Buying and Selling

flag Serbia Serbia: 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
Party to the Kyoto Protocol
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
In international trade, Serbia shows a preference for relations with the EU and the United States. Nevertheless, the Serbian government also wants to develop privileged relations with its neighbors as proved by the bilateral treaties signed with Bulgaria and Romania. A free trade agreement has been signed as well with Belarus (2009) and Russia(2001).
Non Tariff Barriers
Serbia uses a system of documentation which is relatively standard for import-export transactions and the trend is towards harmonization of procedures with those of the European Union. Import licences have been abolished for all goods except : arms and munitions, police and military equipment, antiques, works of art, precious metals, waste and substances which are dangerous for the ozone layer.


The label on each product must be written in Serbian and contain the following information : name of the product, full address of the producer or importer, net quantity/weight/volume, ingredients, storage and transport recommendations, and important recommendations for the consumer. Technically complicated goods must have instructions for use, the manufacturer's specifications, a list of authorized maintenance centers, information about the guarantee and especially its duration.

A certain number of products are banned from import, particularly because they are dangerous for the environment. These are :
- second-hand cars which do not have a Euro type engine
- 3 minimum in terms of maximum tolerated levels of noise and exhaust gas
- tractors, building and mining equipment more than three years old (except those imported for humanitarian reasons)
- dangerous waste,
- toxic substances.

For further information:
- the Ministry of Health

- the Ministry of Agriculture

Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
Serbia has officially lifted barriers to imports and exports. However, some taxes are still applied. Non-tariff barriers in the form of import quotas are established in appearance to protect national industries, but in fact protect monopolies operated by people close to the government. In 2002, taxes applied included Customs duties (9-30%, average 9.4), import taxes (1-9%), Customs fees (1%), surtax on some agricultural goods, seasonal import taxes (20%), and State duties (5-70%).

Serbia has set up free zones in the regions of Smederrevo, Kovin, Nis, Belgrade, Novi Sad, Sabac, Pahovo, Sombor, Sremska Mitrovica, Subotica, and Zrenjanin.



Customs Classification
In February 2004, Serbia applied to become a member of the WTO. On 27 November 2007, at the 4th meeting of the Membership Work Group, the members of the WTO examined Serbia's dossier and assessed the progress made in the bilateral negotiations concerning goods and services access to markets.

 

The members fully supported Serbia's rapid accession and noted with satisfaction the ambitious legislative action plan describing the various reforms undertaken by Serbia to change its trade regime. But a few thorny points still remain: import licenses, quantitative restrictions on imports of some petroleum derivatives, internal taxation, suspension of duties, OTCs and SPS measures.

However, quotas have been abolished and the number of import licences reduced. The amendment of the Customs Tariffs Act of July 2005 makes it compatible with the application of the Harmonized Customs system (HS). Customs duties go from 0% to 30%, according to the products and according to the partners. The most heavily taxed goods are arms and munitions.
In 2000, two series of measures were introduced to strengthen trade relations between the EU and Serbia : asymmetrical trade preferences and agreements on stabilization and association.

Import Procedures
Serbia uses a standardised import/export documentation process (generally requiring a bill of lading, etc.). With the liberalisation of the trade regime and the reformation of trade/customs-related institutions, Serbia continues to synchronise its documentation with the European Union.

The Serbian Customs Tariff is harmonised annually with the EU Combined Nomenclature. In Serbia, several tariff regulations are binding:

  • Decisions on Tariff Classification published in the Official Journal of the European Union;
  • Decisions on Tariff Classification issued by the World Customs Organization (WCO);
  • Binding Tariff Information issued by the Serbian Customs Administration, upon request, regarding the classification of certain goods, in case of ambiguity or uncertainty.

Official translations of EU and WCO decisions are published regularly in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia.

Import licenses are required for narcotics (including psychotropic substances), medicines containing narcotics, precursors for the manufacture of narcotics, vitamins, blood products, microorganisms, human body parts, non-registered medicines and medical devices, endangered species of wild fauna and flora, substances depleting the ozone layer, radioactive materials, reactors and reactor parts, arms, military equipment and dual-use goods, asbestos, industrial explosives, hunting and sports arms and ammunition for such arms, precious metals, and specific agricultural products for veterinary purposes.  The majority of the above-mentioned goods are subject to import licenses in accordance with existing international conventions.

