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5 Best Barcode Systems for Retail Shops

We’ve all seen hundreds and thousands of barcodes as consumers. But even though they’re prominent in the retail experience, we’ve likely never thought of what makes up a barcode in the first place.

Imagine a world without barcodes. You’d have to key in product information manually, inventory would be messy, and mistakes would be commonplace. You’d have less real-time data, and obsolete inventory would cost you a lot of money. What a nightmare!

As a small business retailer, it’s valuable to get familiar with the basics — and this includes diving into barcodes, barcode scanners, and point of sale (POS) providers who help you make the most of them.


How We Chose the Best Barcode Systems for Retail Shops

Barcode scanning is part of the bigger inventory picture. 

With robust inventory management, you can manage your store efficiently and effectively. Barcodes are part and parcel of the shopping experience.

Still, behind the scenes, they help you automate inventory management, accurately check stock levels in real time, and help your staff be more productive.

We’re highlighting the POS providers below to help you choose a partner who can help make inventory management a breeze.

What is a Barcode?

To break it down, a barcode is an image made up of black bars and white spaces. Barcodes can also contain other identifiers such as numbers, letters, and characters.

The combination on each barcode is a machine-readable representation of data, but we’ll cover that later.

Barcodes were created to reduce human error. There’s a lot of information behind a product, and barcoding helps with inventory tracking, transportation, product identification, organization, and management.

Related: The Best Retail POS Features for Growing Businesses

Think of a barcode as a unique and universal identifier. Every product has its own special barcode, and no two products will have the same one. For example, two cans of 12-ounce Coca-Cola will always have the same barcode, whether in a major grocery store in California or a corner bodega in New York. 

On the other hand, those 12-ounce cans of Coca-Cola will have a different barcode than 12-ounce cans of Diet Coca-Cola. Since these codes are universal, you will not need to update your inventory for existing products even if you purchase them from a new supplier.

How Does a Barcode Work?

As a retailer, your products will likely contain a UPC or Universal Product Code. This is the most common product code standardized in the US, comprising 12 digits from left to right.

Different parts of this code identify a general or specific product category, manufacturer, and the product itself. 

This code is pre-assigned, so when you order products from a vendor for your retail shop, they’ll have a set barcode printed or attached. (The exception to this is if you purchase unique, individually-made products from small local businesses. These may not be barcoded.)

UPC barcodes are one-dimensional, so you can scan them at your point of sale with a handheld or stationary 1D scanner. The scanner uses a laser to read the pattern of black and white bars on the barcode, sending the information to your point of sale in binary code (0s and 1s).

Sending barcode information to your point of sale is necessary when adding products to inventory, managing stock counts, and checking out customers. Without barcodes, tracking and ringing up products would be at the hands of the retailer, making inventory management nearly impossible.


Provider #1: POS Nation

We’re a little biased, but retail is our bread and butter at POS Nation. We thrive on helping small retail businesses thrive without investing over and above what you need. Our retail POS system has all the features you need and none you don’t.

Our system has barcode and label creation baked into the software, and with our barcode printer, you can print off your custom labels. This way, the barcodes are synced in your system, and when you scan them, they will be recognized automatically. 

Plus, you can customize the size, shape, and appearance of your custom barcode labels.

Pricing: Starting at $99/month with access to POS software, touch PC, receipt printer, scanner, cash drawer, and chip reader. POS Nation comes backed with 24/7 support and a lifetime warranty.


Provider #2: Lightspeed

Lightspeed retail suits large and specialty stores with multiple locations and integrates with e-commerce for omnichannel support. It’s a good fit for bike shops, gift stores, health clubs, sporting goods stores, and other general and specialized retail types.

With Lightspeed, you can create unlimited unique barcodes for your inventory using their barcode generator tool.

Pricing: $89/month for the lean plan, $149/month for the standard plan, and $269/month for the advanced plan. Loyalty and advanced reporting are only available on the advanced plan. To help save money, you can select an annual contract.

Provider #3: Rain POS

Rain POS works with businesses of all sizes, offering full-integrated retail POS software solutions. They highlight omnichannel capabilities on their website homepage. Automated marketing tools are a selling point.

For your online store, you can set up a barcode inventory system. Rain POS will guide you through the process and help you find the best software for your unique business.

Pricing: Contact Rain POS for a custom quote.


Provider #4: Square for Retail

Square for retail is a popular choice for small businesses, especially if they’re already part of the Square ecosystem. Square fits businesses like CBD dispensaries, food and beverage service, health and fitness, and general retail stores.

With Square for Retail Plus, you can create and print barcode labels. It’s worth noting that this feature isn’t available in their free POS solution. Also, a note from Square:

“Barcode creation and printing are not available with Square for Retail Free. The label printers below are compatible with desktop and laptop computers only and will not work with iOS devices, Android devices, or Square Register at this time.”

Pricing: Starts free. The plus plan is $60/month per location, and the premium plan requires a custom quote.

Provider #5: Brightpearl

Brightpearl is a retail operating system. Part of Sage Group and a certified partner of Shopify, Brightpearl works with global companies to create a powerful solution for retailers and wholesalers.

They’re a good fit for businesses like home and garden, fashion accessories, and jewelry and luxury goods stores.

Automation is the name of the game at Brightpearl. With their powerful automation engine, you can automate everything from drop shipping to backorders, partial fulfillment, order invoicing, customer tagging, inventory counts, and more.

Pricing: Contact Brightpearl for a custom quote.

The Best Barcode System for Retail Shops: How to Choose

Managing your small business without barcodes may sound like a nightmare, so we can all feel comfortable knowing they won’t go anywhere! Barcodes are universally used to track manufacturers and products and benefit your internal tracking.

As mentioned, if your small business sells unique or made-to-order products that don’t come from a large manufacturer, consider a barcode and label printer for your point of sale system.

Some solutions even come with software integrations that allow you to customize labels. Printing your own barcodes for these items is the best way to streamline inventory management.

Choosing a POS partner is a process you must go through based on your unique needs and preferences. We want to help you decide. First, schedule a demo with one of our retail POS experts. Then, check out our Retail POS System Buyers’ Guide for a complete picture.

Retail POS System Buyers Guide



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