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Market Access Procedures

 
 

Customs Procedures

Import Procedures
As Spain is part of the EU countries, a common commercial policy is adopted to import/export most products. The Agencia Tributaria manages the Spanish customs service. It is responsible for the administration of customs procedures in Spain, the collection of taxes and VAT, work for the economic development of Spain, the control of illegal trade and are facilitators of real trade.

The official model for written declarations to customs is the Single Administrative Document (SAD). The SAD serves as the EU importer's declaration.  It encompasses both customs duties and VAT and is valid in all EU Member States.

As part of the "SAFE" standards advocated by the World Customs Organisation (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 Programme eCustoms, has been in force since 1 January 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 EU recently introduced a new import control system called ICS2 to implement the EU customs pre-arrival security and safety programme.

Non-agricultural goods entering EU territory must adhere to customs formalities (ENS). This declaration must be carried out by the person bringing the goods to the territory. The Summary Declaration can be made electronically or on a form provided by the customs authorities. The deadline for lodging the ENS depends on the mode of transport carrying the goods.

Since July 1, 2009, all companies established outside of the EU are required to have an EORI number if they wish to lodge a customs declaration or an Entry/Exit Summary declaration. Once a company has received an EORI number, it can use it for exports to any of the 27 EU Member States.

Goods in transit only need a single EU transit document.

Inward processing is free of customs treatment. This procedure allows raw material (non-Union good) to enter temporarily without customs fees if it will be processed (or repaired) and re-export the finished products out of the EU territory. In this case, the importer gives a guarantee (from an insurance company or bank) equal to the amount of customs duties that would have been due on the imported raw material. This guarantee will be reimbursed when the final product is exported. This process also applies to goods planned to be re-exported. Only goods sold in the EU market are eligible to import duty and taxes.

For outward processing, duties and taxes apply only to the value added during the process. Only firms located in Spain or in the EU may take advantage of this measure.

The EU plans to introduce a new import control system called ICS2 that will start on 15 March 2021 to implement the EU customs pre-arrival security and safety programme.

For more information, please visit the website of the EU on customs policy.
Specific Import Procedures

The Union Custom Code - adopted on 9 October 2013 as Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 - Title V provides for the following customs simplifications:

  • Simplified declaration (Article 166 UCC)
  • Centralised clearance (Article 179 UCC)
  • Entry in the declarant's records (Article 182 UCC). This type of customs declaration is not allowed for all customs procedures (e.g. exclusion of transit).
  • Drawing-up of customs declarations for goods falling under different tariff subheadings ( Article 177 UCC)
  • Self-assessment (Article 185 UCC)
Importing Samples
Business executives entering with commercial samples must carry a letter from their company certifying their status, an identification document of the samples and a certificate that the samples are not for sale. The ATA book can be used. As a signatory to the International Convention to Facilitate the Importation of Commercial Samples and Advertising Matter, Spain admit samples of negligible value duty free.
 

To go further, check out our service Import Controls and Export Controls.

 
 

Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports

Customs threshold (from which tariffs are required)
EUR 150
Average Customs Duty (Excluding Agricultural Products)
Import duty and taxes are due for goods imported to Spain from outside of the European Union - whether by a private individual or a corporate entity. Spain is party to the European Union’s Common Customs Tariff, therefore preferential rates apply to imports from countries which the EU has signed agreements with. Duties range from 0-17%, with the general tariff averaging 4.2%. However, foodstuffs, textiles and clothing still experience some protection measures (quotas, higher tariffs, etc.). Some imports are subject to anti-dumping duties.
Products Having a Higher Customs Tariff
The sectors of fabrics and items of clothing (high duties and quotas) and foodstuffs (preferential treatment and many tariff quotas, CAP) still experience protection measures. According to the recently published 2019 EU Trade Policy Review (WTO), the sector with the highest average tariffs is the dairy sector (32.3%), followed by sugar and confectionery (27.0%), meat (19.0%), cereals and preparations (17.2%) and fruit and vegetables (13.0%). Concerning non-agricultural products, fish and fishery products (11.8% on simple average) and clothing (11.6%) are the sectors with the highest tariff protection.

More information can be found in the WTO Tariff profile of the EU.
Preferential Rates
For countries with whom a bilateral or a multilateral agreement have been signed by the European Union.

To get further information consult the website of the European Union.

To get further information on customs policies in the European Union, please check the exhaustive report by the European Commission.

