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flag Germany Germany: Selling and Buying

In this page: Market Access Procedures | Reaching the Consumers | Distributing a Product | Organizing Goods Transport | Identifying a Supplier


Market Access Procedures

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Member of OECD
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Party to the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls For Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies
Party of the International Coffee Agreement 2001
Main International Economic Cooperation
Member of the European Union
Member of the European Economic Area which since 1 January 1993 guarantees the free movement of most goods between European countries.
Multilateral agreements and bilateral agreements with many countries.
Non Tariff Barriers
As it is a member of the European Union, Germany applies the Community regulations which are valid throughout the Union.

If the EU has quite a liberal foreign trade policy, there are a certain number of restrictions, especially at the level of agricultural products, ensuing from the implementation of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy): applying compensations when importing and exporting agricultural products to favor the development of agriculture within the EU implies a certain number of systems to control and regulate goods entering EU territory.
Moreover, for sanitary reasons, as regards the presence of Genetically Modified Organisms, if they are allowed in Europe, their presence must, for example, be systematically specified on packaging. Importing beef fed on hormones is also prohibited. The BSE crisis (called "mad cow disease") has encouraged the European authorities to reinforce phytosanitary measures to ensure the quality of meat entering and circulating in EU countries. The principle of precaution is now more widely favored: in case of doubt, import is prohibited until the non- noxiousness of the goods is proved.

Some other goods remain prohibited or subject to specific formalities. For example, medicines for human use, waste, plants or live animals.

Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
Trade, inside the EU, in goods originating from one of the 27 Member States is totally free of Customs Duty. This trade consists of delivery and purchases inside the Community and not of exports and imports.
Duties for countries outside Europe are not very high, especially for industrial products (4.2% on average for the general tariff).

Customs Classification
Practically speaking, it is the TARIC code (made up of 10 digits) which enables Customs duty rates to be defined as well as the Community regulations applicable when a product is imported from a country which does not belong to the European Union. To find out the Customs duty on a product based on its country of origin, you should consult the TARIC database.
Import Procedures
When goods from within the Community enter Germany, the exporter must obligatorily fill out, at the end of the month, a DEB (declaration of exchange of goods) or an Intrastate Declaration.

As part of the "SAFE" standards advocated by the World Customs Organization (WCO), the European Union has set up a new system of import controls, the "Import Control System" (ICS), which aims to secure the flow of goods at the time of their entry into the customs territory of the EU. This control system, part of the Community Program eCustomer, has been in effect since January 1, 2011. Since then, operators are required to pass an Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) to the customs of the country of entry, prior to the introduction of goods into the customs territory of the European Union.

In addition to the written customs declaration, an invoice and sometimes a certificate of origin must be joined to imported products. The modernized customs code (MCC), entered into force in 2008, simplifies the procedures, for example by introducing a paperless environment and centralizing transactions. However, its substantive provisions will apply only on May 1st 2016. Until this time, the Community Customs Code and its implementing provisions continue to apply.

Since July 1, 2009, all companies established outside of the EU are required to have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number if they wish to lodge a customs declaration or an Entry/Exit Summary declaration.

Importing Samples
For the import, export and re-export of commercial samples the ATA (Temporary Admission) carnet can be used. It must be written on the product that it is a free sample and that it may not be sold.
For Further Information
German Customs
Germany Trade Portal
Bundesministerium der Finanzen

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Reaching the Consumers

Marketing Opportunities

Consumer Behavior
Every month, the GFK market research Institute publishes information about consumption in Germany. German consumers are accustomed to purchasing via catalog and are increasingly more receptive to shopping on Internet platforms. Price and quality are the most important factors.
Consumer Profile and Purchasing Power
The German consumer shows a strong propensity to compare prices and patronize "discount" stores. He is very aware of special offers, and readily goes to different shops in order to get better prices. He has very strict criteria when making a choice, according to the type of goods he wants to buy. For consumer durables, the criteria are in order safety and quality, prestige, comfort and convenience and price. For everyday goods, the only determining factor is price. For professional capital goods, the obsession with safety leads to buying criteria based on quality, reliability, the supplier's follow up and after sales service. Price is not one of the dominant criteria for this type of product. On the other hand, for minor equipment or industrial supplies, the price factor predominates.
Consumers Associations
VZBV , Federation of German Consumer Organizations
TEST , Product test foundation
Verbraucher , Consumer Initiative
Main Advertising Agencies
Carat media agency
OMD media agency
Mind Share media agency
Bader Media agency
Initiative media agency
Gesamtverband Kommunikationsagenturen GWA e.V

