Playing with the Big Kids .... UPC Codes
It occurs to me there really is no manual for starting a company. We have "What to Expect when you're Expecting". But where the heck is the "What to Expect when Starting a Company". There are a ton of rah rah seize the day books (which honestly, really annoy me) - and some super cool books that teach you to iterate and fast (Eric Ries) - but where the heck are the books that have steps 1 - 1000.....? Being an entrepreneur requires blazing new trails - but isn't it our responsibility to make it easier for the next guy? Share the knowledge. So here's how we start playing with the big kids in retail.
Read more: The Case for Retail
Major retailers require UPC codes. UPC codes are unique to companies similar to social security numbers are to people. The code is made up of a prefix which represents your company; and a suffix which represents your products. Like a social security number, there is only one place that you can get one - go to www.gs1us.org.
There you can apply on-line; the fees are based on the number of UPC codes needed and the expected company revenue. The fee is not cheap, they start at $750 and there is an annual renewal fee of ~ $150. You can code everything from the widget level; to the boxes; to the pallet; or all of them.
If you google UPC codes you will find a ton of companies professing to sell super cheap UPC Codes. What they are selling is a UPC that is THEIR companies prefix - and your product will be the suffix. This may be ok for smaller companies with small budgets, however, most major retailers will reject this. Once you apply on line, you will receive an email and password and you can register your products directly on their web application. They have a tutorial on how to get started and I highly recommend viewing first. http://www.gs1us.org/gs1_us/data_driver. Very Easy. You have your UPC Codes.
There is a really good WSJ article which discusses this:
So UPC codes fall in the "I have no idea what the hell they are so they intimidate me" category. As such, I did what I normally do - avoid until it was absolutely necessary. Today it was necessary and honestly figuring this out was a breeze. Even more surprising, my conversations with others in the retail industry really illuminated the lack of information on the subject.
This falls in the "Nothing's Ever as Good or as Bad as it Seems" slogan that sits on my desk.