Spain - Commercial Guide
Market Entry Strategy

Generalizes on the best strategy to enter the market, e.g., visiting the country; importance of relationships to finding a good partner; use of agents.

Last published date: 2020-08-07
  • There are 17 autonomous communities in Spain with varying degrees of autonomy and cultural identity. A number of regional markets joined by the two hubs of Madrid and Barcelona make up the Spanish market. The majority of agents, distributors, foreign subsidiaries and government-controlled entities that make up the economic power bloc of the country operate in these two hubs.
  • Spanish commercial procedures are in line with the rest of Western Europe, where price and value remain paramount. However, credit terms, marketing assistance and after-sales service are important factors in local purchase decisions. The use of credit to purchase consumer goods is widely accepted in Spain, particularly in the cities, with banks competing to offer coverage.
  • The Spanish government has eased regulations at all levels and increased incentives in an effort to attract foreign firms and investments. In recent years, investment incentives designed to reward investors for establishing manufacturing operations in less developed areas have dispersed some investment from the major hubs. Except for in a few cases, Spanish law permits foreign investment of up to 100 percent of equity, although investment screening by the Spanish government is required for most investments in a list of strategic industries. Unit labor costs have fallen dramatically over the last four years, and Spain has regained most of the competitiveness that it lost during the construction boom in terms of labor costs. However, despite changes in labor legislation, the law remains relatively inflexible.
  • Spaniards tend to be more formal in personal relations than Americans are, but much less rigid than they were 10 years ago. The approach to doing business is similar to that of Italy or France. Professional attire is recommended.
  • In order to break into this market, there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings with Spanish business representatives. Spaniards expect a personal relationship with suppliers and partners. It can be challenging to elicit a response to initial communication by phone or e-mail. Direct mail campaigns generally yield meager results. Less than 30 percent of local managers are fluent in English.
  • Spaniards tend to be conservative in their buying habits. Recognized brands do well. Large government and private sector buyers appear more comfortable dealing with other large, established organizations, or with firms that are recognized as leaders within their sectors.