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Distributing a Product

Evolution of the Sector
With more than 82 million inhabitants, the German market is the largest in Europe; it is very competitive and segmented, with many sectors and products being saturated; the quality and services offered are essential. The main economic areas are North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden Wurtenberg, Bavaria, Hamburg, Berlin and Hanover, plus Leipzig for former East Germany.
Market Shares
Germany's distribution structure is characterized by:
- the large number of small independent shops;
- the sector's low level of concentration, compared with the main European markets (France, United Kingdom, Belgium);
- the predominance of distribution in city centers and urban areas;
- very few "hypermarket" style stores;
- the domination of "hard discount" stores and the importance of distance selling (mail order, e-commerce, teleshopping).

German distribution is divided between the following distribution channels: Traditional retail trade (24.8%); Specialized hypermarkets (22%); Non-food chain stores (13%); DIY hypermarkets (11.7%); Discounters (11%); Supermarkets (7.9%); Distance selling (5.8%); Department stores (3.8%). Sources: Ifo-Institut & destatis

The three leading German distribution groups are Metro, Rewe and Edeka/Ava. "Hard discount" is the leading type of food distribution, registering growth of about 10% and generating 40% of total food sales. The rise of discounters such as Lidl or Aldi has forced distributors to wage a price war: so, insufficient margins may slow down the modernization of sales outlets and the development of new distribution concepts. Relations between distributors and their suppliers, said to be very difficult, have become even more strained. A trend towards concentration has appeared and groups such as Karstadt (in German), Edeka-Tengelmann, and discounters like the American Wal-Mart are now competing hard, bringing down suppliers' margins.

Organizations in the Retail Sector
German Retail Business Federation (German only)

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Organizing Goods Transport

Main Useful Means of Transport
Road transport is the main means used for goods. 268 million tonnes of goods are transported by sea each year in Germany against 2,767 million tonnes by road transport.

On motorways, a tax on industrial vehicles with a gross weight over 12 tonnes has been in force since 1995. The tariffs are set per day, week, month or year and consist of a subscription which entitles the driver to a certificate which he must present.
Port of Hamburg
Port of Bremen
Port of Rostock
Port of Lübeck
Port of Kiel
Port of Wilhelmshaven
Berlin Airport
Sea Transport Organizations
Ministry of Transport
Air Transport Organizations
German Civil Aviation
Road Transport Organizations
DEGES (German only)
Rail Transport Organizations
Federal Railway Authority

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Identifying a Supplier

Type of Production
Aerospace, Automotive, Chemical, Contact Center, Electronics, Food and Beverage, Healthcare, Communications Technology, Logistics, Machinery and equipment industry, Nanotechnology, Renewable energies and resources industry, Tourism and leisure industry.

Business Directories

Multi-sector Directories
Export Import Deutschland - German business directories.
Franchise Direct Germany - Browse franchises listed by industry. Choose the best franchise opportunity from these industry categories.
White and Yellow Pages - Germany's business directory.
ABC der deutschen Wirtschaft - Directory of German companies. - Germany - Directory of companies in Germany. - Business directory in Germany.
German Business Directory - Doing business in Germany
Germany Business Hub - Germany's business directory.
MacRAE'S Blue Book - Business directory with detailed information of companies in Europe.
Sachon - German suppliers database. - Directory of companies in Germany. - Austria's business directory.
Wer liefert was? - Leading supplier search engine in B2B: manufacturers, service providers and distributors in Germany.
White pages - Find a business in Germany.
Yellow Pages - Find a business in Germany.
Manufacturers Associations of the Main Industries
109 professional associations listed for Germany.
Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
American Chamber of Commerce in Germany
The German Chambers of Industry and Commerce
Enterprises Federation
Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie e.V., BDI - Federation of German Industries

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Last Updates: December 2014