For more information, please visit the website of Serbian Customs.

 
 
For Further Information
Customs Office in Serbia

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Reaching the Consumers

Marketing opportunities

Consumer Profile
With a median age of 43.4 years (CIA - World Factbook, 2020 est.) and a GDP per capita of USD 8,750 (IMF, 2021), Serbia has a low-middle income and rapidly ageing consumer population. The poverty rate reaches almost 25% (one of the highest in Europe - Eurostat, 2019) and most of the Serbs touched by poverty live in rural areas (World Bank). There are also considerable economic disparities among consumers as Serbia suffers from high income inequality (one of the highest Gini Coefficients in Europe with a score of 33.3 points in 2019 - Eurostat, latest data available). The capital city of Belgrade itself generates 40% of the national wealth, while Southern and Eastern Serbia only account for 14% (Heureka Group, 2021). 
Serbian consumers show interest in the country of origin and tend to favour local products, followed by those made in Germany and the EU. They tend to avoid products made in Croatia, China and Albania (Blic survey, latest data available).
Serbian consumers also show a growing interest in high-quality food and fresh products.
Consumer Behaviour
Serbian consumers have gradually become price-sensitive over the recent years with the crisis negatively affecting the purchasing power since 2008. The price remains by far the most important criterion when it comes to maintaining or changing spending habits. According to a Nielsen survey, 77% of Serbian consumers rarely buy a product they desire rather than need. In 2019, Serbian consumers spent on average RSD 22,977 per month on food and non-alcoholic beverages (34.2% of the total consumption) and RSD  11,182 on housing and utilities (16.7% of the total consumption) (Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, latest data available). Serbian consumers are further impacted by an inflation rate of 2.2% in 2021. It is expected to remain around 2.5% in 2022 and 2023 (IMF).

Serbian consumers opt more and more for online shopping (especially cross-border retail for lower prices), which is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR 21-25) of 5.59% up until 2025. In 2021, 52.7% of Serbs are online shoppers and this percentage is expected to reach 61.4% in 2025 (Statistica).
Consumers Associations
National Consumer Organisation of Serbia (NOPS)
Main Advertising Agencies
DNA Communications
Direct Media
Leo Burnett Serbia
McCann Beograd
Grey Advertising

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Distributing a Product

Evolution of the Sector
According to Euromonitor, retail turnover in the Serbian market is approximately EUR 5.5 billion (USD 5.7 billion) a year, which represents a rather small market. Retail chains in Serbia have played a large role in the restructuring of the retail segment in recent years as government retail operations were privatized and later acquired by larger foreign companies. This led to the establishment of several large retailers in Serbia and allegations of monopolistic behavior. Retail trade turnover started to decrease since 2012 and this trend continued also in 2016. According to the Serbian Ministry of Trade, due to the lack of competition of big retail chains, retail margins in Serbia are almost ten times higher than in other countries in the Balkan region. As a result, Serbia has very high prices for food and other consumer products. This is mainly due to very limited competition in the Serbian retail market.

There are a number of foreign retail chains in the Serbian market, primarily regional players, and also some international players such as Delhaize. Foreign retail chains hold over 80 percent of the total retail market. The Serbian retail market is mostly divided between Belgium owned Delhaize (owner of retail chains Maxi and Tempo) and Croatian Agrocor (owner of retail chains Idea, Roda and Mercator). Other international retail chains in Serbia include German Metro and Greek Super Vero. In 2017, the German Lidl opened 15 retail stores. The following domestic retail chains represent only some 20 percent of the Serbian market: Dis, Univerexport and Gomex.
Market share
There are a number of foreign, both regional and international, mass retailers in the Serbian market. Foreign mass retailers hold two-thirds of the total retail market and shopping centres have become popular in Serbia. Nevertheless, the bulk of purchases are concentrated on fresh produce and in small amounts. The main places of purchase are the markets and convenience stores.
Small local shops make up a large proportion of the distribution sector. The food sector includes 20,000 to 30,000 points of sale. Prices are often lower than those of supermarkets. Open street markets are also very numerous across the country.
The main supermarket chains are:

Regarding non-food retail, it should be noted that shopping centres are still few. A significant development is expected in the upcoming years, along with the boom of hypermarkets. The ready-to-wear and accessories sectors are currently the most represented, but retail of leisure, beauty products and, especially, home and DIY products is expected to grow.

