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Norway - Selling and buying

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

Reaching the consumers

Marketing opportunities

Consumer behavior: Norwegians are very patriotic and often choose domestic products. Environmental issues are also important for consumers. Norwegian consumers are interested in new products (especially ICT-products and consumer electronics) and are willing to pay for quality. Compared with the Danish or Swedish consumers, Norwegians are not as price sensitive and are willing to spend more, especially when buying durable goods. The right price-quality relationship is usually more important than just the low price. In many regards, the consumer behavior is similar to other West-European countries
Consumer profile: Norwegians are wealthy and purchasing power is very high. Norway's own production consists mostly of raw materials and semi-manufactured products, so many consumer products are imported. The wealth in Norway is also evenly distributed, so every Norwegian is an enabled consumer. Due to these opportunities, the competition is strict, especially with Scandinavian businesses. Norwegian consumers pay for quality not for novelty.

Three quarters of Norwegians live in the southern parts of Norway. The rest of the population is dispersed to small centers around the country. Therefore, because of the long distances and high transportation costs, it might be wise to focus the sales efforts to the southern areas of the country.

Main advertising agencies:

Distribution network

Evolution of the sector: In 2008, turnover for the 38,678 retail stores in Norway totaled NOK 380.5 billion, while the number of employed persons was 214,989. Mass market sales accounted for 84% of total turnover, the service sector represented 13%, and the grocery trade represented 3% of total turnover.

Norwegian retail trade is focused around main commercial centers, such as Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, and Stavanger. Mergers or close collaborations between two or more companies have driven the structural change over the past few years, mostly in the grocery sector. Retailers aim to enlarge their operations in order to gain more negotiation power at the expense of producers and wholesalers. Because of the small domestic market, the Norwegian retailers are small compared even with other Scandinavian countries, and are not very active internationally.

Price levels in Norway are infamously high: groceries cost 50 % more than what is the EU average. Prices of alcohol and tobacco are even higher.

Types of outlet: The Norwegian distribution system is quite organized and consolidated. It is characterized by a fewer number of intermediaries, sensible margins, a diversity of trends, and dynamic professional syndicates. Distribution chains dominate the market, and some chains have strengthened their position by taking on the role of wholesaler as well, such as NorgesGruppen. The German discount chain Lidl decided to pull back from Norway and sell all its shops to Rema 1000 chain after poor results.

The principal Norwegian stores are:
- NorgesGruppen with 2,760 retail outlets and a 32% market-share with a turnover of 4,43 billion euros in 2004. It is Norway's largest trading enterprise and the leader in the distribution market.
- Coop with 910 retail outlets, a 19,9% market share, and turnover of 3,3 billion euros.
- ICA is a Swedish company with 1032 retail outlets, 19,5% market-share, and turnover of 2,85 billion euros.

Shopping centers have also known great success, reaching a total turnover of 1,5 billion euros in 2004 in 4 principal zones: Oslo, Akershus, Osdtfold and Vestfold; thus registering a growth of 6,3% as compared to 2003.

Market access procedures

Economic Cooperation: Norway is a Member of the EEA (European Economic Area) and applies the whole EU acquis except for agriculture and fisheries. Norway seeks to conclude bilateral trade agreements in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) framework.
Non tariff barriers: Norway is a member of the European Economic Area and applies the European Union trade policy rules, except for agriculture and fisheries. Norway does not have many import restrictions, except for agricultural sector, which remains highly protected with high tariffs, quantitative restrictions and technical barriers. Goods containing animal products require a certificate from the competent authority in the country of origin. A sanitary or health certificate is required for animal products, live animals and plants. For most vegetables, fruit and plant material a phytosanitary certificate is required. Fishery products need to show a catch certificate.

Numbers of products require an import license, for example clothes and textiles. Genetically modified products and biotech products face more restrictive legislation than in EU countries.

Average Customs Duty (excluding agricultural products): Norwegian tariffs for industrial goods are low, usually between 3 % and 6 %. Goods imported from an EEA country are free from import duty. Any import of products is subject to Value Added Tax, which is currently levied at 25%. The VAT is deductible if the goods are intended for use in a VAT chargeable business. Before sending a shipment of considerable value, it might be wise to obtain an official ruling on customs treatment from the Norwegian Customs and Excise Authority.
Customs classification: Harmonized custom system.
Import procedures: The Norwegian Customs Authority collects the import duties and taxes for goods from abroad. Commercial invoice plus a bill of lading or an airway bill are required general import documentation. A certificate of origin is not required unless specified. For long-term contracts or expensive shipment a official ruling is needed.

Non-agricultural goods entering into the territory must adhere to customs formalities (summary declaration). This declaration must be carried out by the person bringing the goods to the territory. In the case of non-EU goods this procedure could take:

- 45 days in the case of goods carried by sea;
- 20 days in the case of goods carried other than by sea.

For more information, please contact the Norwegian Excise and Customs Authority.

Modernised Customs Code of the EU will be into place by 2013.Check the EU’s Customs website periodically for updates.

Organizing goods transport

Organizing goods transport to and from: Sea transport is the dominant form of international transport: about 90 % of freight volume to and from Norway is done by shipping. Port of Oslo is the Norway's largest cargo port and the main gateway for containers and passengers. The port is located at the end of the Oslo Fjord with good transport connections to the rest of the country. Cargo throughput of the port of Oslo is 6,3 million tons. Overall Norway's merchant fleet is the fifth largest in the world


Road transport accounts for almost 50 % of cargo transport in Norway. 44 percent is done by ships and the rest occurs in railways. The road and rail infrastructure is mostly in very good condition. A list of Norwegian cargo agents can be found here.

Air transport organizations:
Rail transport organizations:

Domestic business directories

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