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Market Access Procedures


Customs Procedures

Import Procedures
Import procedures are subject to a declaration on-line or on paper. You will find further information on the Agenzia delle Dogane (Customs Agency) website.

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 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 Italy or in the EU may take advantage of this measure.

Check the website of the EU Customs Union periodically for updates.

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
For the import, export and re-export of commercial samples the ATA (Temporary Admission) carnet can be used. The inscription 'Campione gratuito. Vietata la vendita' (Sample. Not for sale) is compulsory on commercial samples.

Samples and advertising materials without commercial value are duty and tax free if they are not for sale. Samples with negligible commercial value can enter the country for a year but need a security (cash or bond) of 10% of the commercial value (tax and duty). These samples must be used in the country for demonstration purposes only. They must also contain the following:

- A certificate of origin
- A list with a description of each sample (weight and value), preferably in Italian
- A statement declaring the intention to use the samples for demonstration purposes only and to re-export without sale. This document must to be notarised by a Italian consulate.


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 Italy from outside of the European Union- whether by a private individual or a corporate entity. Italy 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
Italy 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)

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


Labeling and Packaging Rules

There are not many restrictions on packaging.
Languages Permitted on Packaging and Labeling
Italian and English.
Unit of Measurement
The metric system is used.
Mark of Origin "Made In"
It is obligatory.
Labeling Requirements
The expiry date must be shown on all perishable goods. The size and weight of the goods must also be specified.

In addition to the mandatory EU and other voluntary schemes, the use of national voluntary schemes for labeling and marking could be appreciated by local customers.

The use of an eco-label is determined by a strict evaluation of some criteria which are reviewed every three or five years. The cost of an authorisation for an eco-lable will be between €300 and €1300. The difference depends on the type of test needed. After approval, there is an annual fee equal to 0.15% of the annual sales. There are plans to reduce the procedure and fees for eco-labels. Carbon emissions criteria could be included.

Specific Regulations
Extra information is necessary concerning the composition of textile products or batteries.

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Distributing a Product


Distribution Network

Types of Outlet

Department Stores
Clothes, Cosmetics, Jewelry, Foodstuffs
La Rinascente, Coin
Supermarkets and hypermarkets
Supermarket and hypermarket
Pam, Conad, Esselunga, Carrefour
Foodstuffs and beverages
Tuodì, Lidl
Home centers
Furnishings and decoration
Ikea, Ovvio
80% foodstuffs and 20% everyday products and clothes

Evolution of the Retail Sector

Growth and Regulation
According to USDA, in 2021 food retailers reported sales of EUR 167.8 billion, 2.9% more than in 2020. In 2021, hypermarkets accounted for 14.1% of the total grocery retailers sales in Italy, while supermarkets represented 35.5% and traditional grocery stores 24.9% (USDA). In 2020, there were more than 8,800 supermarkets and superstores, around 340 hypermarkets and more than 191,500 traditional grocery stores (Federdistribuzione). Traditional grocery retailers in Italy continue to account for a largest share of outlets. The majority of hypermarkets are located in the North of Italy, whereas supermarkets are equally distributed. In 2020 the number of independent operators continued to decline even though Italian consumers continue to appreciate traditional food stores (Federdistribuzione). The increased purchases of organic products prompted by health and wellness concerns has been instrumental to the growth of Natura Sì, whose total number of outlets rose to 364 globally in 2022 (Natura Sì).
Market share
The Italian food retail and distribution market is highly competitive. In 2021, the leading players in this market were Conad (15% market share), Selex (14.5%), Coop Italia (12.3%), Esselunga (8.3%), Gruppo Vege (7.1%), Eurospin (6.9%), Carrefour (5.1%) and Lidl Italia (4.7%) (Statista). Despite the continued presence of traditional outlets, as well as increased competition from domestic and international retailers, these retailers occupy a dominant position in the market. Some of the leading players - Coop Italia and Conad - exist as consortia of smaller operators and owe some of their success to their detailed knowledge of local requirements and shoppers' preferences. The principal foreign investors are the major French retailers Carrefour and Auchan.
Retail Sector Organisations


