How I Use SKUs in my Small Business

How I Use SKUs in my Small Business

If you're starting out as a small business owner, you may have heard people talk about SKUs.

Stock Keeping Units are codes that help us identify our products more easily when we are tracking them.

They're important for inventory management systems because they allow us to identify what product is being tracked without having to refer to the full title or description of the product every time we want to reference it.


I sell many of my products across multiple platforms, such as Etsy, Shopify, and Faire, and I never want to oversell a product because then I will have to cancel or delay orders, so I use Sumtracker to manage and sync my inventory across platforms. This requires that I use a common identifier for my products on each of these platforms, also known as a SKU. When an item is purchased on one platform, that SKU is identified in the inventory management software and deducted. Other platforms that also stock products using this SKU will have their inventory deducted as well. This way, my inventory is always in sync across my selling platforms.


There's no set rules for how you assign SKUs to your products, but you should use a system that is easy to understand, so I'm going to show you how I assign and track my SKUs.


I use an Excel workbook for keeping track of SKUs I have assigned, but you can use whatever program you like, as long as it's easy to reference later.


My first worksheet in this book is a key.


 Screenshot of excel spreadsheet


I assign SKUs based on the category of product because I have many different types of products in my shops and categorizing them makes it easier to look them up later on. For each category, I assign a series of numbers, and for each series of numbers, I have a tab. Here you can see that for downloadable files, I can assign all numbers from 1001-1999. For tarot-related items, anything in the 2000-range can be applied. I don't necessarily have these ranges memorized, so it helps to have a key so I know which tab to find something in.


Within each tab, things can be further categorized by their leading letters or prefix.


Under the tarot tab, for example, everything related to my product the Pastel Magic Tarot is assigned the prefix PMT. When I complete my other tarot projects, I can add a different prefix that corresponds to that subcategory. This helps me recognize what the SKU is related to because if it were just a string of numbers, it would be hard for me to distinguish what it is at a glance.


Screenshot of excel spreadsheet


Any time I add a new product, I will go into the appropriate tab and assign it a prefix that makes sense, and then assign it the next available number in the series. When I'm using the SKU, I will combine the prefix and number with a hyphen. Hyphenating isn't necessary, and might not be recommended in certain applications such as barcoding, but for now I find it makes it easier to read the SKUs.


If a product is a kit made up of other products, I will reference the component product SKUs under the "kit" column. The Pastel Magic Tarot Bundle, for example, is made up of the tarot deck and the journal, so I've added PMT-2001 and PMT-2003 to the kit column. This can be helpful when using inventory management software that features kitting of items.


Finally, I have a combined list of all SKUs that I've assigned. This was generated using a simple power query, so anytime I add something to one of the other tabs, it will update in this consolidated tab. This isn't necessary, but it is a nice quick reference of all my assigned SKUs that will probably save me some work down the line when I'm auditing my inventory.


Screenshot of excel spreadsheet


One last note. If you have variations, such as different colorways of a single product, you may wish to use a single SKU modified by a suffix. In my case, my planner sticker sheets are ST-3038, but it comes in many different color palettes. For each color palette, I have a different letter assigned to modify ST-3038.


Screenshot of excel spreadsheet


SKUs can have a lot of different applications, can be assigned and tracked in lots of different ways, but this is how I personally like to do it. I think it makes things a lot easier, so I hope it helped! 

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