Stock Keeping Units

Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) are similar to model numbers. SKUs are not a legal requirement and they are not regulated. They are for personal use within your company and help manage your inventory. You can technically do whatever unique identifier you want, but in the board game world there is a standard: three letters, followed by five numbers.

For my company, I simply used my initials: KCS. The letters will always remain the same throughout your company’s existence. My first product (Plunder: A Pirate’s Life) is labeled as: KCS01000. The numbers are what identify each product. So if I were to fix some spelling errors in my rulebook, I might update the SKU on next batch of units to say: KCS01001. This way when I’m holding the box, I can check the SKU number and know exactly which edition of the game I have. If I make a new game altogether, then maybe I’ll go with: KCS02000.

Distributors will often also use your SKU number. A game store will catalog and keep track of inventory using everyone’s SKU numbers. So this is where the issue arises. What if you and another game publisher have the same SKU number? That can get really annoying for a distributor. So the Hobby Manufacturers Association decided to help out. You can register your SKU (just the letters) with them. They’ll make sure no one uses the same code. It’s a simple form and costs $25. They actually refer to SKUs as Standard Manufacturer Codes (SMCs).

Hobby Manufacturers Association Logo

From the Hobby Manufacturer’s Association:

      “The Standard Manufacturer Codes (SMC) were established by RCHTA, now the Hobby Manufacturers Association (HMA), some 30 years ago. Distributors and retailers use the 3 letter code assigned to your company to differentiate between products with the same stock number. It is necessary that the standard codes be used so that retailers receive the products they intended to receive when ordering from their distributors. These three letters appear before the product number. Distributors prefer 4-5 numbers with no other letters or special characters other than the SMC letters, example SMC1001.

      The Standard Manufacturer Code program is voluntary – not official. It was started to relieve the confusion of distributors each using a different code for the same company. Before the program was started distributors assigned companies they did business with a code and did not share them. A distributor can use any in house code they choose to assign to a company. We do have distributors that chose not to use the voluntary Standard Manufacturer Code program.

How to build an SKU number