Many retailers are starting to scramble to meet the Uniform Code Council's Sunrise Date deadline of Jan. 1, 2005, for being able to scan, store and communicate 13- and 14-digit EAN (European Article Number) data structures in bar codes used by retailers outside of North America. That's one or two digits more than the 12-digit UPC (Universal Product Code) retailers in North America are accustomed to.
Before making the change, when a cashier scanned a bar code for, say, chocolate from England, the system might think it was scanning a coupon, said Hann. "So it was either make the [technology] change, or re-label all the foreign products," which would have been too costly.
There are about 6,800 products, such as soft drinks from India, that come with no bar codes, necessitating that the store apply their own bar codes, which cost about three cents apiece, said Hann.