Identifies common practices to be aware of when selling in this market, e.g., whether all sales material need to be in the local language.
New consumer products are often introduced at a reception in an upscale hotel in conjunction with a newspaper, billboard, and social media campaign. As promotional competition increases, creative sales promotions, such as contests, drawings, and raffles, become more relevant. Samples of products are often handed out at supermarkets and department stores. Participation in local exhibits and sponsorship of local events and conferences is a common practice for brand positioning. The local importer/distributor highly appreciates a shared budget for promotional campaigns and advertising. Brochures and other promotional materials in Spanish are preferred for marketing products.
U.S. companies interested in finding representatives or distributors should look for ways of adding value to the relationship, such as supporting local marketing efforts to increase potential sales and providing training to the sales force or technical staff. U.S. products are highly accepted in the Salvadoran market. The critical purchasing factors are price, quality, and post-sale service. However, each sector has its unique characteristics and techniques.
Trade Promotion and Advertising
Advertising in El Salvador is conducted through TV, radio, newspapers, and social media, and it is estimated that 20% of advertising is dedicated to outdoor media. Advertising agencies will recommend the most appropriate media mix depending on the target market, the product’s nature, the message’s purpose, or the marketing plan.
El Salvador has 47 television channels, which include commercial, educational, and religious channels with nationwide or specific territorial coverage. The main VHF channels with national coverage are 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12. The first three are part of the same business group, Telecorporación Salvadoreña. There are 28 Ultra High Frequency (UHF) channels in lower bands with limited broadcasting range, some with national coverage links, such as channel 19, Channel 21, and Channel 33. The main television channels are now transmitting their programming through the internet, targeting the audience of Salvadorans living abroad.
There are 196 FM and 71 AM radio stations in El Salvador. Statistics indicate that 70% of FM stations are primarily music, and 30% broadcast news, commentary, religion, sports, and/or educational programs.
In print media, there are six newspapers with a total daily circulation estimated at over 300,000. El Diario de Hoy and La Prensa Gráfica are the leading dailies with nationwide coverage with 65% of the total circulation, followed by Diario El Mundo and CoLatino. El Diario de Hoy and La Prensa Grafica have sister publications aimed at a more visual audience with stories that feature larger photos and shorter texts. El Diario de Hoy has sensationalist Más!, and La Prensa Gráfica has both El Gráfico (sports), and Mi Chero (daily news). Additionally, El Heraldo de Oriente and El Pais are smaller publications reporting news from the eastern and western parts of the country. In October 2020, the Government of El Salvador launched Diario El Salvador, the first newspaper founded by the government, with a daily circulation of around 60,000.
El Faro, Revista Factum, GatoEncerrado, and La Pagina are popular web-based newspapers. In addition, the American Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and other trade organizations circulate monthly magazines with paid advertising. Magazines with regional reach such as Estrategia y Negocios, El Economista Regional, SUMMA, and Central America Today are preferred advertising vehicles for economic and business groups.
The Construction Chamber, CASALCO, holds an exhibit every two years. The Salvadoran Agriculture Chamber (CAMAGRO) organizes the primary agricultural products/and machinery trade show. In addition, The Salvadoran Association of Industry (ASI) organizes a local trade show to promote different industry sectors: a regional energy congress, providing space for exhibitors, technical briefings, and business-to-business meetings.
Salvadoran companies frequently travel to trade shows in the United States to seek new products and business partners. For a list of U.S. trade shows supported by the U.S. Commercial Service in El Salvador, visit U.S. trade shows in El Salvador.
The U.S. Commercial Service offers customized solutions to help U.S. exporters, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, successfully expand exports to new markets. Our global network of trade specialists will work one-on-one with U.S. exporters through every step of the exporting process. To learn more about U.S. government trade promotion resources for new and experienced exporters, please visit Export Solutions.
In El Salvador, the government regulates prices for liquefied propane gas, public transportation, energy, and medicines. The General Superintendence of Electricity and Telecommunications (SIGET) regulates electricity and telecommunications. Government ministries directly subsidize water services and establishes the distribution service tariff. The Ministry of Economy and the Consumer Protection Office closely monitor retail gasoline, diesel, and basic food products prices and may fine retailers for confirmed cases of price gouging. The Consumer Protection Law determines that fines (classified as mild, severe, and very severe) are established based on the size of the company, impact on the consumer rights, degree of the impact on the life, health, integrity of the consumer, and degree of participation in the act, among other factors. The Sanctioning Court is responsible for issuing final resolutions or to resolve incidents between parties.
