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

Universal Product Code (UPC) vs Stock Keeping Unit (SKU)

Universal Product Code (UPC) and Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) are barcodes placed in goods. However, they differ in the representation made by these codes. UPC is the uniform bar code that provides the description of the product; while SKU is used to track stock and prices of the product.


UPC is widely used in stores for tracking. It is placed in the product by the manufacturer and will be the same wherever the product will be sold. It is a 12-digit numeral, with no letters, that identifies the product and bears the description of the product. The first and last numerals serve as the bit pattern and are rarely similar to others to ensure reliability in scanning.


SKU is a code for identification and tracking by a store and the business. It is alphanumeric and has 8 characters. The code is embedded to identify the product and its price. It was initialized for better data management for retailers. It aids the systematic tracking of the goods for proper inventory and assurance of availability. It also helps keep track of the fast moving items of the production.

Difference between UPC and SKU

Although both UPC and SKU are codes used by companies, the use of these are totally different. UPC is of use to consumers while SKU is of use to the retailers. Because UPC is placed by manufacturers, similar products may have similar UPCs but different SKUs, especially when the products are sold at different retailing outlets. The UPC is a universal tracking system while SKU is an instore system. Aside from these, the composition of both also differs. UPC is numeric, SKU is alphanumeric, a mix of numbers and letters. UPC is 12 digits, SKU is 8 digits.

UPC and SKU, although with different usages, aid with the goal of keeping track of products.

In brief:

• UPC is the uniform bar code that gives a clear description of the product.

• SKU is a specific number embedded in a product for tracking in a retail store.

• UPC is a 12-digit numeric code whilst SKU is an 8-digit alphanumeric string.

• UPC is universal, therefore used by all, whilst SKU is an instore system.

  • http://profiles.google.com/hardwood4us Andre Meneguini

    Thanks, Very helpful!