How to Create an SKU Number

Once you have an inventory of fashion items, you need a convenient way to keep track of them. The best way to do this is to create an SKU number. SKU stands for stock keeping unit. It’s a number that you create for your fashion items, and it will be unique to the items you sell.

The main reason for an SKU number is inventory tracking. However, they come in handy for other reasons, too. Keep reading to learn more about SKU numbers, how to create an SKU, and different ways to use SKUs.

What SKU Numbers Are, and What They Are Not

SKU numbers can be any combination of numbers, letters, or both numbers and letters. They can be short or long. They can be random alphanumeric digits, or they can have meaning.

It’s important to note that an SKU number is not a UPC number and it is also not a serial number. A UPC number is a 12-digit universal product code. It is not unique to any particular store. A serial number is something most often used for items like computers and refrigerators, used to track ownership and warranties. You probably won’t have to deal with serial numbers in the fashion industry.

How to Create AN SKU Number

There are SKU generators that will spew out random numbers for you, and you can certainly use these if you want to. Type “free SKU generator” into a search engine, and you’ll get plenty of options to choose from.

However, we recommend creating SKU numbers that actually mean something to you. Here are some ideas to get you thinking of ways to create meaningful SKU numbers.

  • Segment the digits to refer to different things. For instance, the first 3 digits could be a category (200 for men’s ties) and the last 3 digits could be a unique identifier (001 for the black silk tie). The black silk tie would then have an SKU number of 200001. A red silk tie might have the number 200013.
  • Add letters to mean specific things. Maybe you create shoes for men, women, girls, and boys. Your SKU numbers could begin with M, W, G, and B. Let’s say you have a category of scarves. Your category number is 45. You sell different colored scarves, and each color gets its own letter combination. A purple and white scarf could have an SKU of 45-PUWH.
  • For more complicated inventories, try using an 8-digit SKU, segmenting 4 pairs of numbers to mean different things. The segments can identify different departments, item type, gender, style, season, color, size, fabric, variation, or whatever way you differentiate your products. Your SKU might look like this: TS201577. The TS stands for one thing, 20 means something else, 15 is a code for another thing, and 77 might be a unique identifier.

Tips for Better SKU Numbers

Here are a few pro tips to help you avoid confusion.

  • Avoid using letters that look like numbers, unless you know you won’t confuse them. It’s easy to mistake zeros for the letter O. Number one and lowercase L are another look-alike you have to watch out for.
  • Go for a shorter number rather than a longer one. SKU numbers are meant to make your life easier, so keep them as simple as you can.
  • When you create a formula that works well for you, be consistent. For example, if your purple and white scarf is 45-PUWH, don’t call your black and white scarf BLWH-45.
  • Be consistent with fonts, too. If you’re printing your SKU on your tag, make sure they all have the same font. Different fonts can lead to unnecessary confusion.
  • Avoid using zeros at the beginning of the SKU. Some software will automatically edit out zeroes at the beginning of numbers.
  • Make your numbers unique to your business. Some people are tempted to use a manufacturer number that came from the fabric. This is actually more confusing. Keep your SKU numbers different from any other numbers you work with.

Where to Store SKU Numbers

The best place to store your numbers is your inventory management system. Having an inventory management system is much better than keeping your SKU numbers on an Excel spreadsheet. It’s more efficient, and you’ll be able to incorporate the data more easily into all of your business activities.

What Do You Use SKU Numbers For?

You create SKU numbers because they help you do various things with your fashions. They aren’t meant to be confusing or important-looking. Take a look at the following ways that SKU numbers come in handy.

  • Internal Tracking. When each of your products has its own identification number, you can easily keep track of how many of each item you have in stock. As your fashion business grows, you’ll find that your SKU number system is a lifesaver!
  • Make Better Decisions. Because you have all your inventory data at your fingertips, you’ll be able to make better decisions. You can easily figure out what you need more of, what you need to push in sales, what types of materials you might need to stock up on. You get the picture. Knowing your inventory data is vital to your decision-making skills. Read this article to learn how to manage excess inventory.
  • Improve Accuracy in Business Procedures. Accurate inventories improve your all-around accuracy. Having everything labeled by its own code and stored in your inventory management system, you’ll be able to accurately communicate about your product and prevent shipping errors.
  • Sell Online. Having an SKU number for each product is an industry standard. Most online sellers won’t let you list a product without an SKU. Need help with your online sales? Find some helpful tips here.
  • Organize. SKU numbers can help you organize your products so you can find them easily in your store or in storage. Organization helps you maintain control over your products, so you won’t be the harried, confused business owner who can’t find what your customer wants.

Closing Thoughts

When you come up with a streamlined SKU number system that is meaningful to your business, you’ll be able to efficiently find, track, and sort your fashion product. Being an efficient business owner is key to making more sales and satisfying more customers. Even if you find it intimidating to create an SKU number system, remember that as your business grows, your system will be more familiar to you. It will make your life much easier in the long run.


StartUp FASHION is an online community where independent designers and emerging brands are coming together, helping one another, forming friendships, collaborating, letting off steam, sharing victories, and belonging to a network of people who get it; who are doing it too. We’re a place to access and discover the tools and information you need to build your fashion business. We help you define your path and give you the guidance, encouragement, and resources to follow that path.

  1. Connie

    This is helpful information. I tried setting up for the class the link didn’t work.

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