Buying and Selling

flag Uruguay Uruguay: Buying and Selling

In this page: Market Access Procedures | Reaching the Consumers | Distributing a Product | E-commerce | Organizing Goods Transport | Identifying a Supplier


Market Access Procedures

International Conventions
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
Party to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
Party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
International Economic Cooperation
Uruguay is member of the Latin American Integration Association. It also belongs to the Mercosur, and has signed a free trade agreement with Mexico. The country have signed a trade agreement with 21 other countries in the São Paulo Round of the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP).
Non Tariff Barriers
Uruguay has a liberal import policy. There is no quota system. License is required for the import of products such as medical equipment, chemicals, cattle, sugar, cereals, meat and flour. All importers should nevertheless be registered with the Central Bank and declare all their imports by filling an import declaration. Recording Certificates are valid for 180 days. A deadline for customs clearance of the goods is fixed.
Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
Uruguay applies the Harmonized Customs System (SH)

Customs Classification
Uruguay applies the harmonized Customs System, based on the World Customs Organization's system. Customs duties are calculated Ad valorem on the CIF value of the goods. However, Uruguay applies some minimum price for textile and clothing imports. Importers have to pay the difference between the amount of the invoice and the minimum price. The custom duties are payable on that minimal price. Uruguay is not part of the WTO.

Uruguay is a member of the MERCOSUR (Mercado Comun del Sur, gathering Argentina, Brasil, Paraguay and Uruguay), aimed at creating a free trade zone, a common external tariff and a free circulation zone for goods, services, capitals and persons. Customs duties between member countries were theoretically abolished in 1994, with nevertheless a lot of exceptions, according to the "adaptation regime" (Regimen de adecuacion).

The common external tariff (CET) does ot concern all products, currently: only 75% of the tariff lines benefit from a single tariff. The goods still outside the system, for the 4 countries are: equipment goods, IT, telecommunications, cars and sugar sectors.

Import Procedures
Only commercial firms, industrial firms, or individuals listed in the registry of importers may legally import products into Uruguay. A proforma invoice is required to start the import procedures, and importers must use an agent to handle their customs entries.  Required documents are commercial invoice, transportation document, and certificate of origin.  However, the country may require other certificates depending on the type of product (HS Code).

The Mercosur common external tariff applies to ad valorem CIF value of imported goods. This customs policy may be subject to exceptions based on the type of goods. It is also important to mention that re-exporting within a Mercosur member country does not give rise to an exemption from customs duties: For instance, if you export a product to Uruguay, and sell it to Brazil later, you would have to pay Uruguayan customs fees, and later Brazilian customs fees. To avoid such a situation, it is highly recommended to use free zones.

For more information, please visit the Uruguayan customs website.
Importing Samples
The import of sample is tax free if  the value of goods in customs doesn't exceed USD 100 for each delivery.
For Further Information
National Customs Office

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Reaching the Consumers

Marketing opportunities

Consumer Profile
With its population of almost 3.5 million people, Uruguay is a relatively small but active market. Uruguay’s per capita gross income (UYU 25,440 per month in 2021 - National Institute of Statistics of Uruguay) and spending levels rank amongst the highest for major Latin American economies. However, the real growth of the Uruguayan consumer market eased in recent years, as a result of the country’s economic slowdown during this period. After a few years of sluggish growth, the economy accelerated and is of 3% in 2021 (IMF).
The urban dwellers are different from the rural population because of the income gap. The urban population displays a rather Western consumer behaviour, while the rural population is less demanding and are more interested in traditional products. However, the income inequality between urban and rural areas is narrowing, and the middle-class segment is expanding. The median age of the Uruguayan population is 35.5 years (CIA World Factbook, 2020 est.).
Touristic centres are characterized by luxurious consumption. The average consumer is characterized by a rather conservative behaviour.
Consumer Behaviour
When making purchase decisions Uruguayan consumers consider price as the main criteria. This is especially true for foodstuff and everyday products, while for durable goods and services quality remains central.
According to a survey by Nielsen, 58% of Uruguayans said they changed their shopping habits in recent years in order to save money on day-to-day expenses. Of these, 55% actively seek promotions and discounts, while 48% claim to buy only what is necessary (latest data available). Uruguayan consumers often check several distribution channels to find the most convenient one. E-commerce in Uruguay is still in an early stage but is growing rapidly. In most cases, consumers purchase online because of better prices or since they can find products that are not available in local stores.
Consumers Associations
Uruguayan Body for Consumer Defense
League for Consumer Defence of Uruguay
Main Advertising Agencies
Advertising Agencies Association of Uruguay

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Distributing a Product

Evolution of the Sector
Uruguay has moved up the table in a global ranking of attractiveness for the retail sector, taking the third spot, according to AT Kearney’s Global Retail Development Index. Business development incentives in the sector come in a context of foreign capital and brands developing in the country, alongside strong dynamics in mergers and acquisitions among leading domestic supermarket chains.

The main commercial area of the country is located in Montevideo and its suburb. Big malls are recent and can all be found in Montevideo: "3 Cruces Shopping", "Punta Carretas Shopping", "Montevideo Shopping", "Portones Shopping". Other important commercial areas are: Punta del Este, Paysandu, Salto and Colonia.

