GTIN reuse ends on 31 December 2018

From the start of 2019, you will no longer be able to reuse your GTINs. In this infographic, we explain why and what the benefits of stopping GTIN reuse will be for industry.

On 31 July 2017, the GS1 General Specifications was updated to state that after December 2018, a GTIN allocated to a trade item shall not be reallocated to another trade item. This applies to all trade items, regardless of sector.

This industry-driven change helps companies get unique product identification “right” from the start. Keeping product identification truly “unique” and persistent in both the physical and digital world is needed to support today’s omni-channel consumer experiences. Consistency across the physical and digital world is foundational to the future of commerce. Trade items (and their associated data attributes) remain in digital/online paths to purchase far longer than they remain in physical-store supply chains. For example, in consumer-to-consumer marketplaces it can be decades. Because of this, stopping GTIN reuse is critical in an omni-channel world.

Why can’t individual GTINs be reused anymore?

The decision to stop the reuse of individual GTINs was made by industry, after realising that product identifiers must be permanent if they are to be truly unique in today’s marketplaces. Unlike the days when physical stores would “sell-out” of products forever, today’s products are often sold by different retailers around the globe—both in-store and online. Additionally, it has become common for products to be re-sold by third party dealers or listed on websites for selling second-hand products. Simply stated: products today can be traded “forever”, thus they need identifiers (such as the GS1 GTIN) which last “forever”.

Through the industry-driven, open, neutral and transparent GS1 standards development process, the GS1 standard for reuse of GTINs was changed in 2017. Today, industry is continuing to stand by this decision, with some major e-tailers joining traditional retailers in requiring a valid GTIN for each product listing. In addition, some sellers have already been enforcing a policy of zero GTIN reuse. With this change, industry and consumers will have increased confidence that GTINs are unique and permanent—even in the digital world.

When GTINs are no longer reused, industry and consumers may benefit in the following ways:

  • Reduced consumer confusion in the market and in supply chain data exchange systems
  • Increased transparency to the consumer
  • Better brand visibility online
  • Enhanced product traceability with uniqueness of product history and provenance
  • More efficient after-sales use of the GTIN (Warranty, Maintenance, Repair)
  • Improved sales analytics
  • Enable uniqueness of online data, post-initial offering (collectibles, etc.)

Ending the reuse of Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) has been identified by industry as a change to the GS1 Standards needed to ensure the unique and persistent identification of trade items and to adapt the GS1 standards to global and online trade.

Ending GTIN reuse is a critical part of the on-going work of the GS1 UniqueID project: a large, multi-year industry initiative dedicated to making GTIN management—and the sharing of data about minor product changes—simpler and more effective.