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Using GS1 standards to manage and reduce  cost-to-serve

Tools that deliver impact

Using GS1 standards to manage and reduce cost-to-serve

The explosion in globalisation and omnichannel retail is increasing the uptake of supply chain standards and standards-based supply chain technologies by apparel retailers and brands.

GS1 standards help these businesses in three key ways:


Our standards ensure interoperability across global networks through unique identification using a global company prefix. This number then enables the creation of Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) for each product line, Global Location Numbers (GLNs) for stores, warehouses – even shelves in the distribution centre. It means businesses can avoid data conflict issues, increase system compatibility and improve stock visibility.


GS1 standards offer businesses a consistent approach to tracking items at different locations using barcode imagery to label products. While this is currently commonplace in retail, efficiency savings can be made through the use of Electronic Product Code (EPC)-enabled RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology.

Based on information stored on a product tag, RFID does not require line of sight of the item to automate inventory management processes for every product in the supply chain. RFID tags also store more information.


Consistent data sets also make for easy automated exchange with trading partners. The GS1 standard does this through Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) that links two computer applications, such as those used for invoices, orders and advanced shipping notifications (ASNs). A common data structure avoids the need for manual intervention or re-keying information.

Easier management – all round

Adopting GS1 standards means retailers can improve supplier relationship management, better manage their inventory and have the information necessary to inform their service proposition and manage peak trade.

Key benefits include:

Reduced network complexity

Creating a common business language that supports systems integration, facilitates work with third parties and future proofs infrastructure investment.

Reduced exposure to market volatility

Giving the data and tools retailers need to handle extreme demand peaks and speed up the order-to-cash cycle. Our standards enable fast, accurate, responsive information flow between suppliers and retailers.

Improved visibility

Helping retailers better manage inventory and meet service promises through better quality data and a more granular view of activities. RFID-powered serialisation tracks the product journey from supply to customer and enables the measurement of all omnichannel fulfilment processes.

Cost savings end-to-end

Using GS1 standards brings quantifiable cost and time savings the length of supply chain. The figures below are based on industry data and show the cost saving ranges that can be achieved through 100% adoption against a baseline of 0% EDI and RFID use.

Range of savings from applying GS1 standards

Cost savings using GS1 standards

By applying GS1 standards of EDI and RFID, companies can reduce operational costs by 20-30%. There’s also an overall reduction in working capital through more accurate planning and product distribution – ensuring the right product is in the right place at the right time.

Further cost savings and other benefits include:

Purchase order placement and ordering

  • £14 per order saved through EDI
  • Reduced time spent managing supplier interactions and rekeying order information
  • Highest cost saving opportunity for retailers with broad ranges and separate POs per channel

Warehouse inbound

  • £12 per order saved through ASNs
  • Improved inbound planning accuracy
  • 70% time saving on receiving RFID-labelled pallets
  • Level of inbound volume determines the potential cost saving


  • £8.50 per invoice saved
  • Reduced disputes

Warehouse outbound (including warehouse inventory management)

  • 80% time saving in warehouse inventory count time through RFID

Store inventory management

  • Inventory count time in store reduced by 90%
  • Stock file accuracy of 95%
  • Gives retailers confidence to reduce safety stock levels – reducing overall inventory holding 3-7%

Home delivery

  • Supports interaction with third-party carriers to reduce parcel management related costs
  • RFID helps speed up the cash-to-cash cycle and the processing time for returns management

Our cost-to-serve findings

Cost to serve sales up

Sales up? Yet margin down?

Understanding cost-to-serve to boost profitability

Cost to serve rising to the challenge

Rising to the challenge

Unpicking the complexities of managing cost-to-serve

Closing in on the cost to serve

Closing in on cost-to-serve

Knowing where expenditure is building

Pushing the right levers

Pushing the right levers

Controlling cost-to-serve to maximise profitability

Cost to serve tools

Tools that deliver impact

Using GS1 standards to manage and reduce cost-to-serve

Cost to serve downloads

Cost-to-serve resources

Read our full report and test your own numbers in our ready reckoner tool


Our findings

Download the whitepaper

White paper

Check out the full report of the cost-to-serve programme

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