Traditional distribution networks are small shops, rather family businesses spread out all around the country. The image of a wholesaler is unlikely and the modern distribution is dominated by importers-distributors delivering big retail chains and smaller retailers. The market of modern distribution is composed by this 3 players: Disco, Devoto et Tienda Inglesa. There is only one superstore, Groupe Casino, owned by the French same called group. Franchising model starts being developed in the country. Industrial semi-finished or finished goods are operated by distributor agents (no specialized distribution chain).
Market share
Uruguay's tax legislation has attracted many investments that have favoured the growth of retail. The growth gained momentum when the government opened the market to supermarkets and hypermarkets in 2009. According to Euromonitor data, the supermarket and department stores' market in Uruguay is composed of almost 30,000 shops. Furthermore, small and independent supermarkets account for 67% of sales, while the remaining 33% corresponds to large supermarkets.

The pioneers of the market are Disco SA and Ta-Ta SA, which quickly invested in this market segment. Disco targets the densely populated, low-income areas of Montevideo, while Ta-Ta is more active in the interior of the country where it faces less competition. Minor competitors include Supermercados Devoto Hnos SA, Tienda Inglesa and Multi Ahorro. After establishing a strong presence in the supermarket sector, Disco and Ta-Ta are now investing heavily in shopping centres in order to consolidate their control of the retail sector.

Multinationals own a large part of the major retail chains. The Disco-Dévoto group is the largest as it owns the DISCO supermarkets (27 branches), DEVOTO (25 branches) and the Géant hypermarket. In terms of market share, the following are the Henderson & Cia group with the Tienda Inglesa chain (9 branches), the Multi Ahorro chain (30 medium-sized stores), the TA-TA chain (20 small and medium-sized stores), the El Dorado chain of the Polakof & Cia group located mainly in the interior of the country (40 branches, supermarkets and convenience stores).

The non-food retail market is divided between several small independent retailers such as Chic Parisien SA, leader of the clothing and footwear market (Parisien, Indian and DNK), and the runner-up Coboe SA.
Retail Sector Organisations
Association of Uruguay supermarkets (in Spanish)
Main Association of Uruguayan shopkeepers
Uruguay chamber of commerce
Ministry of Finance and Economy

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Internet access
As of June 2018, Uruguay had a population of 3.45 million people, out of which 3 million Internet users, placing the penetration rate at 88.2%. Furthermore, 85% percent of Uruguayan households have access to at least one computer, but when smartphones are included, that percentage increases to 94%. Smartphone adoption has increased substantially, as 74% of the population owned a smartphone in 2017, as opposed to 27% of the population in 2013 (El Pais). Tablets are the second fastest-growing internet access platform, especially among 65 years or older individuals, as there was a 375% usage increase from 2013 to 2017 in that age group. According to Nearshore Americas, more than 83% of households have access to the Internet. However, the government aims to provide Internet access to 90% of homes by 2020. Additionally, 43% of homes have high speed fiber optic cables, a rate that the government plans to increase to 65% by 2020. The government also provides early retirees with tablets so they can work online (170,000 tablets had been delivered by the end of 2017). In August 2017, Uruguay inaugurated its first submarine cable to the US to increase online speed (12,000 kilometers from Punta del Este, Uruguay to Fortaleza, Brazil and Boca Raton, Florida). Uruguay ranks first in Latin America in terms of broadband download speeds, with 20.11 Megabits per second, according to Net Index. As of July 2018, the most popular browser in the country by market share was Chrome (83.12%), followed by Safari (6.29%), Samsung Internet (3.03%, Firefox (2.49%), Android (1.21%), and Opera (1.13%). As for search engines, Google dominates the market Google (98.36%), followed by bing (1.04%) and Yahoo! (0.86%).
E-commerce market
There aren't any official figures on the e-commerce market value in Uruguay. However, it's estimated that the market represents 3.3% of Uruguay's total retail, and it grows 25% a year, exceeding the region's average (El País). According to the findings from Grupo Radar, more than eight out of ten users navigate the Internet to research brands and companies and it is estimated that almost 1.3 million Uruguayans made an online purchase in 2017. Given that only 45% of the population has a bank account and 40% of people have a credit card, cash on delivery is the popular payment method in Uruguay. 49% of orders are paid in cash, while 35% of payments are made by card, 9% bank transfers, and 5% e-wallets.The most popular items bought online are clothes, airline tickets, sporting goods, spare parts for vehicles and goods that are not easily found in-store or that are much cheaper online. Consumers in Uruguay tend to prefer picking up the products they bought over the internet, rather than having them delivered. Some of the most popular online stores are MercadoLibre, OLX and Woow.

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Organizing Goods Transport

Main Useful Means of Transport
The main mode of transport for goods is by sea. Road shipping and railway are also used, but to a lesser extent. Air shipping is mainly used for lighter goods.
The ports of Uruguay
International Carrasco Airport, Montevideo
Sea Transport Organisations
Sea shipping regulations.
Air Transport Organisations
National Office of civil aviation and aeronautical infrastructure.
Road Transport Organisations
Ministry of transportation
Rail Transport Organisations
Railway transport administration

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Identifying a Supplier

Type of Production
Industry accounts for 30% of the GDP. Principally dealing with agriculture, breeding and ore production.

Business Directories

Multi-sector Directories
Directorio Uruguay - Uruguay business directory
Duns Guide - Uruguay business directory by industry
Guía Comercial - Business directory in Uruguay.
Guía Industrial - Business directory in Uruguay
Yellow pages - Business directory in Uruguay

To search directories by industry in Uruguay, check out our service Business Directories.

Professional Associations by Sector
28 professional associations listed for Uruguay.
Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
Chamber of Commerce of Uruguay
Chamber of industry of Uruguay
General Professional Associations
Association of medium and small companies
National Directorate of handicrafts, small and medium enterprises
Association of young entrepreneurs
Association of christian business managers

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Latest Update: April 2024