Customs Classification
Spain uses the harmonised system.
Method of Calculation of Duties
Customs duty is calculated Ad Valorem on the CIF value of the goods, in accordance with the Common Customs Tariff (CCT) for all the countries of the Union. TARIC, the integrated Tariff of the European Union, is a multilingual database integrating all measures relating to EU customs tariff, commercial and agricultural legislation.
Method of Payment of Customs Duties
Customs duty is payable in cash (in Euros, by check, by money order, by wire transfer); payment terms can possibly be granted via collection credit or customs credit.
Import Taxes (Excluding Consumer Taxes)
none
 

List of tariffs and local taxes that apply to your product on our service Customs Duties and Local Taxes.

 

Labeling and Packaging Rules

Packaging
It must be in accordance with the European legislation on the prevention of risks to the consumers' health and on environment protection and particularly relating to waste treatment. Packages in wood or plant material can be subjected to a phytosanitary check.
For further information, refer a summary of the European legislation on this subject.
Languages Permitted on Packaging and Labeling

All the essential information on the product must be labeled or counter-labeled in Spanish (+ other joint official languages, potentially for commercial reasons).

Unit of Measurement
It is compulsory to use the Metric system
Mark of Origin "Made In"
Compulsory and is checked by the Customs department
Labeling Requirements
Consumption age for alcohol, colorants, standards, etc. In addition to EU's mandatory and voluntary schemes, national voluntary labeling schemes, often appreciated by consumers, might apply.
Specific Regulations
The European legislation provides for special labelling rules for certain products such as food, household appliances, sportswear, textiles, etc. Cigarettes, electrical products, drugs, pharmaceutical and cosmetics, fertilizers and fungicides, firearms, motor vehicles, tires and tubes are subject to specific regulations.

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Distributing a Product

 

Distribution Network

Types of Outlet

Hypermarkets, supermarkets and superettes
Located in city outskirts. Both food and non-food products are found here. Superettes are smaller retail outlets than supermarkets and are located in cities.
Carrefour, Eroski, Alcampo
Specialized superstores
Hypermarkets specializing in a family of products.
Pronovias (wedding dresses), Fnac Spain (cultural products), Decathlon (sports goods).
Departmental stores
Located downtown on several floors. There are different specialized departments.
El Corte Ingles
Shopping centers
Located in city outskirts or downtown. Usually you find a hypermarket and a shopping mall here.
Madrid Shopping Centers
Discount
Mainly for food products. They offer distributor brand products or unbranded products. They are preferred for their discount prices.
Lidl, Aldi, Dia
Retail traders
Local specialized stores: grocery store, butcher's store, fish shop, fruits and vegetables store, cheese store, delicatessen, baker's store, cake store, florists. Preferred for the quality of their products, the human touch and their suggestions and advice.
 

Evolution of the Retail Sector

Growth and Regulation
Both globally and nationally, the scope and impact of COVID-19 remains uncertain and is rapidly evolving. The retail competitive landscape in Spain remained highly diversified in 2021, led by major grocery retailers. Grocery retail is the most important retail channel in Spain, representing more than half of total store-based retailing value sales. In 2020, the food processing industry recorded a turnover of $157 billion, accounting for 2% of GDP (USDA).

While hypermarkets and larger sized supermarkets control a large share of sales, small sized supermarkets located in urban areas are becoming ever more popular due to their proximity to the consumer (generally located within walking distance of residential and/or business areas). Supermarkets and self-service stores are consumers’ prefered channel, accounting for 47.6% of total food purchases in 2020 (MAPA). According to Euromonitor, in 2019, supermarket sales increased by 4% in current value terms to reach 60.3 billion euros. Supermarket sales are expected to increase 3% in the next five years.

Convenience stores are very popular for last minute purchases. The sales through this kind of store have largely benefited from increasingly busy lifestyles. The main advantage pointed out by convenience store consumers include their opening hours (open longer hours than other stores). However, these stores are going through a rough time due to their high prices.

Traditional markets are composed of corner grocery stores, open-air markets and regional markets. Wholesalers are the main suppliers for traditional markets. Usually, the corner grocery stores are family owned and located within residential and/or neighborhood areas. Although they are small, they usually carry a diversified range of food and cleaning products. Sanitary conditions are good and most have a small refrigeration area. Although their prices are usually higher than in any other type of outlet, they are quite popular for their high quality fresh produce and their proximity.

The leading online retail channel in 2020 remained Amazon with a 19.4% value share of the market (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada). According to Euromonitor, food and drink products are the most popular product type sold via internet retailing in Spain. More families, particularly in the big urban areas, save time buying their groceries online. Still, the importance of internet retailing within grocery retailing has plenty of room to grow.
Market share
Distribution in Spain is still characterized by a large number of retailers and traditional stores. Hypermarkets/supermarkets, convenience stores, major discount stores and specialized stores coexist with traditional corner grocery stores and open-air markets.

