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Given its large size, the United States represents a very important market. It is the ultimate test market for exporters. The country is open to all kinds of new products and technologies, but geographically it is very spread out and there is intense competition. This market is, however, very demanding and requires a considerable amount of preparation, ground work and long-term consistency.
In 2004, total retail trade was valued at 3,296 billion euros, a growth of 7.9%, the consumption level being the driving factor behind American retail growth.

The Business to Consumer (B to C) market

Market segmentation is drawn along various lines, including age groups, ethnic groups, even social and religious groups, which has forced distributors to adapt themselves to this situation. One of the most marked consequences of this absence of homogeneity is the emergence in the past few years of "Speciality Stores"such as (Home Depot, Best Buys etc) which currently represent 11% of retail sales. In fact, the American consumer is unique because of his demanding nature, the importance he attaches to price, and his product disloyalty. It is thus incumbent upon distributors to continuously adapt themselves to the market, and to engage in well-targeted marketing efforts in order to win the loyalty of the consumer .The majority of sales, however, are still achieved by large distribution chains:

- Wall Mart ( 4,000 outlets)
- The Kroger Co.
- Sears Roebuck & Co (bought by Kmart).
- Safeway.

The Business to Business (B to B) market

The American market is divided into economic regions and each region has its own distribution circuit.The market can be divided into 5 large geographical zones:
- The Northeast corridor centered around New York, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia,
- The South-Eastern zone centered around Miami, New Orleans and Atlanta,
- The Mid-West: Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland,
- The State of Texas: Houston and Dallas,
- The West in general and California in particular: Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The choice of a local distributor, be it an importer, a wholesaler, or an agent, is essential.
Distributors generally prefer to concentrate on a limited range of products within a small geographical area and once successful expand their market coverage. It is important to conduct documentary research in order to understand the financial situation, business references, and also the legal background.
Besides the contract that governs the distribution of products in the American market, the distributor must also guard himself against "product liability" risks that cover the responsibility of the manufacturer vis-?vis the product as well as "trademarks" in order to ensure that its brand is not being used by a third party (see below the chapter on patents and brands).
Participation in professional exhibitions and trade fairs is strongly recommended as a first step towards exporting to this market. These exhibitions are organized according to product sector, and as far as the current trend goes, specialized regional exhibitions are preferred where visitors can personally make contact with their local distribution network.

Several professional exhibitions take place every year, including:
- the Arms Supermarket Promotion Show (marketing exhibition for distribution) that will take place from 11th March 2006 - 13th March 2006 in Chicago.
- the journées du Marketing Direct from 1st June to 6th June 2006 in New-York
- the exhibition for Commerce électronique from 28th January till 31st June 2006.

Transportation of goods

By road

The road network was some 6,500,000 million km long in 1999, of which 88,727 km were highways. The network in place for goods transportation is much wider than the one of travellers and concentrates on its own 30% of total goods transport. The future prospects for road investments are very good at the federal level, as well as at the state level. The question remains on hold for big conglomerations.

By rail

The railroad network extends over 315,000 km and transported 1,713 million tons/km in 1998. 40,000 km of railways are used to transport passengers. An important deregulation took place on the American railway freight market in the 80s, and since then, the part of total freight transport increased to more than 40%. Amtrak is the main railroad company. The organisation in charge of controlling the railway transport is the Federal Railroad Administration ( F.R.A).
The United States also shelters 3 million km of pipelines (oil pipelines and gas mainly).

By sea

All coasts of the country have important, highly computerised ports, automated for a fast distribution of the goods (especially in containers), some of them offer a direct connection towards waterways. The main ports are Long Beach, New York, Boston, Oakland, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, Charleston, Seattle, Portland.

By air

The United States possess more than 18,000 airports, the major ones being Chicago, New York JFK, and Los Angeles. The world's leading airports ranked by passengers traffic and by quantity of freight transported are Atlanta (more than 78 million passengers in 1999) and Memphis (2,400,000 tons of freight in 1999).
The main American airlines are: American Airlines, TWA, Delta Airlines, Continental Airlines, United, US Airways and Northwest Airlines. The internal network is extremely developed. As with railway transport, the air transport witnessed a strong deregulation in the 80s which helped increase its competitiveness.



Patents and brands

The body responsible for granting and respecting laws relating to patents and trademarks is the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
The United States signed the Agreement of Paris for the protection of industrial property, as well as the agreement establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization( WIPO) and the Patent Co-operation treaty( PCT).

Texts currently applying to patents/brands

  Text Date entered into law Period of validity Comment
Trademark   Law on Marks   1999   10 years renewable   It becomes public if it is not used 5 years after its deposit.  
Design   Law on industrial designs   1999   10 years renewable 3 times    
-   -   -   -   -  

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