A unique identifier assigned to a specific product for inventory tracking and management.

A Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) is a unique alphanumeric code assigned to each distinct product in a retailer’s inventory. It acts as a product identifier within a specific store or company, allowing for efficient tracking, management, and sales analysis. Here’s a breakdown of SKUs and their key functions:

Core Functions of a SKU:

  • Product Identification: The SKU serves as a unique identifier for each product variant, differentiating items based on size, color, brand, material, or any other distinguishing characteristic. Even slight variations within a product line will typically have unique SKUs.
  • Inventory Management: SKUs facilitate efficient inventory management by enabling accurate stock tracking. By associating sales data with specific SKUs, businesses can identify which products are selling well, which ones are lagging, and determine optimal reorder points.
  • Sales Analysis: SKUs allow for detailed sales analysis by tracking individual product performance. This data can be used to understand customer preferences, optimize pricing strategies, and identify marketing opportunities.
  • Supply Chain Efficiency: SKUs streamline communication within the supply chain. By using a common product identifier, retailers can efficiently communicate with manufacturers and distributors regarding specific inventory needs.

Components of a SKU:

The structure and length of SKUs can vary depending on the business and its inventory management system. However, they typically consist of a combination of alphanumeric characters that encode various product attributes:

  • Product Category: The initial characters might represent the product category (e.g., “SH” for shirts, “TS” for t-shirts).
  • Brand or Manufacturer: Certain characters might designate the brand or manufacturer (e.g., “NK” for Nike).
  • Product Features: Letters or numbers might indicate specific features like size (S, M, L) or color (BL for blue, RD for red).
  • Internal Codes: Some retailers might use internal codes within the SKU for tracking purposes.

Benefits of Using SKUs:

  • Improved Inventory Control: SKUs enable accurate stock tracking, minimizing the risk of stockouts or overstocking.
  • Enhanced Sales Analysis: By tracking individual product sales through SKUs, businesses can gain valuable insights into customer preferences and buying habits.
  • Streamlined Operations: SKUs facilitate smoother inventory management, order processing, and communication throughout the supply chain.
  • Reduced Errors: Unique product identifiers minimize errors associated with manual product identification or picking during order fulfillment.

SKU vs. UPC and Barcode:

  • SKU: An internal code used by a specific retailer or company for their inventory management system.
  • UPC (Universal Product Code): A standardized barcode system used to uniquely identify products across different retailers. While some SKUs might incorporate a UPC code, they are not the same.
  • Barcode: A machine-readable representation of a product code, typically a UPC or SKU, that can be scanned for quick product identification and data retrieval.