Identify common practices a company needs to be aware of when selling in your market.
Trade Promotion and Advertising
U.S. firms should maintain close liaison with distributors and customers to exchange information and ideas. Communication through telephone and e-mail are widely utilized while video conferencing platforms (MS Teams/Cisco Webex, etc.) are increasingly prevalent. However, the understanding developed through periodic personal visits remains the optimum way to keep distributors informed of new developments and to resolve any problems quickly. Prompt acknowledgement of correspondence is recommended.
Vigorous and sustained promotion is often needed to launch products. Products must be adapted to both technical requirements and to consumer preferences. It is not sufficient to merely label a product in conformity to national requirements. For the development of a product’s full market potential, quality, price, packaging and after-sales service are key. U.S. exporters may also wish to consider warehousing in Ireland for expeditious supply and service for customers in Ireland and Europe.
Distribution methods vary by product, as well as with individual commercial relationships. There has been an increase in the centralization of distribution systems. Methods must be tailored to fit market conditions in each instance. U.S. companies can utilize successful distribution techniques practiced in the United States as a threshold for approaching the Irish market.
Ireland does not host any major international trade fairs. In international terms, Irish trade fairs are small-scale events that attract local trade and consumer audiences. They principally offer sales and promotional opportunities for Irish manufacturers, agents, and distributors. In general, the international element of these events is limited to local representatives promoting international brands. The global health pandemic accelerated the utilization of virtual platforms for business communications by Irish companies and organizations. This includes increased sales promotion and advertising across social media channels.
Due to the proximity of Ireland to major trade fairs in European cities, most Irish manufacturers, agents, distributors, and end users attend the major European exhibitions in their industry sectors. The U.S. Commercial Service in Dublin promotes U.S. pavilions at selected European tradeshows to the Irish business community to ensure that U.S. exhibitors can take advantage of business opportunities in the Irish market. New ways of bringing trade promotion and matchmaking programs to a virtual audience are beginning to emerge but have yet to be measured for delivering successful outcomes.
Ireland has approximately 60 newspapers and 150 periodicals or trade magazines. The Dublin dailies Irish Times and Irish Independent and the Cork-based Irish Examiner enjoy national distribution. The Irish Independent has the largest national circulation. While the Irish Times has the smallest circulation in Dublin, it does reach the key business and financial markets.
There are eight national Sunday newspapers, of which The Business Post is directed at corporate executives. British newspapers and tabloids are widely available in Ireland.
There is increased competition in the broadcasting sector with independent national broadcasting organizations; Newstalk and Today FM (radio), Virgin Media (television) now challenging the state-controlled Radio-Telefis Eireann (RTE) national broadcasting organization. There are also a large number of independent radio stations operating in local areas.
Pay-TV households account for over 71% of the 1.59 million TV households in Ireland. Digital TV services dominate across 98% of households.
The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland operates a code of standards. Advertising films must be approved before showing. Detailed advertising rates can be obtained from most local advertising agencies.
There are numerous advertising agencies with a wide range of services in Ireland. Advertising agencies utilize every medium available to advertisers including direct mailings, press, radio, television, point-of-sale advertising, posters, public transportation vehicles and all social media channels.
Other promotional techniques such as loyalty schemes, coupons, samples, premiums, and prizes are also used.
The Irish Government strictly enforces laws covering gaming and lotteries, as well as restrictive trade practices. In 2010, the Department of Justice published a major review of Irish gambling legislation ‘Options for Regulating Gambling’ that outlined a range of choices for developing a revised regulatory architecture for gambling into the future. The Department subsequently published legislative proposals for a new and comprehensive framework for the regulation (including licensing) of gambling in Ireland in the Gambling Control Bill 2013. In October 2021, the current government published the General Scheme of the Gambling Regulation Bill that is working its way through the legislative drafting process.
Companies that advertise and sell goods and services should obtain local professional advice regarding provisions of the law and consumer acceptance of promotional or marketing techniques.