Retail Sector Organisations
Serbian Association of Managers
Serbian Chamber of Commerce
Foreign Investor Council of Serbia
Serbian Ministry of Economy

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E-commerce

Internet access
As of December 2017, Serbia had a population of 8.76 million people, out of which 6.33 million were internet users, making the penetration rate stand at 72.2%. According to the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, 72.5% of households in the country had broadband internet connection in 2018. Additionally, the report indicated that 47.6% of households had a laptop, while 72.1% had a computer and 93% had a mobile phone. According to Statista, the estimated smartphone penetration rate in Serbia was 45.51% in 2017, a rate that is expected to reach 53.84% by 2022. Even though broadband accessibility is high in the country, it remains lower than most of its neighbours. Therefore, the Ministery of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications has recently signed a plan to ensure that every citizen has the access to 30 mbps internet speed by 2020, as well as the construction of an adequate infrastructure base in rural, distant areas. As of July 2018 the most popular browser in the country by market share was Chrome (72.83%), followed by Firefox (9.92%), Safari (4.62%), Opera (3.85%), Internet Explorer (2.62%), and Samsung Internet (2.34%). As for search engines, the most popular by far was Google (97.16%), followed by Yahoo (1.59%) and Bing (1.59%).
E-commerce market
E-commerce revenue in Serbia amounted to US$ 319 million in 2018 and is expected to reach US$ 480 million by 2022, at an estimated annual growth rate of 10.8% (Statista). According to Euromonitor International, pay-on-delivery is still a common practice, although online payments are increasingly adopted as a business practice. When it comes to online payment methods, prepaid cards are the preferred method, accounting for 76% of transactions in 2017. As for preferred devices, the majority of online shoppers in Serbia buy via desktop (89%), while only 4% of them use their smartphone to shop, and 1% prefer their tablets. A report by Euromonitor International indicated that many Serbian consumers are unaware or distrustful of mobile internet retailing, which is confirmed by the low rate of people who use their smartphones to make purchases. Electronics & media is currently the most popular product category in Serbia, accounting for US$ 147.9 million in sales, followed by fashion, which generates US$ 61.1 million. The most popular online stores in Serbia are international e-commerce players such as Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba, although domestic e-stores such as CT Retail (owner of ComTrade), Win Win, and Tehnomanija also sell consumer electronics and appliances. Improving Internet speed and growing consumer confidence offer a positive outlook for internet retailing in Serbia. According to a 2017 report by the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, 49.9% of Internet users have never bought goods or services over the internet.

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Organizing Goods Transport

Main Useful Means of Transport
Goods transport in Serbia remains essentially dominated by road transport.
Ports
Port of Belgrade
Airports
Nis Airport
Belgrade Airport

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Identifying a Supplier

Type of Production
For the resources for businesses on managing the manufacturing and the supply chain risk due to the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic, please consult the report COVID-19: Managing supply chain risk and disruption (Deloitte Canada, 2020), as well as the insights on COVID-19: How to fortify your supply chain (Kearney, 2020).
The World Economic Forum's COVID Action Platform provides useful information on the latest strategic trends regarding COVID-19 implications for businesses, including manufacturing and supply systems. The report Outbreak Readiness and Business Impact (World Economic Forum in collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute) offers insights on handling coronavirus by businesses and strategies for effective response and resilience.

Serbian industry is very specific and its main activity is sugar processing, the production of agricultural machinery, electric and communications equipment and the production of paper. The textile industry does not have a very significant place in Serbian industries, but consumers choose preponderantly national textiles.

Business Directories

Multi-sector Directories
Findbiz.gr - Business directory for Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia
Serbian business directory - Harmonized Register Agent
Serbian Business Directory - Business directory of Serbian companies
Yellow Pages - Serbia's Yellow Pages
Yellow Pages - Business directory in Serbia.
 

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

 
Professional Associations by Sector
41 professional associations listed for Serbia.
 
Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
Serbian Chamber of Commerce
General Professional Associations
Serbian association of employers
 
 

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Latest Update: April 2022