A stock-keeping unit or SKU (/ˈskjuː/ or /ˌɛsˌkeɪˈjuː/) is a number or code used to identify each unique product or item for sale in a store or other business. It is a unique identifier for each distinct product and service that can be purchased. The usage of SKU is rooted in data management, enabling the company to systematically track its inventory or product availability, such as inwarehouses and retail outlets. They are often assigned and serialized at the merchant level. Each SKU is attached to an item, variant, product line, bundle, service, fee, or attachment. SKUs are often used to refer to different versions of the same product. For example, a retail store carrying the game Guitar Hero 3 might have six SKUs, two for each of the three platforms—one with and one without a guitar controller. Good data design practice demands that identifiers be meaningless. This provides maximum flexibility, because a code with a meaning can easily overflow the number of characters allotted, conflict with that of a new characteristic, etc. While a meaningless SKU will be more difficult for humans to relate a product, automated systems can do so without any limitation. The following are 7 common SKU systems: Example 1:
An imaginary product, called a widget, has a part number of 1234. It is packed 20 to a box, and the box is marked with the same part number 1234. The box is then placed in the warehouse. The box of widgets is the stock keeping unit (SKU), because it is the stocked item. Even though the part numbers are interchangeable to mean either a widget or a box of widgets, the box of widgets is the stocked unit. There may be three different colors of widgets; each of these colors will be a separate SKU. When the product is shipped, there may be 50 boxes of the blue widgets, 100 boxes of the red widgets, and 70 boxes of the yellow widgets shipped. That would be a shipment of 220 boxes, across three SKUs that may be designated 1234B, 1234R, and 1234Y.
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