By John Sample
What are Bar Codes?
Bar codes are a machine-readable graphic representation of a number. The number is used to identify a unique stock-keeping unit, or SKU. The bar code number can quickly be read by inexpensive scanners. This number is then used by your computerized accounting system for proper inventory control.
There are a number of types of bar codes. “UPC-A” is the standard bar code used in the United States for most retail products.
Why do I need a bar code?
There are a number of advantages of having a bar code for cannabis growers, producers and retailers. The most important is proper inventory control – which is mandated, in Washington, by the Washington State Liquor Control Board. Having bar codes on inventory items allows rapid identification of specific SKUs. The likelihood of inventory quantity irregularities is greatly reduced.
Imagine this scenario from the retailer’s point of view. You have Hindu Kush available in 1-, 2-, 4- and 8-gram packages. The value of these packages will be quite different. If, in the process of selling a 1-gram package, an employee accidentally delivers a 2-gram package to the customer – you have an inventory irregularity issue. This can cost you money. With proper bar codes on all packages, and if the retail employee uses a scanner for item identification, the risk of inventory irregularity is decreased dramatically.
How do I get a bar code?
GS1 is the non-profit, international organization that sets standards and controls the distribution of bar code numbers.
There are presently two ways to obtain proper GS1 UPC-A compatible numbers.
- You can deal directly with GS1 at http://www.gs1.org/. Currently it is necessary to join GS1. There is an initial fee for the numbers needed. And there is a yearly fee for continual use of the numbers.
- Prior to 2002, purchasers of GS1 bar codes received a perpetual license on the codes they purchased. Owners of these pre-2002 codes can resell unused numbers. These pre-2002 numbers do not require yearly fees and run for about $25 each.
How many bar codes will I need?
You will need one bar code for each SKU you intend to sell. As in the Hindu Kush 1-, 2-, 4- and 8-gram packages above – you would need four separate bar codes.
Bar code numbers should not be “recycled.” You risk alienating your retail base.