the founder of Human B Designera NYC consulting and product development company offering a one stop solution for emerging designers and established fashion brands. 





5 Responses

  1. Thank you for the post. Can you clarify: Are you saying some of these department stores or national retailers may PROVIDE you with THEIR UPCs?

  2. Good question. Yes, some might provide their own UPC if you don’t have yours. Usually these types of retailers will provide you with a shipping routing and guidance booklet and in it you’ll find their policy regarding shipping in general, and it will touch upon EDI, bar-codes, labeling, ticketing, packaging, and invoicing, etc.

  3. I occasionally sell hand made clothes on ebay and i am very small seller, i hardly earn 20-30$ monthly. I want to expand my business by uploading some more clothing products gradually. But now ebay has made UPC mandatory for clothing category, i am unable to spend huge fee for UPC so how can i upload my products that remain in Good til Cancelled category without UPC ? Can i use any dummy no. as UPC or it will be tracked by ebay ? Please guide.

  4. I’m starting a clothing line I already sale a few on ebay now I plan on going to department stores do I need a upc and how much..

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