Internet access
Italy is the third largest economy and the third most populated country in the EU. It is estimated that in 2017 Italy had a population of 49.9 million online users who were aged 15 and older. The estimated number of smartphone users in Italy in 2017 reached 39.3 million, with a penetration rate of 65.8% (Newzoo's 2017 Global Mobile Market Report). The most popular web search engines in Italy are, Bing and Yahoo, with Google dominating the scene with a market share of almost 93.5%.
E-commerce market
The Italian e-commerce market turnover grew by 17% to in 2017, reaching EUR 23.6 billion. Overall, the Italian e-commerce market is growing steadily: the number of e-shoppers reached 22 million in 2017, up 10% when compared to the previous year. Historically, most of the e-commerce turnover in Italy was generated by services. Nevertheless in 2017 products sales (EUR 12.2 billion, +28%) overtook those of services (+7%) for the first time. The e-commerce industry is estimated to represent 5.7% of the total Italian retail industry. When ranked by unique visitors per month, Zalando is the biggest B2C e-commerce site in Italy, followed by Amazon, Euronics, IBS and BonPrix. Another very popular e-commerce site is Yoox. Tourism and transport are the most popular e-commerce categories in Italy, with a turnover of EUR 9.2 billion and a 7% growth rate in 2017. Other major e-commerce sectors include consumer electronics (with a growth of 28%) and clothing (+28% growth). New sectors are emerging, including food & grocery (+43%) and furniture & home living (+31%). In 2017, two-thirds of online purchases was completed using a desktop or laptop, while one-third of purchases was made via mobile or tablet: the use of smartphones, in particular, went from 4% in 2013 to almost 25% in 2017, the total value of purchases accounting to EUR 5.8 billion (+65%). In Italy 65.3% of online shops are estimated to sell cross-border.
Social media
More than 34 million Italians use social media, with the number of users growing by 3 million in 2017 (+10% annual growth). Of these, more than 30 million are active through smartphones. Facebook and YouTube lead the social media market, with 30 and 24 million users active on these platforms respectively. Instagram ranks third with 16 million. Twitter (7 million), Google+ (6 million), Pinterest (4.7 million) and LinkedIn (4.5 million) are also widely used. In 2017, the messaging platforms market was dominated by WhatsApp (22 million users), followed by Facebook Messenger (15 million) and Skype (8 million) (source: ANSA).

Direct Selling

Evolution of the Sector
The World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA) 2017 report shows retail direct selling in Italy grew 2.5%, was valued at USD 3.224 billion, and involved 561,000 independent representatives (63% of which were women, according to SELDIA). Another 2017 WFDSA report divides retail sales as follows: wellness (62%); foodstuff and beverages (15%); cosmetics and personal care (8%), and household goods and durables (8%), among other product categories. Italy is one of the largest direct selling industries in the world.

Euromonitor International states direct selling continues to grow despite pressure from other sales channels due to its focus on premium quality and sense of exclusivity. Examples cited include appliances by Folletto and Vorwerk Bimby as well as beauty products from Just Italia. Traditional brands such as Avon, however, struggled in 2017. La Valigia Rossa, focused on female sex products, made its entry to the market. Yves Rocher has focused on expanding its number of stores despite maintaining its direct selling branch while AMC Italia - Alfa Metalcraft Corp Spa also became profitable after years of struggles, recruiting 1,600 new associates, and major operating cost reductions.

AVEDISCO, SELDIA, and DSE promote best practices in the industry.

Commercial Intermediaries

Trading Companies
  • Type of Organization
It is possible to work directly with a purchasing group, even if you are a foreigner.
  • Main Actors
Origin Group.

