UPCs, Barcodes, RN#s, Oh My!

June 27, 2008

Alot of people coming into the t-shirt industry have tons of questions on what is refered to as the ‘businessy’ side of t-shirt selling and struggle with things like UPCs, barcodes and RN numbers. To make life a little easier, we’re gonna guide you through some research, with the help of some UPC, barcode and RN resource websites.

To understand these tricky little terms, know what they actually are first:

Universal Product Codes appear as lines of varying widths representing the series of numbers commonly shown below the bars. Barcode scanners, as you will know them from your favorite retailers, read the bars and convert them back to the 12-digit UPC number that they represent. This number is then looked up within the retailer’s inventory system to find the corresponding product name and price that you provided them with when you signed your agreement for them to carry your product . In short, the UPC is a 12-digit unique code for your product represented by scannable bars.

RN NUMBER Number assigned to clothing manufacturers for labeling garments. The RN number allows the manufacturer of a certain brand to be determined. It is issued by the FTC to U.S. businesses that manufacture, import, distribute, or sell products covered by the Textile, Wool, and Fur Acts. Businesses can use this number on product labels in lieu of the company name.Information on obtaining RN numbers is available from the Federal Trade Commission.

BAR CODE A printed series of parallel bars or lines of varying width that is used for entering data into a computer system. The bars are typically black on a white background, and their width and quantity vary according to application. The bars are used to represent the binary digits 0 and 1, sequences of which in turn can represent numbers from 0 to 9 and be processed by a digital computer. The presence or absence of a bar of a particular width in a particular position in a sequence is read by the computer as either a 0 or 1. Most such codes use bars of only two different widths (thick and thin), though some codes employ four widths. The numbers represented by a bar code are also printed out at its base. A UPC is an example of a bar code.

Now that you’ve got them defined, and even narrowed down to only two terms that you actually need to know (UPC and RN Number) let’s take a look at their uses in the clothing industry.

You are required to label covered products to show the name or identifying number of a U.S. business responsible for manufacturing or marketing the product or the name of a foreign manufacturer. Therefore, you may use your company business name on the label instead of an RN. The business name is the full name that appears on business documents, such as purchase orders and invoices. It is not a trademark, brand, or designer name (unless that is also the name under which the company conducts business). Alternatively, the goods may be labeled with the RN or business name of the company that is buying the goods from you – such as a distributor or retailer. If you are acquiring the finished products from a U.S. manufacturer, importer, or distributor, they can remain labeled with the RN or business name of that company. RN numbers are available only to businesses residing in the U.S. However, imported goods can be labeled with the name of their foreign manufacturer. Your RN number or your company name belongs on the tags and labels of your t-shirts.

The UPC code is assigned to each of your product styles. Not every individual t-shirt you have in stock, but each different kind of t-shirt. For example, a black t-shirt with the word KING on it would have a different UPC from a blue t-shirt with the word QUEEN on it, but the same UPC as all the otehr black t-shirts with the word KING on them.