If you are interested in selling merchandise through a distributor or retailer that uses scanner technology, you will need a UPC bar code. UPC stands for Universal Product Code and is the standard used by retailers to allow inventory, pricing and checkout to be controlled electronically. The process of obtaining bar codes for your merchandise is straightforward but involves some expense and paperwork.

Step 1.

Contact GS1 US (see Resources) to apply for a unique UCC Company Prefix. You can apply online, by phone at (937) 435-3870 Monday - Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, or by fax. When you receive this number you will also get a certificate of authentication, required by retailers to verify that your number is unique and authorized by GS1 US. In addition, you will receive membership in Partner Connections, which provides barcode support, and access to the Data Driver tool for defining and managing bar codes.

Step 2.

Using the Data Driver tool, assign unique bar codes for each of your items.

Step 3.

Obtain a digital file of your bar code. If packaging has not been developed, the bar code can be incorporated into the packaging design. If packaging is already in place or doesn't allow for printing bar codes, bar codes will need to be printed separately and affixed to the items.


There are many companies that specialize in printing bar codes, but these companies do not create bar codes or assign UCC Company Prefixes. Be sure you understand what you are paying for before doing business with a bar code company.