In 2021, grocery retail distribution was dominated by:
•    Mercadona SA (supermarkets) with EUR 25.5 billion sales in 2021 and 26.7% market shares
•    Carrefour (hypermarkets, supermarkets, discount stores) : 7.3% market shares
•    Grupo Eroski (hypermarkets and supermarkets) : 4.5% market shares
•    Auchan retail : 3% market shares
•    Lidl supermercados (discount store) : 5.8% market shares
•    Dia retail (discount store) : 5.4% market shares
•    Consum : 3.4% market shares

Retail Sector Organisations
National Association of Mass Distribution Companies (ANGED)
Spanish Food and Drink Industry Federation
Spanish Chamber of Commerce
 

E-commerce

Internet access
Spain is the fifth most populated country in the EU, with a population of 46.5 million people, out of which 80% uses the internet. It is also one of the fastest-growing e-commerce markets in the region. User penetration is at 53.4% in 2018 and it is expected to hit 65.9% by 2022. According to Eurostat, 69% of all internet users in Spain access it daily.  In 2017, the number of smartphone users in Spain was 30.3 million. That number is predicted to grow by 7.7 million to 34.3 million users in 2021, according to Statista estimates. The operating system market in Spain is dominated by Android with a percentage of 89.4 of the market in January 2017.  As for the web search engines, the most popular ones are Google (95.44%), Bing (3.08%), Yahoo! (1.2%), DuckDuckGo (0.13%), MSN (0.06%) and Baidu (0.02%).
E-commerce market
E-commerce turnover in Spain has increased in the second quarter of 2017, with a year-on-year growth of 23.4% to total 7.338 billion euros, according to the latest e-commerce data available on the CNMCData website. In 2017, Spanish B2C e-commerce turnover grew by 8% to €28 billion. Spain had an online population of 37,8 million people who were aged 15 and older. Of the total online population, 26.1 million bought something online in 2017. The large majority of cross border e-commerce is completed with other EU countries, representing over 92% of the total cross-border amount. Broken down into number of transactions, 44.2% of sales were registered on Spanish websites and 55.8% on foreign websites in the second quarter of 2017.
Social media
According to an April 2017 report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau Spain (IAB Spain), Facebook was used by 91% of social media users ages 16 to 65, while WhatsApp came in second at 89% of respondents. WhatsApp users spent an average of over five hours per week on WhatsApp—more time than users of any other platform. The most popular social networks in Spain are Facebook (71,42%), Pinterest (9,81%), Twitter (7,5%), YouTube (5%), Instagram (4,8%) and Tumblr (0,79%). eMarketer estimates that 61.9% of internet users and 45% of the population in Spain will be social network users in 2018. Both figures are low for Western Europe.
 

Direct Selling

Evolution of the Sector
According to the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations, Spain had 250,670 independent representatives and 872 million USD in direct retail sales during 2017, a 0.8% drop compared to 2016. These sales were divided by sector as follows: cosmetics and personal care (30%); wellness (30%); home care (14%); clothing and accessories (12%); household goods and durables (5%); and books, toys, stationary, etc. (5%), among others.

According to Euromonitor International, direct sellers   contact current and potential clients via apps, official websites, WhatsApp, and social media to handle payments, delivery, and customer service. Furthermore, most direct sellers are women due to the low barriers of entry and company support, most work on a part-time basis, and many are required to become self-employed for tax purposes if their turnover is greater than the Spanish minimum salary.

Euromonitor International claims Vorwerk España is the largest direct selling company given the success of its Thermomix product (Spain is the fourth largest consumer of this product). Herbalife International de España also has a large number of direct sellers and aggressive marketing.
 
 

Commercial Intermediaries

Trading Companies
 
  • Type of Organization
The importers-cum-distributors play the main role. They usually have a national coverage (including the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands) and they depend on the regional wholesalers in areas where they do not have their own delegation. Each is specialized in a particular line of business.
  • Main Actors
Spanish association of wood importers (SAWI)
World Steel Association
Wholesalers
 
  • Type of Organization
They usually have only a regional coverage, or even local, but they often group together sector-wise and/or geographic location-wise. They are sometimes importers.
  • Main Actors
Asomafrut, association of fruits and vegetables wholesalers of Madrid
 

