Introduction To Barcodes

Barcodes for Retail Products

Barcodes are used on retail products to help retailers. They are used for scanning at the checkout, stock tracking etc. There are no legal requirements for retail barcodes, however they do need to meet accepted retail industry standards.

There are 3 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 – an 8 digit globally unique barcode intended for VERY SMALL products – difficult to obtain and only available from GS1. GS1 is a membership organisation. There is a limited number of EAN8s, and hence GS1 guard them carefully. So to obtain these, you need to submit proof that your product is very small, and wait to see if GS1 approve this.
    • 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 books & magazines. You can purchase EAN13 or UPC barcodes from us here

How do barcodes work?

Barcode numbers are purely unique numbers, effectively drawn from a large international system and allocated to you. The bars of the barcode ONLY encode the number shown under the bars. Product information is not encoded. 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 retailer has to manually connect your barcode number to your product details within their system. When a retailer first receives your product, they scan the barcode or type the barcode number into their computer system. They will also enter other product information eg product name, retail price, supplier etc.

Can I make up my own barcode numbers?

No. Retail barcode numbers are globally unique numbers and 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 must be purchased or obtained through a license arrangement.

All legal retail barcodes (including ours) originate from the GS1 system.

Do barcodes mean origin of product?

No. 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 120+ countries without any problems. We do not sell 489 barcodes. Only GS1 Hong Kong can issue 489 barcodes.

How many barcodes do I need?

Each product variation has it’s own barcode number.  You can sell thousands or millions of the same product with the same barcode number on it. For example if you have one product in two colours and each has 3 different sizes, you will need 2 x 3 = 6 barcodes.

how many barcodes do I need

Barcodes for Books & Magazines

Books, magazines and sheet music use a different numbering system.

You can purchase an ISBN barcode for your book here.

You can purchase an ISSN barcode for your magazine/periodical here.

How do I use my barcode

The best way to get a barcode onto your product is to incorporate 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. For more information please see

Are your barcodes accepted everywhere?

Our barcodes are scannable by ALL retailers WORLDWIDE. However a very small group of retailers have extra requirements that restrict barcodes. For details of barcode acceptance worldwide see

Barcode Registration

Registration is optional. However there are many advantages of registering. If you purchases 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

  • We make barcodes for shipping cartons containing retail products.
  • ITF-14 barcodes are the common barcodes for cartons.
    • These are 14 digit numbers based on the barcode number of the retail product inside the carton
    • These are ONLY for cartons for shipping and storage. If the carton is sold at retail level, it needs a retail barcode on it (EAN13 or UPC) rather than an carton code.g a case of wine can be bought as a single unit by a customer so would need a retail barcode (EAN13 or UPC).
    • carton barcodes are larger than retail barcodes, and should have a heavy horizontal line top and bottom.


QR Codes

  • QR codes are square barcodes that look a bit like a maze.
  • often used to link to a website URL or to contain information.
  • can be used on retail products, BUT the product will ALSO need a retail barcode on it. Currently most retailers are not using QR codes at checkouts. However this is likely to be the case in future. The retail barcode (EAN or UPC) is still the most commonly used at point of sale for pricing, stock control etc at the checkout.


Barcodes Images

  • We make barcodes in many formats.
    • suitable for retail products and books/magazines (EAN13, UPC-A, EAN8)
    • used on cartons (ITF-14 barcodes)
    • tracking pallets or shipping containers
    • Some used for stock tracking and inventory purposes (eg for library books or asset labeling)
    • 2 dimensional eg QR codes and contain information or links to website URLS
  • We can create barcodes in all of these formats


Free Guide To Barcodes

Introduction to barcodes guide