Hungary - Country Commercial Guide
Distribution and Sales Channels

Discusses the distribution network within the country from how products enter to final destination, including reliability and condition of distribution.

Last published date: 2021-11-19

Unlike the rest of Hungary, Budapest’s retail sector has many prestigious superstores, shopping centers, hypermarkets, and supermarkets. The most successful distribution companies in Hungary are wholly owned subsidiaries of international chains such as Auchan, Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, DM, Rossmann, OBI, Praktiker, and IKEA just to name a few. The typical distribution channel in Hungary is for importer-wholesalers to service retailers and end-users directly. B2B and B2C are rapidly expanding.  Hungarian agents or distributors usually look to and rely on foreign partners to share the marketing and promotion expenses and to provide training and financing.  Until recently, small, independent, family-owned shops dominated Hungary’s retail sector, especially in the less populated parts of the country. Thousands of these shops continue to serve rural populations, posing logistical challenges for distributors and suppliers. However, medium-sized, financially well-established heavy-discount chains are making headway in Hungary’s retail sector with retail units present in smaller villages and other settlements.  Such chains include Real grocery stores having close to 2,300 shops and CBA with approximately 3,100 outlets nationwide. The second largest retail chain in Hungary is Coop supermarket with approximately 3,000 stores. Both CBA and Coop are fully Hungarian-owned and have expanded into the neighboring regions. Discount food chain stores are also present in the market. Lidl has 169 stores nationwide; Aldi, 128; Penny Market, 213; and Spar/Interspar operates close to 549 stores.

At the end of 2020, 41 shopping malls operated in Budapest, and another 80 outside of Budapest around the country.  The largest malls in Budapest are Allee, Arena, Arkad, Mammut, MOM Park and WestEnd.

The use of cash is still largely dominant in Hungary but the number of retail transactions with bank or debit cards (Visa, Amex, and Mastercard) has grown significantly in recent years.  In 2020, the domestic value of debit card usage grew by 23% compared to 2019.  Particularly in cities, consumers tend to use bankcards in malls, hyper- and super-markets, petrol stations, restaurants, and to pay for accommodation during holidays.  Card payments account for roughly 38-40% of retail payments in Hungary, compared with 75-80% of purchases across Western Europe.  Hungarian consumers pay by bank cards three times more frequently than by cash, still the value of cash withdrawals is three times as big as that of card payments.  All commercial banks in Hungary replaced the magnetic bank cards with the chip-based bank cards and have been offering no-fee cash withdrawals twice a month to their clients.  The low percentage of debit card usage is partly because of the relatively low coverage of terminals. However, according to a new governmental decision that was implemented in January 2021, all shops possessing online cash registers need to offer non-cash payment opportunities. Checks are not used at all.  A wide and reliable network of automatic teller machines (ATMs) operate throughout Hungary.  The use of these ATMs has also been favored by Hungarian consumers.

Companies interested in investment and trade issues can also contact the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency (HIPA) and the Hungarian Export Promotion Agency (HEPA). HIPA has the authority to enhance foreign direct investment into Hungary, while the Trade House strives to seek out new markets and opportunities for Hungarian enterprises and supports Hungarian SMEs with business development services such as export promotions abroad.