Tuesday, August 25, 2009

what is an SKU

A SKU or Stock Keeping Unit is an identifier that is used by merchants to permit the systematic tracking of products and services offered to customers. Usage of the SKU system is rooted in the drill down method, pertaining to data management. SKUs are assigned and serialized at the merchant level. Each SKU is attached to an item, variant, product line, bundle, service, fee or attachment.

SKUs are not always associated with actual physical items, but are more appropriately billable entities. Extended warranties, delivery fees, and installation fees are not physical, but have SKUs because they are billable. All merchants using the SKU method will have their own personal approach to assigning the numbers, based on regional or national corporate data storage and retrieval policies. SKU tracking varies from other product tracking methods which are controlled by a wider body of regulations stemming from manufacturers or possibly third-party regulations.

Consider this: a ball 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 balls is the stock keeping unit (SKU), because it is the stocked item. Even though the part numbers are interchangeable to mean either a ball or a box of balls, the box of balls is the stocked unit. There may be three different colors of balls; each of these colours will be a separate SKU. When the product is shipped, there may be 50 boxes of the blue balls, 100 boxes of the red balls, and 70 boxes of the yellow balls shipped. That shipment would be said to have been a shipment of 220 boxes, across three SKUs.

Successful inventory management systems assign a unique SKU for each product and also for its variants. For example, different flavours or models of product, or different bundled packages including a number of related products, have independent SKUs. This allows merchants to track, for instance, whether blue shirts are selling better than green shirts.

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