Major organizations engaged in market research provide the usual range of services, including store audits, consumer surveys, product field-testing, and attitude and motivation research. There are differences, however, in spending habits and preferences for goods and services, and local opinion should be obtained in advance of creating specific strategies that call for a major commitment of resources.
Sales quotations are usually given on a c.i.f. (cost, insurance, freight) basis, to the point of importation. The c.i.f. quote is generally preferred by Irish importers as they are familiar with the customs charges and taxes on the product that are levied at the time of importation but may not be acquainted with U.S. trucking and ocean or air charges.
Large firms and department stores, however, may purchase on f.o.b. (free on board) terms when they prefer to arrange for shipping and insure the goods themselves.
Quotations and invoices can be made in U.S. dollars.
Ireland incorporates EC customs duties and applies a value-added tax (VAT) of 23% to virtually all goods, including imported goods, sold in Ireland.
Sales Service/Customer Support
The provision of after-sales parts and service is essential and should be actively considered when entering into an agreement with an Irish partner. There are also independent after-sales, warranty and product servicing organizations specializing in specific business sectors.
Because of the differences between EU member states in relation to labeling, legal guarantees and liability, suppliers from outside of the EU should be aware of existing and upcoming legislation affecting sales, service and customer support and monitor EU initiatives aimed at harmonizing national legislation.
Under the 1985 Directive on liability of defective products, amended in 1999, the producer is liable for damage caused by a defect in a product. The victim must prove the existence of the defect and a causal link between defect and injury (bodily as well as material). A reduction of liability of the manufacturer is granted in cases of negligence on the part of the victim.
The 1992 General Product Safety Directive introduced a general safety requirement at the EU level to ensure that manufacturers only place safe products on the market. It was revised in 2001 to include an obligation on the producer and distributor to notify the Commission in case of a problem with a given product, provisions for its recall, the creation of a European Product Safety Network, and a ban on exports of products to third countries that are not deemed safe in the EU.
In 2020 the European Commission announced its intention to revise the aging General Product Safety Directive following an evaluation of the current system. Following a round of public consultations in 2020 the Commission published its proposal for a revised Directive in June 2021. Amongst other things, the new proposal looks to update rules to reflect technological progress, to ensure better enforcement, and to improve the recall process of dangerous products. Importantly, the modified Directive would extend manufacturers’ obligations to companies selling their products in the European Union through distance sales and would create the possibility of appointing an authorized representative for fulfilling these legal obligations. The proposal needs to go through the European Union’s legislative process and will require the approval of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.
Legal Warranties and After-sales Service
Under the 1999 Directive on the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees, professional sellers are required to provide a minimum two-year warranty on all consumer goods sold to consumers (natural persons acting for purposes outside their trade, businesses, or professions), as defined by the Directive. The remedies available to consumers in case of non-compliance are repair of the good or goods, replacement of the good or goods, a price reduction, and cancellation of the sales contract.
Local Professional Services
Through assisting the significant American business community with operations in Ireland, local professional services firms are well-accustomed to supporting the regulatory needs of U.S. companies. The U.S. Commercial Service, U.S. Embassy, Ireland is available to address U.S. exporters inquiries and introductions to Irish professional services firms.
Principal Business Associations
Chambers Ireland maintains a large network of chambers of commerce with the largest being based in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford.
The American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, (AmCham), is the voice of the 900 U.S. companies with operations in Ireland. AmCham represents the interests of its members with active working groups in areas such as human resources, research, development and innovation and employment law. The organization, for which the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland is patron, also maintains regional chapters and maintains a busy schedule of events throughout the year to facilitate policy exchange and networking.
The Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation, (IBEC), is the largest business representational organization in Ireland with over 7,500 members. IBEC’s remit is to lead, shape and promote business policy and conditions to drive success. The organization has over 60 industry and trade policy sub-groups encompassing Ireland’s principal industry sectors.
The two primary organizations representing small and medium size companies are the Small Firms Association, (SFA – part of IBEC) and the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME). All business associations in Ireland accept U.S. companies as members.
Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services
All citizens or sub-sets of the population of Ireland can own and sell manufacturing products or services across the board, therefore no specific limitations apply.