Getting to know Barcodes

Barcodes for Retail Products

  • Barcodes are utilised on items sold in shops to aid retailers. Retail barcodes are scanned at checkout and used for tracking stock, among other things. While there are no legal obligations for these barcodes, they must comply with accepted retail industry standards.
  • There are three types of retail barcodes:
    • EAN13 – 13 digit globally unique barcodes used in most countries outside the USA and Canada – can be used on products worldwide.
    • EAN8 – a smaller globally unique barcode intended for VERY SMALL products – difficult to obtain and only available from GS1. They are only available through GS1, a membership organisation that safeguards the limited number of 8-digit EAN8 barcodes. To obtain one, you must provide proof that your product is indeed very small and wait for approval from GS1.
    • UPC (also called UPC-A) – 12 digit globally unique barcodes commonly used in the USA and Canada, but can be used on products worldwide.
  • Our EAN13 and UPC barcode numbers can be used for any retail product except for books & magazines.
  • Books require an ISBN, which is turned into an ISBN barcode (in EAN13 format).
  • Magazines require an ISSN number, which is turned into an ISSN barcode (in EAN13 format).
  • All legal retail barcodes, including ours, are sourced from the GS1 system. You can acquire your barcodes directly from GS1 through a licensing process, which may require filling out multi-page membership forms and paying joining and annual renewal fees before receiving approval. Alternatively, you have the option to purchase barcodes from authorized barcode reseller companies, like ourselves.
  • Retail barcode numbers are unique worldwide. They are protected. You can’t just make up barcode numbers to use (unless you are ONLY selling your products within your own store). Barcode numbers need to be purchased or obtained through a license arrangement. Obtaining a barcode number from a licensee organisation is usually VERY expensive.
  • There is NO product details stored in barcodes used for retail. Barcode numbers are purely unique numbers, effectively drawn from a large international database and allocated to you. The bars of the barcode ONLY encode the number shown under the bars. Scanning the bars is just a quick way to enter the barcode number into a retailers computer system, so that the product information, pricing etc. shows up at the checkout.
  • Your seller needs to link your barcode number with your product information in their system manually. When the seller receives your product, they will scan the barcode or enter the barcode number in their computer system. They will also input additional product details such as the name, description, retail price, and supplier. Subsequently, when the barcode is scanned during checkout, the appropriate information will be displayed. Major retailer chains will need you to fill in a form with your information, which will be automatically inserted into their computer system.
  • A different barcode number is needed for each unique product – and then you can sell thousands or millions of the same product with the same barcode number on it. For example, if you have three different products and each has five different colours, you will need 3 x 5 = 15 barcodes.
  • The easiest method to add a barcode to your goods is by integrating the barcode image into the design of your product packaging. We supply the barcode images for printing on your product. If you have already printed your product packaging, then you can add a barcode using a separate sticky label.
  • Barcode numbers say NOTHING about the country of origin of the product or the company. The first few digits of a barcode number ONLY show the country of origin of the BARCODE NUMBER. Our numbers start with 07 which shows the NUMBER comes from the USA. We have thousands of customers using tens of thousands of our barcodes in 100+ countries without any problems.
  • Our barcodes can be scanned by ALL retailers WORLDWIDE. However, a very small group of retailers have extra requirements that restrict barcodes. For details of barcode acceptance worldwide see
  • Our barcodes can be used worldwide, except in China, where some distributors require a GS1 barcode from your country. They believe that the first digits on a barcode indicate the product’s origin, which is not accurate. Selling products in China can be expensive for manufacturers who hold the mistaken view that they don’t need GS1 barcodes. Chinese distributors may demand GS1 barcodes, and joining GS1 is both time-consuming and costly. You’ll need to pay joining and annual fees, and if you don’t pay your renewal fees, you may incur legal fees and debt collection charges.
  • Retail barcodes do not need to be registered however you can register them if you want to. If you purchase retail barcodes (EAN or UPC) from our company, you will be able to register your barcode numbers & product details for free on the International Barcodes Database.


Barcodes for Cartons

  • Barcodes can be used for cartons containing retail products. These cartons are used for shipping and storage.
  • ITF-14 barcodes are the common barcodes for cartons.
    • These are 14-digit numbers that come from the barcode on the product inside the box.
    • This is solely for boxes for sending and storing items. If the carton is being sold at retail level, it should have a retail barcode on it (EAN13 or UPC) rather than an ITF-14 barcode, e.g. a case of wine can be bought as a single unit by a customer so would need a retail barcode (EAN13 or UPC).
    • These barcodes are bigger than the ones used in shops and need a thick horizontal line at the top and bottom..


QR Codes

  • QR codes are square-shaped barcodes that resemble a maze..
  • QR codes can link to a webpage or hold data.
  • QR codes can be used on products sold in stores, but they also require a retail barcode on it. The shop scans the barcode on the product during checkout to determine its price and other details.

Barcodes Images

  • Barcodes can be made using several encoding layouts.
    • Some of these formats are suitable for retail products and books/magazines (EAN13, UPC-A, EAN8)
    • Some of these formats are useful for cartons (ITF-14 barcodes)
    • Some of these formats are useful for tracking pallets or shipping containers
    • Some of these formats are used for stock tracking and inventory purposes (e.g. for library books or asset labelling)
    • Some are two dimensional e.g. QR codes and contain information or links to website URLs
  • We can create barcodes in all of these formats