Navigating the

opportunities of

a new landscape


Helping members adapt to a new business reality

My first full year as chair of GS1 UK has coincided with the most turbulent nine months in the recent history of our country.

The coronavirus pandemic has touched all

of the sectors we interface with as an organisation, from sole traders to the

high-street giants and hospital trusts.

Although our analysis has shown that half

of businesses have had to furlough staff, there are reasons to be optimistic: 65 per cent have said they are confident that their businesses can successfully negotiate the pandemic, and almost half have seen an increase in demand for their products.

In line with the changing times, we have seen a significant movement in the number of members looking to sell online, with 76 per cent of this year’s new joiners stating they were looking to trade specifically through their own website or on online marketplaces.

We commissioned YouGov research this year to help us understand key societal trends. Our resulting report on The Importance of traceability in an increasingly transparent world, links the crucial role of standards to the safety and visibility of products throughout the

supply chain. This transparency is increasingly important in our new contact-free, online purchasing reality.


In the healthcare world, our GS1 standards-centred Scan4Safety initiative has proven that point-of-care barcode scanning saves thousands of lives and millions of pounds for the NHS, providing reassurance and operational efficiency during an unparalleled time of crisis in its 72-year history.

"Transparency is increasingly important in our new contact-free,

online purchasing reality."

With the EU transition promising further uncertainty as we approach the end of this year, we will ensure our members have the access to the support they need in a radically changing business environment.

The last year has also been a year of change for GS1 UK, with our first new chief executive in 16 years. After Gary Lynch announced his decision to retire at the end of 2020, we entered into an open process to recruit a new CEO. We made an excellent find in Anne Godfrey, who comes to us with an exemplary track record of leading membership organisations, most recently the Institute of Environmental Health.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Gary Lynch as he steps down as CEO of GS1 UK after 16 years leading the organisation. The team and I wish him the best for his retirement, and express our gratitude for taking the organisation to new heights during his tenure.


Chris Tyas



Growing in testing times

Despite the onset of the global pandemic, we have seen continued growth in the past year:


total membership


new members in 2019–20


increase in membership

year on year

What our membership tells us

As they represent a cross section of UK plc, fluctuations in our membership show us the health of industry sectors and where the pandemic has had an effect on the things we do and purchases we make. Roll over the boxes below to tell

the story.

Health and beauty becomes the top sector for new joiners (16 per cent of total)


Fashion businesses down 38 per cent year on year in line with troubles on the high street


Food and grocery remains the largest segment with 13.1 per cent of total membership

of total

Home and garden sees a 27 per cent rise as more people are spending time in the backyard due to lockdown


Home and DIY sees a surge of 111 per cent as the UK becomes a nation of do it yourselfers


Arts and crafts increase by 33 per cent as Britons get craftier at home


Animals and pet care leaps by 25 per cent as we pamper our furry friends during the pandemic


Healthcare providers trading with barcodes have shot up fivefold as we think about immunity more


Meet our members

Over the past year, we’ve reached out to the member companies that make us so unique, to find out what makes them tick

and their experiences with GS1 UK.

We sat down with GS1 UK member and founder of Jecca Blac, Jessica Blackler,

to discuss how she started the business, what a typical day looks like and what the company's future plans are.

More stories

Our sectors

We are proud to be making a difference for our members across UK plc. We’ve asked our heads of sector to summarise their highlights of 2019­–20 and the past year’s achievements.



GS1 standards embedded in a digital NHS


Aligned with the release of the Cumberlege Review, our proudest moment this year has been the publication of the Scan4Safety evidence report.

The outcomes achieved by six trusts throughout the two-year programme are nothing short of outstanding, and the same can be said for the trusts that are independently embarking on their own Scan4Safety journeys.

With the amendment to the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill made in line with recommendations from the Cumberlege Review, the healthcare industry is now preparing for the implementation of a national registry for all medicines and medical devices. This will rely on the principle of unique identification – which is where GS1 standards and Scan4Safety will play a part.

To build on momentum for Scan4Safety implementation, we have also reshaped our national healthcare user group, which is chaired by Ian Townend, lead architect at NHSX. In addition to our partner team’s work with our healthcare partners, we are firmly set for the year ahead to continue to amplify the adoption of GS1 standards across the sector.


Glen Hodgson

Head of healthcare



SMEs at the core of everything we do

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) make up 55 per cent of the UK’s economy, but 90 per cent of GS1 UK’s membership base.

Despite the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen a continued uptick in members joining the organisation, as business owners start up new online ventures to protect themselves from the financial challenges of the crisis.

To make sure that GS1 UK represents and reflects the needs of our SME members, we have been building partnerships with like-minded communities such as Enterprise Nation and Bread and Jam, working with them to sponsor a range of activities to help nurture new companies. 

We are constantly striving to understand more about what our members think about us, and what they value from their membership. ​​​​​​​We have run a promotional offer on productDNA to help with data quality and are conducting a survey to understand what SMEs value and what more we can do to help.

Many SMEs​​​​​​​ need a hand with the business fundamentals, so we have produced a number of resources this year to address that, including online-selling guides, success-story videos celebrating our innovative members, and the Between the lines podcast series on what it takes to make your business successful, both in the face of the pandemic and the end of the EU transition period.


