April 4, 2023 9.00 am This story is over 7 months old

50 years of barcodes: Spalding’s unique history with modern shop technology

The town is still divided on them

It has now been 50 years since barcodes were introduced to items in shops, with Spalding the first place in the United Kingdom to introduce them to business.

Barcodes are something we encounter on a daily basis in modern society, but it was just 50 years ago that they were first licensed for use in the United Kingdom.

A barcode is a way of representing data in a machine-transferrable and readable form, assigning each item with a unique number and configuration that makes it easier to access from an online database.

It was done to speed up item processing at checkout and allows businesses to track items with greater ease.

Lincolnshire holds a proud record in that the South Holland town of Spalding was the first in the country to introduce and use barcodes, way back in 1973.

However, despite this rich history for such a now universal symbol, there are still some businesses in Spalding that refuse to use barcodes even to this day.

Bernie Stennett from local jewellers CH Sennett told Look North: “We’ve been here 60 years as a third generation business, and we don’t use barcodes because it is so impersonal.”

Instead of a barcode, orders are logged inside a little book, but not all the businesses in the area adopt this tactic.

Sarah Hallgarth at local book shop Bookmark says that so long as the technology behind it works, the barcode system has proven integral to the success of the business.

Public opinion still appears split on whether or not barcodes have had a positive impact on society, with people in Spalding acknowledging both the good and the bad of the modern technology.

Irregardless of how today’s public feel about barcodes, they form a large part of Spalding’s recent history, and the introduction of barcodes in the 1970s placed Lincolnshire on the map as a trailblazer of modern business acumen.

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