Monday, August 11, 2008

OMG, UPCs!


While I was in Seattle, I had the chance to meet with a buyer from Amazon. They had contacted me back in April. It seems they are interested in carrying my switch plates. I couldn't be happier for the attention and possible exposure.

While this is all very exciting, it does open a can of worms. In this case, the worms are the ubiquitous UPC codes. You know, those black and white bar codes (accompanied by numbers) that you see on everything. I've even used them in my jewelry. Amazon requires all their product suppliers to have them.

"UPC" stands for Universal Product Code. Originally, UPC bar codes were created to help speed up the checkout process and keep better track of inventory in grocery stores. This system was so successful, that it quickly spread to all other retail products.

UPCs originate with a company called the Uniform Code Council (UCC). A manufacturer applies to the UCC for permission to enter the UPC system. The manufacturer pays an annual $150.00 fee (in addition to the original membership fee of ~$750.00) for the privilege of being a part of the system. In return, the UCC issues the manufacturer a six-digit manufacturer identification number and provides guidelines on how to use it. I'm not quite certain, but I do believe there is an additional cost per code which means that if Amazon wanted 10 different styles from me, I would have to purchase 9 additional codes. You can see how the $$ starts to add up.

There are ways for smaller businesses to obtain UPC codes. Third party companies are now making it possible to buy unused or discontinued UPC codes for less than $100.00 each. While the code will be yours, it will also be linked to that third party. Most major retailers require that their product suppliers have there own codes.

So, there you have it. More information than you ever wanted to know about UPC codes. I'll let you know what I decide to do after I research all of my options. Sometimes when opportunity knocks, I want to sneak out the back door.

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