Using a Commercial Agent

The Advantages
There are two different types of commercial agent in Italy: either they are sole agents, and in this case they represent a single company; or they act for several companies, and are more independent. The commercial agent is used a lot because he represents limited administration costs and because he carries out direct, selective marketing operations.
Where to Be Vigilant
Never choose a commercial agent without knowing him.
Elements of Motivation
Exclusivity, low prices and frequent communication.
The Average Amount of Commission
Commission depends on the sector.
For further information, consult the Federagenti website.
Breach of Contract
For further information, consult the Federagenti website.
Finding a Commercial Agent
USARCI, National Federation of Commercial Agents
Federazione Nazionale Associazioni Agenti e Rappresentanti di Commercio (FNAARC), Corso Venezia 51, 20121 MILANO
Tel. : 00390 27750277
Fax : 00390 276008493
Contact by Email


Setting Up a Commercial Unit

The Advantages
It can be worthwhile in the context of sales development.
Different Possible Forms of Settlement
  • A Representative Office
It can obtain market research and other information, develop promotional tools and take charge of the services linked to the product. A representative office is not subject to Italian taxes and opening an office does not require any special approval. However, it cannot be involved in commercial transactions or generate income, so consequently, it cannot deal directly with commercial orders.
  • A Branch Office
A branch office can take and fill orders, implement a complete marketing program, including advertising, recruit a sales force and carry out promotional activities. A branch office is liable for Italian tax. In addition, setting up a branch office is considered to be a direct investment and requires a declaration to the Ministry of Finance.

Any foreign citizen who wants to run a business in Italy needs to obtain a business visa. Registration at the chamber of commerce is also mandatory.

  • A Company
Setting up a wholly owned subsidiary implies more time and expense, but it can provide an effective means of guaranteeing better protection of intellectual property rights, obtaining credit more easily, and penetrating the market better, avoiding the subtle but substantial import barriers.


Evolution of the Sector
Franchising is widespread throughout Italy. According to the 2019 Assofranchising report, the franchising has increased turnover by more than 26 billion euros (+4.4% compared to 2018). Italy is the fourth largest market for franchises in Europe, after France, Germany, and Spain. In 2019, the number of Italian franchises reached more than 56,400. Franchising is playing a significant role in the Italian market and economy, proving to be one of the few sectors with positive growth and considerable gains in profits and employment. The number of employees in the franchising sector totals 217,150 in 2019 (+5% compared to 2018).
In 2019, there were 980 active franchising networks (networks with at least 3 retail stores in the country) in Italy, of which 880 were Italian and 100 foreign. The average size of these franchising networks is around 50 stores each. Northern Italy has the highest concentration of franchise networks, primarily found in city centers, commercial districts and shopping malls. Lombardy is the richest region in terms of franchises (franchise shops in Lombardy were 9,182 in 2019), although there is growth in central and southern Italy. Franchising is more widespread in the service sector, which represents about 25% of brands in Italy in 2019, then there is the clothing sector with almost 20%, the catering sector with 19% and the specialized trade sector with 12.5% of the national total.
In 2004 Italy enacted a general law on franchising and an implementing regulation in 2005. The relevant laws are: Act No. 129 of 6 May 2004 (the Franchising Act), Ministerial Decree No. 204 of 2 September 2005 (the Franchising Regulation), Act no. 287 of 10 October 1990 (the Italian Antitrust Law), Commission Regulation No. 330/2010 (EU Block Exemption Regulation on vertical restraints), and Act. No. 192 of 18 June 1998 (the Anti-Economic Abuse Law). As a Code of Ethics and/or a standards-based accrediting system the EFF Code of Ethics is followed.
Some Big Franchises
Gruppo Buffetti Spa, products for companies
Pasta Rito, restaurant
Brums, children's clothes
Engel & Völkers, real estate
Gruppo Toscano Agenzia Immobiliare, real estate
La Città del Sole, decoration, nature, well-being
Key 21, Multi-utility Network, franchise portal
For Further Information
Italian franchise association
Italian franchise federation

Finding Assistance

Export Trading Companies
Italian Trading Company
Recommended Resource
Italian Trade Agency

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Latest Update: November 2023