El Salvador assesses a value-added tax (VAT) of 13% on most goods. Excise taxes also apply to certain goods, such as alcohol, firearms, cigarettes, and new automobiles. Imported products may be subject to duties. Import tariffs for non-CAFTA-DR goods can vary. For example, raw materials import duties typically range from 0% to 5%, intermediate goods usually range from 5% to 10%, and finished goods are charged a maximum of 30%. Textiles, agricultural products, vehicles, and other non-essential products are subject to higher tariffs ranging from 15% to 164%. The tariffs only apply to products manufactured outside the Central American Common Market and non-U.S. products. A comparative chart of Central American import duties can be found on the Central American Economic Integration Secretariat website.
CAFTA-DR reduced tariff and non-tariff barriers for U.S. exports into the region. Duties for U.S.-made products to El Salvador can be found in the CAFTA-DR Tariff Schedule.
Sales Service/Customer Support
With an estimated 2.3 million Salvadorans residing in the United States, Salvadorans are familiar with U.S. products and like to receive U.S.-level customer service. Sellers can gain an edge by offering good service and customer support. Consumers’ and/or end users’ purchasing decisions respond differently depending on the product or sector. However, they are generally price-oriented and tied to credit conditions and after-sales service. The Consumer Protection Agency regularly raises awareness of consumer products’ quality and safety standards, making this a more prominent factor in purchase decisions.
The Consumer Protection Law was reformed in January 2013 to expand basic consumer rights. It provides the consumer with broader authority to terminate contracts and stipulates that expressed guarantees for goods or services made by the producer are legally binding. The new version of the Law also empowers the Consumer Defense Court to order monetary compensation to the consumer.
Local Professional Services
The U.S. Commercial Service can often provide contact information for professional services such as legal counsel, transportation, hotels, translators, etc. Refer to: Business Service Providers Directory
Principal Business Associations
Several business associations in El Salvador actively advocate for the rule of law, transparency, economic growth, trade, competitiveness, and corporate social responsibility. Following is a partial list of the leading associations in El Salvador:
- American Chamber of Commerce of El Salvador (AmCham)
- Cámara Salvadoreña de Tecnologías de Información y Comunicaciones (CASATIC)
- IT Chamber
- Asociación Bancaria Salvadoreña (ABANSA)
- Salvadoran Bank Association
- Asociación de Distribuidores de El Salvador (ADES)
- Distributors’ Association of El Salvador
- Asociación Nacional de la Empresa Privada (ANEP)
- National Association for Private Enterprise
- Asociación Salvadoreña de Industriales (ASI)
- Salvadoran Industrial Association
- Asociación Salvadoreña de Importadores de Vehículos (ASALVE)
- Salvadoran Association of Vehicle Importers
- Asociación Salvadoreña de Importadores de Repuestos Automotrices (ASIRA)
- Auto-Parts Importers Association
- Cámara de Comercio e Industria de El Salvador (CAMARASAL)
- Salvadoran Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Cámara Salvadoreña de la Industria de la Construcción (CASALCO)
- Salvadoran Chamber of the Construction Industry
- Cámara de la Industria Textil y Confección de El Salvador (CAMTEX)
- Chamber of Textile and Apparel Industry
- Corporación de Exportadores de El Salvador (COEXPORT)
- Exporters Corporation
Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services
There are no limitations on selling U.S. products and services in El Salvador. There are restrictions on land ownership. No single natural or legal person (Salvadoran or foreign) can own more than 245 hectares. The ownership of rural real estate may not be acquired by foreigners in whose countries of origin Salvadorans do not have equal rights, except in the case of land for industrial establishments. Foreign citizens and private companies can freely establish businesses in El Salvador.
Foreign-owned duty-free commercial centers or establishments in El Salvador’s seaports can operate as long as the majority of its capital is owned by Salvadorans and the enterprise is organized under Salvadoran law.
CAFTA-DR, Annex 1, Schedule of El Salvador contains obligations and measures related to cross-border services and investment in the following sectors: cooperative productions societies, air services, communication services – advertising and promotional series for radio and television, television and radio broadcasting services, performing arts, circuses, construction and related engineering services, public account and public auditing, health services, legal services (notary public), teachers, customs agents, energy, road transportation services and land transport.