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United Kingdom - Selling and buying

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

Reaching the consumers

Marketing opportunities

Consumer behavior: Consumers respond well to advertising and will buy if they see an advantage such as price, quality, superior design, branding or environmental benefits. After-sales service is important as consumers do not hesitate to complain and defend their rights.
Consumer profile: The UK has a growing population, which has increased faster in recent years. The UK population is ageing but not as fast as the populations of many other EU25 countries. The average age is 39 years. Approximately one in five people in the UK were then aged under 16 and one in six people were aged 65 or over. With a stable, service-focused economy, high employment and long working hours, consumer income and expenditure has been rising in recent years. With the so-called ‘credit crunch', this is now slowing down.


The gap between ‘have' and ‘have not' is also widening. Therefore, the country presents a contrasted picture. This is illustrated in many ways: for example, while the country is highly urbanized, it places a high value on country living. Consumer loyalty has weakened due to increased mobility and easy accessibility to product information. Thus, consumers are increasingly shopping around for the best deals and stores offer loyalty schemes to keep their custom.

Main advertising agencies:

Distribution network

Evolution of the sector: United Kingdom's wholesale trade sector generated EUR 68.7 billion of value added in 2010, the third figure among the EU Member States after Germany and France. For non-specialised wholesale trade, the United Kingdom had the highest level of value added. For the wholesale of information and communication equipment, the United Kingdom was the second largest Member State.

The retail sector is one of the most important parts of the UK economy contributing 5% to GDP and GBP 17.5 billion taxes, nearly 30% of all tax revenues. The UK retail sector covers all business, from large chains and department stores, through to independents and virtual stores. The sector employs over 10% of the UK workforce, making it Britain's largest private sector employer. UK retail sector sales were estimated at more than GBP 300 billion in 2011, a 3.4% increase from 2010.

The UK is at the vanguard of multi-channel shopping. Britain’s 228,000 online retailers export more than the rest of Europe’s e-retailers put together and UK consumers spend more online per head than any other country. The fastest growing subsector of online retailing is mobile internet with mobile sales in the UK up to 5.3% in 2012.
Types of outlet: UK retail set to grow by 1.8% in 2013. Food spending grew by GBP 15.9 billion between 2009 and 2013. Grocery sales in the UK are dominated by Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrison's. These 4 trademarks have a combined market share of 76.2 percent of the UK grocery market in 2013. DIY & gardening have been the retail’s best performing sector in 2013 with a 3.3% growth, B&Q being the leader group in this sector. Home entertainment sectors declined the largest, with music & video spending set to fall by 6.3% in 2013.
Organizations in the sectors:

Market access procedures

Economic Cooperation: As a member of the European Union, the UK is also part of the European Union Customs Union. It participates in the free trade arrangements of the EU and European Free Trade Association (EFTA). However, it has not adopted the Euro as its currency, which is the British Pound. It is a member of the World Trade Organization and G8. The European Union is a signatory to multilateral and bilateral agreements with many countries.
Non tariff barriers: In accordance with its European Union membership, United Kingdom applies the European Union (EU) rules that are in force in all European Union countries. While the EU has a rather liberal foreign trade policy, there is a certain number of restrictions, especially on farm products, following the implementation of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy): the application of compensations on import and export of farm products aimed at favoring the development of agriculture within the EU, implies a certain number of control and regulation systems for the goods entering the EU territory.
Moreover, for sanitary reasons, regarding Genetically Modified Organisms (after being allowed in the European territory), their presence should be systematically specified on packaging. The beef cattle bred on hormones is also forbidden to import.
The BSE crisis (often called the "mad cow disease") urged the European Authorities to strengthen the phytosanitary measures to make sure of the quality of meats entering and circulating in the EU territory. The principle of precaution is now widespread: in case of doubt, the import is prohibited until proof is made of the non-harmfulness of products.
Average Customs Duty (excluding agricultural products): The average rate effectively applied to manufactured goods, minerals and metals in EU 15, as evaluated by UNCTAD was 1.44% in 2006.The duties for non-European countries are relatively low, especially for manufactured goods (4.2% on average for the general rate). It is one of the lowest in the world. More detailed Customs tariffs can be found at Export. classified by product type.
Customs classification: The Combined Nomenclature of the European Community (EC) integrates the HS nomenclature and supplements it with its own subheadings with an eight digit code number and its own Legal Notes created for Community purposes.
Import procedures: When introducing goods into the United Kingdom, exporters shall fill in an intrastat declaration. An individual valuation declaration should normally accompany the import entry for goods liable to customs duty where the value of the goods exceeds £6,000. However, if you regularly import dutiable goods, you can save time by completing and registering a general valuation statement. Detailed procedures are available on the English government website.

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.

The Modernized Customs Code entered into force in 2008 simplifies procedures, for example computerizing and centralizing transactions.

Organizing goods transport

Organizing goods transport to and from: 97% of the British external trade volume is handled by sea transport: it consists in about 600 million tons a year. There are hundreds of ports well-equipped for goods transportation. The most important are London, Plymouth, Southampton, Aberdeen, Liverpool, Felixstowe and Dover. England, Scotland, and Wales hold more than 80 ports as members in the British Ports Association, whose aim is to represent and protect its members from the market turmoil and to integrate European and international policies. The domestic connections are regularly ensured by domestic companies like British Midlands, Air UK / KLM, Easyjet and British Airways.

Roads are dense and effective. United Kingdom is a powerful market of the European road transport and since the market was liberalized on the European level, this sector has undergone strong upheavals. The government, through the Department of Transport, has called on the private sector to finance the creation, financing and construction of new roads, and a toll-system on highways will be the next step.

Various plans of improvement of the railway infrastructure such as the modernization of tracks in West Midlands, a high speed connection between South and North as well as a project joining the East and the West are under study.

Since December 1994, Great Britain has been connected with the European continent by the Channel, exploited by Eurotunnel company and the train Euro star (Eurotunnel). An overview of the British rail system can be found on

Sea transport organizations:
Air transport organizations:

Domestic business directories

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