The first UK barcode scan took place on 2 October 1979, at supermarket chain Keymarkets in Spalding, Lincolnshire.

When first introduced to retailers, sunlight shining through windows at the front of stores prevented barcodes from being read. Fortunately, barcoding technology has improved greatly since then!

  • Did you know that barcodes are scanned more than 70,000 times around the world every second?
  • The familiar black and white bars of the Universal Product Code (UPC) that now appear on nearly everything consumers buy are so ubiquitous that we scarcely give them a second thought today.
  • Did you know that The Delivery Group logo features a fully working barcode as part of its design?

The inclusion of a barcode in the logo just shows how important the barcode has been and continues to be in our own postal and logistics business.

The barcode really has proved invaluable for all areas of supply chain management. Philip Wright, DHL Europe, said “For supply chains, the power of the barcode comes from its role in enabling standard formats and supporting data pools to share consistent, real-time information among trading partners.”

Royal Mail actively encourage business post users to add Mailmark barcodes to mailings, citing that barcode use ‘improves our operational efficiency, so we are able to pass on the cost savings to our customers. Barcodes also allow us to have greater transparency of items through our network.’

If you have any questions about using Royal Mail Mailmark on your mailings, please contact us today – one of our mailing experts will be happy to assist.



It was Ernest Marples, the Postmaster General who announced on 28 July 1959 that Norwich had been selected to trial a six-character alpha numeric code to assist in the routing of mail, like the one that’s still used today. And in October of the same year, the successful trial prompted the rollout of postcodes across the UK, which was completed in 1974.

  • Today, everything from insurance premiums to satellite navigation systems now rely on postcodes
  • Their power over property prices has even led to some residents campaigning to have their postcode changed
  • Royal Mail started to use the alphanumeric codes when electronic sorting machines were introduced to speed up the service in the 1950s.

Further innovation during the 1980s meant that a postcode and address information database could be developed which became known as the Postcode Address File (PAF). PAF is still in use today and is a highly accurate addressing database containing address information to over 30.5 million delivery points. The Royal Mail Address Management Unit maintains PAF and has looked after the postcode for some of its 60 years.

Clearly the invention of the postcode has revolutionised the way post is sorted and delivered. In addition, it has completely changed and enhanced the way companies do business. Remarkably it has survived and thrived even during the digital transformation we have experienced in recent years.

In terms of the future, it is possible that the postcode could be surpassed by something else, who knows what will happen in the next 60 years. But it’s fair to say that the marketing and postal sectors are very grateful to have the powerful and brilliant postcode and wish it a very happy 60th anniversary!