If you manufacture your own products you're probably wondering if you need barcodes in order to sell your products at the online, local or national level. The answer is, It Depends!
In the four years that I had my t-shirt business, my t-shirts were in more than 300 stores, including gift shops, hospital gift shops, mom & pop stores, food coops, local bookstores, spas, gyms, hair & nail salons, museum stores, Whole Foods, and many others. During that time, only ONE store required me to have a barcode.
How to determine if you need a barcode for your products
You DON'T NEED A BARCODE if you:
- sell products directly to consumers through your website
- sell products directly to consumers at in-person craft fairs, trade shows, weekend events, etc.
- sell products directly to consumers in an online marketplace (Etsy, Ebay, IndieMade, etc.)
- sell products to local retail stores (they usually have their own barcoding system)
- sell products to any retail stores that do not require barcodes (hotel chains, museum gift shops, hospital gift shops, etc.)
You DO NEED A BARCODE if you:
- sell products on Amazon
- sell products on an online marketplace that requires them
- sell to large retailers like Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble, Walgreens, GNC, etc.
- sell to any retail stores that require barcodes
How to get a barcode for your products
There are two ways to go about getting barcodes: directly through GS1 or through a reseller. Which way you go depends on a few things.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before deciding what option is best for you:
- Do you have money to invest in barcodes?
- How many products do you need barcodes for now and in the future?
- What type of online or offline retailers do you plan on selling your products to?
If you have A LOT of products and if you plan on selling to major retail stores, it's a good idea to use GS1US.org. Their initial fee is $750, with an annual renewal fee of $150.
The first step in creating barcodes with GS1 is to obtain a GS1 Company Prefix. A GS1 Company Prefix is a unique identification number that GS1 US issues just to your company—and it’s part of every barcode, Universal Product Code, and identification number you create. It’s the internationally accepted way to uniquely identify your brand in the global supply chain.
Once you set up your Company Prefix, you can create unique barcodes for each product through their online system. Once you have codes for each product, you need to use any one of their approved partners to print the barcodes for you. You can find a list here.
If you have a smaller budget, don't plan on selling through many national retailers or if a few of your retailers have asked you for barcodes, it's best to use a reseller rather than use GS1. You won't get your own Company Prefix number, but you will get a unique Universal Product Code for each barcode.
Resellers usually charge about $20 or so per barcode (some charge more and some charge less). So, if you need 20 barcodes, for example, it makes more sense to use a reseller. If you need 100, it's probably best to use GS1.
I have ordered barcodes through http://www.createbarcodes.com and had a great experience, so I highly recommend them.
I hope this post helped you determine whether or not you need barcodes and, if so, where to get them. If you have any other questions about barcodes, make sure to leave a comment below with your question.