Using a Commercial Agent

The Advantages
It is evidently the least expensive form to afford and to open the market.
Where to Be Vigilant
The inherent disadvantages:
- its legal status being different from that of the Sales Representative (see the model contract)
- the difficulty in finding an agent. The 50,
000 agents in business are categorized into 68 regional « colleges » (orders) which accredits them to practice the profession. These « colleges » are members of the CGAC (General Council of Sales Agents Colleges of Spain).
Elements of Motivation
The remuneration amount is an important element of motivation. Checking and close contacts will be necessary for tracking the agent's activity efficiently.
The Average Amount of Commission
The agent remuneration can be a fixed amount, a commission or a combination of the two.
Breach of Contract
The agency contract can be for a fixed period or an open-ended contract. The notice period for an open contract is a month for every year the contract is in force with a maximum of 6 months. Council Directive 86/653/EEC establishes the rights and obligations of the principal and its agent.
Finding a Commercial Agent
CGAC, General Council of Commercial Agents' Colleges of Spain
Alibaba
 

Setting Up a Commercial Unit

The Advantages
It is the best way to track the monitor closely and to get a « Spanish » image, which is reassuring for customers. In an effort to simplify the process of setting up a business in Spain, the "Ventanilla Unica" was created, providing businesspeople with the assistance of an expert.
Where to Be Vigilant
It is necessary to carry out beforehand a detailed market study to make sure that the potential turnover and margins can allow the structure to be taken on. The time for return on investment is around 3 years. Apart from the director, it is preferable to recruit Spanish employees who will know the specific requirements of the market.
Different Possible Forms of Settlement
 
  • A Representative Office

This is not an effective form.

  • A Branch Office
The Spanish legislation does not facilitate the establishment of this type of structure.
  • A Company
This is the best option which enables the foreign company to become assimilated and put it on an equal footing with its Spanish or foreign competitors who have chosen this system.
Two forms are possible:
- la S.L., Sociedad Limitada (equivalent to a limited liability company) whose minimum capital must be 3,005.06 EUR immediately payable. This is the best way to start up.

- the S.A, Sociedad Anonima for which the minimum capital must be 60,101.21 EUR divided into shares. It must be fully subscribed when the company is formed and payable up to at least 25%.
 

Franchising

Evolution of the Sector

This is a recent (started in the 90s) but dynamic sector. It presents a guarantee for the small retailer and it is being consolidated. The franchise sector has steadily grown over the past several years. According to the 2020 report by Spanish Franchise Association (AEF), the Spanish franchise system consisted of a total of 1,381 brands in 2019 - 0.36% more than in 2018, when there were 1,376 networks. There were 1,120 signs of Spanish origin (81.9% of the total) and the remaining 249 (18.1%) came from a total of 26 countries, in particular France (56 brands), the United States (46), Italy (44), the United Kingdom (16) and Germany and Portugal (14).  In total there were 5 more networks, 2 domestic and 3 foreign, compared to December 2018. Of these 1,381 franchises, the sector with the highest number of brands was "Fashion", with a total of 242 networks (5 fewer than the previous year), followed by "Hospitality/Catering", with 207 chains (11 more than in 2018), and "Aesthetics/Aesthetics", with 113 networks (2 more than in the last relationship).

The entire Spanish franchising system at the end of 2019 recorded a turnover of 26,154.3 million Euro, compared to 27,707.2 million Euro achieved in 2018, which is equivalent to a 5.9% decrease. As regards the number of outlets in operation, at the end of 2019 there were a total of 77,819 outlets in Spain, of which 19,787 owned and the remaining 58,032 franchised. A key aspect of the franchising system is that it generates employment in Spain: at the end of last year the system employed 294,231 people, 359 more (0.13%) than in 2018.

When drawing up contracts, franchise companies - whether Spanish, foreign, or the master franchisee - must register with a special administrative Franchisors Registry and need to meet the requirements of the Disclosure of Pre-Contractual Information. The intended franchisee must receive all the required information in writing at least 20 days prior to signing a franchising contract or a pre-contract, or prior to any payment to the franchisor. All new contracts should comply with Spanish and EU legislation. Current contracts should also be reviewed whenever possible.
Legislation regulating franchise matters in Spain includes:

  • Article 62, of Law 7/1996, of 15th January, of Retail Sector Management.
  • Royal Decree-Law 201/2010, of 26th February, regulating  the exercise of commercial activity under a franchise regime and the communication of data to the Registry of Franchisors.
  • Law14/2013 of 27th September, Support for Entrepreneurs.
  • Law 20/2013 of 9th December, Warranty of Market Unity.
Some Big Franchises
Grupo Lizarran, restaurant business
Mc Donald's, fast food
MRW, transport express
Juegos y sueños, child welfare, toys…
Mango, fashion
Lists of franchises by sector
For Further Information
SAF, Spanish Association of Franchisers
, Lists of franchises per sector
 

Finding Assistance

Export Trading Companies
ICEX - Invest in Spain
Recommended Resource
 
 
 
 

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Latest Update: February 2024