Sarah Atkins

CMO and membership director



Delivering a global marketplace strategy


Online shopping has seen a dramatic boost this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic. According to Mintel, in April 2020, 36 per cent of consumers said they’d increased their online shopping, up from 7 per cent pre-lockdown.

With such a growing focus on e-commerce, it has been even more crucial for the GS1 community worldwide that we align behind a global marketplace strategy. So, over the past year, we have set up a global marketplaces advisory team to ensure we are all working in a coordinated and consistent manner. We have also received approval on our global strategy form the GS1 management board, giving us a mandate to drive forward objectives.

On a local level, we’re delighted that Murray Lambell, general manager at eBay UK, has joined our supervisory board, meaning we now have board representation from two major marketplaces

– Amazon and eBay.

We’ve also worked closely with our partners to deliver a series of webinars, to support our growing membership base. We’ve covered topics from how to get more traffic that buys to your website, to the most pressing Amazon and barcode questions.


Monica Bird

Head of marketplaces


Retail and brands

High-quality data at the heart of the

customer experience


Although it has been a challenging year for the retail industry, we have seen continued adoption of our productDNA service, with the number of subscribers increasing by more than 230 per cent.

Unsurprisingly, with online grocery forecast to grow by as much as 33 per cent in 2020, information about a product has become almost as important as the product itself, leading to greater emphasis on high-quality, rich data – which is where productDNA has come into its own.


By increasing the number of products in productDNA by more than 340 per cent this year, the service has made great progress in increasing data quality across the industry.

We have worked closely with the likes of Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Unilever to promote how standardised, accurate data can transform the customer experience, both through the mainstream retail press, such as The Grocer, and on the Food Matters podcast.


Dan Sands

Head of brand engagement

After proudly supporting The Silver Line from 2016, 

this year, GS1 UK has begun a new charity partnership with The Honeypot Children's Charity, an organisation that offers respite breaks and outreach support to young carers, many of whom would otherwise have nowhere to turn.

The Honeypot Children's Charity is the only charity in the UK offering consistent support to young carers throughout their childhood, from the age of five until the age of 12.


Our new corporate charity

Thought leadership

In 2020, we released two reports outlining GS1 UK’s role in key areas of the retail and healthcare sectors.

The importance of traceability in an increasingly transparent world

High-profile fatalities – like that of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse

– have thrust food contamination and product recall into the public spotlight.

With the aim of better understanding how these issues are impacting manufacturers, retailers and consumers alike, we carried out industry research and commissioned a YouGov survey to take the pulse of the nation.

Improving patient safety and saving money using point-of-care scanning in the NHS

The Scan4Safety programme was launched in 2016 by the Department of Health and Social Care, where six trusts were tasked with implementing GS1 standards for the unique identification of every person, every product and every place within healthcare.

Following the successful completion of the programme, the wealth of data and insights accumulated over the two-year period has now been condensed to share the key data and lessons learned from the evidence.


Annual report

and financial



A farewell from our CEO

As I look back over my 26 years at GS1 UK, 16 of which I have spent as its CEO, it’s amazing how much the world around us has changed.

In a quarter of a century we’ve seen the transition from an analogue to digital, and the internet has changed everything from business transactions to the way we communicate with our friends and family.  

I never would have thought that my last year in post would be one of my most challenging. I take so much energy from the GS1 UK family that has grown over the years to become a diverse and talented team.

We have had to rebuild the operation to ensure we can all work effectively and safely in the new world order, with video conferencing replacing my kitchen conversations and working from home becoming the norm. The team have adapted well, but I am disappointed I will not get the opportunity to see you, or them, face to face before I retire at the end of the year.

As I hand over the reins to our new CEO, Anne Godfrey, the events of 2020 have seen a decade’s worth of change in just a few months. I'm pleased to say that 

GS1 UK’s services and standards are front and centre when it comes to tackling the challenges of this brave new world.

"The events of 2020 have seen a decade’s worth of change in just a few months."

Our membership has gone ever upwards during the pandemic, as we see the UK’s entrepreneurial spirit come to the fore, and businesses evolve at pace to keep trading.

Our productDNA data-sharing platform has seen a rise in adoption since the onset of lockdown and our productDNA advisory group will shape the future of the platform in the wake of a new retail world.

GS1 standards in healthcare go from strength to strength with the success of the Scan4Safety programme, and the

Cumberledge review into implantable

devices has recommended a centralised database in which GS1 identifiers will play a crucial role.

With a seismic shift to shopping online, GS1 standards will become more important than ever, enabling shoppers to have all the information they need at their fingertips when they are making purchasing decisions, all founded on a bedrock of trusted data.   

As if the year weren't challenging enough, there is also the possibility of a no-deal Brexit at the end of 2020. I’m reassured that the standards that have been making the supply chain work for more than 45 years will be one of the things that business can rely to work seamlessly and across borders.

I’m immensely proud of what we have achieved at GS1 UK, and I know that, by focusing on the needs of our members, we will thrive. I look forward to my retirement knowing that the organisation I love will continue to strive for excellence under Anne Godfrey’s leadership.  

Gary Lynch