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United States - Selling and buying

Contents extracted from the comprehensive atlas of international trade by Export Entreprises

Reaching the consumers

Marketing opportunities

Consumer behavior: Consumer behavior has not been regarded in the United States as an environmental issue. However, there is an increasing awareness that the earth's ecosystems cannot support rapid and unlimited consumption of its natural resources.
Consumer profile: American consumer is very open to buy foreign products. Product supply is very diverse in the USA. American consumer is rich, and highly diverse in their interests and tastes. They value home comfort, foods and cars. However, the recession has changed the economic landscape and seems to have fundamentally altered the behavior of numerous US consumers, who are now learning to live without expensive products.
Main advertising agencies:

Distribution network

Evolution of the sector: The U.S. is the undisputed leader of the retail industry. Of the world’s 10 largest retail companies in the world, five of them are from the US. The turnover of retail trade in the U.S exceeded 4,000 billion in 2009 and 14.4 million people were employed in the U.S. Retail Industry in 2010.

It is the ultimate test market for exporters. The country is open to all kinds of new products and technologies, but geographically it is very spread out and there is an intense competition. This market is, however, very demanding and requires a considerable amount of preparation, groundwork and long-term consistency.
Types of outlet: Market segmentation is drawn along various lines, including age groups, ethnic groups, even social and religious groups, which has forced distributors to adapt themselves to this situation. One of the most marked consequences of this absence of homogeneity is the emergence in the past few years of “Specialty Stores” such as (Home Depot, Best Buys etc) which currently represent 11% of retail sales. In fact, the American consumer is unique because of his demanding nature, the importance he attaches to price, and his product disloyalty. It is thus incumbent upon distributors to continuously adapt themselves to the market, and to engage in well-targeted marketing efforts in order to win the loyalty of the consumer. The majority of sales, however, are still achieved by large distribution chains:

- Wal Mart ( 4000 outlets)
- The Kroger Co.
- Sears Roebuck & Co (bought by Kmart).

Market access procedures

Economic Cooperation: The United States has free trade agreements in force with 17 countries. These are:

- Australia
- Bahrain
- Canada
- Chile
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Guatemala
- Honduras
- Israel
- Jordan
- Mexico
- Morocco
- Nicaragua
- Oman
- Peru
- Singapore

President Obama signed free trade agreements with Colombia, Korea, and Panama on October 21, 2011, but the agreements have not been implemented.

The United States is also in negotiations of a regional, Asia-Pacific trade agreement, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement with the objective of shaping a high-standard, broad-based regional pact.

Non tariff barriers: Farm products are subject to both the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and the USDA (US AGRICULTURAL DEPARTMENT) rules.
- Dairy products require an import license and quotas do exist. Products should conform to the strict sanitary and labeling rules. A description of ingredients is also required.
- Most fruits, vegetables and hazelnuts are subject to import licenses. The APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) analyses the risks of disease.
- Meat-based products can only be imported via ports with checking sanitary installations authorized by the USDA. The APHIS examines all goods.

Nearly 20% of all imports into the US are food and food products. In 2002, Congress passed the Bioterrorism Act as a part of its ongoing effort to fight terrorism. The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 (Bioterrorism Act) requires that FDA develops two systems: one to support the registration of facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food products intended for consumption in the United States and one to receive prior notice before food is imported or offered for import into the United States, beginning on December 12, 2003. Prior notice must be submitted electronically at Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Manufactured goods should also conform the American standards, which imply potential additional costs. Electric equipment should be systematically guaranteed by a third part. There are not less than 2,700 municipal or federal authorities able to distribute safety certifications, and they do vary from State to State. As there is no central source of information about the normative aspects, it is imperative to inquire beforehand with the help of an importer.
Whatever the nature of the product is, documentation is important, especially in terms of invoice and certificate of origin. The documentary formalities are notably very heavy for textiles import (above a part of 5 % in the composition of the textile product, all the products should be listed very precisely). The labeling rules can also generate important additional costs.

Finally the USA applies a certain number of embargoes, forbidding the import of products manufactured with components originating from several countries. For a list of countries for which the U.S. apply an embargo (full or partial), visit the U.S. Department of the Treasury's website.

Average Customs Duty (excluding agricultural products): USA applies a Customs tariff that is among the lowest in the world. It is 3% on average.
The WTO gives a sheet summarizing the Customs tariffs by country.
Customs classification: Depending on the origin of products. .
Import procedures: Import procedure is subjected to a specific process. For more information, consult Tips for New Importers on CBP's Website.

Organizing goods transport

Organizing goods transport to and from: All coasts of the country have important, highly computerized ports, automated for a fast distribution of the goods (especially in containers); some of them offer a direct connection towards waterways.


The network in place for goods transportation is much wider than the one of travelers and concentrates on its own 30% of total goods transport.

An important deregulation took place on the American railway freight market in the 80s, and since then, the part of total freight transport increased to more than 40%.

Air transport organizations:
Rail transport organizations:

Domestic business directories

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