(logistics/inventory management) Acronym for stock keeping unit. An alpha, numeric or alpha/numeric designation for the smallest unit quantity of an item (finished product, component part or raw material) that can be accepted into or sent out of inventory from a business or organization. In simple terms: an inventory or stock number, but with some caveats.
An sku (pronounced skew) is not simply a model number. For example, a retail hardware store sells light bulbs by the unit, so it is likely to have an sku number designation for a single 100-watt standard light bulb. The wholesaler, however, may sell the same item in cartons of 24 units, so is likely to have an sku designation for a carton of 24 100-watt standard light bulbs. The manufacturer, however, may only sell full pallets of 32 cartons of 24 each 100-watt standard light bulbs and is likely to have an sku designation for the same.
For ease of use, some wholesalers and retailers may incorporate a manufacturer code, manufacturer’s model number, color, size and other designations into their own internal sku number system.