SKU stands for Stock Keeping Unit and is critical in managing your inventory and sales.

Each product and variation should have a unique SKU to track order velocity and stock levels.

Below we outline a few best practices and guidelines if you’re wisely taking the time to create, update, or manage your SKUs.


  1. Naming your SKUs
  2. Things to consider
  3. SKU examples

Naming your SKUs

Guidelines for SKUs

  1. SKUs should be alphanumeric and generally all capitalized.
    1. Example: 123JKL
    2. If all letters are capitalized, you can tell the difference between the capital letter I and the lowercase letter L ( l ).
  2. A few special characters can be included:
    1. Period ( . )
    2. Dash ( – )
    3. Underscore ( _ )
    4. Consider email addresses. Anything that goes before the @ sign works for SKUs.
    5. Examples: APN-123-XYZ or APN_123_XYZ
  3. Keep in mind characters that look similar.
    1. Letter O and number 0 (zero) look identical.

Things to avoid adding to SKUs

  1. No special characters, other than what was listed above. In particular, these are problematic:
    1. Slashes ( / )
    2. Spaces
  2. Leading zeroes at the beginning of SKUs
    1. Example: 0012345
    2. In Excel, the example would change to 12345.
  3. Long numeric values
    1. Example: 123456789012
    2. When Excel sees this value, it will shorten it via scientific notation.
    3. In Excel, the example would change to 1.23457E+11.

Things to consider

Think about who will view and manage SKUs

  • Will the warehouse team easily identify the product based on the SKU?
  • How will the purchasing team know which items to reorder?

Ensure SKUs will scale as you grow

  • It may be tempting to use your supplier’s SKU as your own. However, what if you no longer work with that vendor? Or if you have multiple suppliers for the same SKU? Or two suppliers may use the same SKU for different items.
  • Consider other brands, variations, or product categories you plan to carry in the future. Make sure your SKU naming conventions will extend to those.

SKU examples


  • Men’s red t-shirt, size large
  • Women’s black t-shirt, size extra small

Automotive parts

  • Subaru 2014-2018 sway bar
    • SBU-14-18-SWAY
  • Mazda 2015-2016 crossbar for roof rack
    • MZD-15-16-CRSSBR