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Retail supply chain


Any business that wants to identify its products with a barcode that will be usable in the retail world needs to become a member of its national GS1 member organisation. Each member is then allocated a block of 13-digit GTINs (global trade item numbers) that can be printed as barcodes. Membership prices begin at about £119 per year and you will be allocated at least 1,000 different numbers.


Each user then assigns a particular number to identify a particular product, and all of its variants are assigned a different number. For example, a company producing three types of umbrella, each available in six different colours, will use 18 numbers to identify each of these individually. If these are then packed into outer cases of five and ten umbrellas, 36 more numbers are needed to identify all the outer cases uniquely.


If the item is to be sold at the retail point-of-sale, it will need to have an EAN-13 barcode. These symbols can also be used on outer cases, but many companies will decide to use an ITF-14 symbol instead.


Getting an EAN-13 or ITF-14 barcode is quite simple, as there are companies that specialise in producing these as digital images that your designer can incorporate into your packaging artwork. If you would rather use barcode labels, that is also possible, and you may decide that you will print them in-house rather than outsource them.

To be sure that your barcode has every chance of being readable after it has been printed, it makes sense to pay for a barcode image rather than use a free one found somewhere on the internet. This is because the image needs to be correctly sized and adjusted to suit the printing process for the packaging, and experienced suppliers will be able to advise you on the right options to choose.

GS1 logo
EAN-13 barcode used for point of sale

To obtain a barcode number contact GS1

EAN-13 barcode commonly for retail point of sale

ITF-14 barcode used for outercase

ITF-14 Barcode. Used for outercases.

Barcode advice