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Selling in the United States: Large-Scale Retail Trade and Department Store Chains

Selling to department stores in the United States is the dream of almost all the foreign companies that want to export to the United States.

It is the myth of the "Department Store" in the United States: famous examples are Macy's, Bloomigdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Sears. 

On one hand, selling to these glamorous chain shops is a precise guarantee of (supposed) glamour, as well as of larger sales volumes. But, on the other hand, for a small or medium company it is not, maybe, the best way to export to the United States.

Big chain shops certainly have a bargaining position compared to a small or medium company. Merely talking with buyers is no easy task.

Even if we grant for the sake of argument that you might succeed in receiving orders from big chains, these orders will contain onerous clauses: strict days, times and places of delivery of goods; returned goods policies; policies concerning returns if unsold; long terms of payment; penalties for non-compliance with agreements; often being "forced" to buy advertising pages in the sales catalogue of the department store; sole selling right perhaps not for all the products exported to the United States, but at least for the product lines sold through their department store, and so forth.

These onerous conditions may significantly erode margins.

Our impartial advice to companies that want to sell in the United States is to address - at least in the early stages - independent retailers through sales agents and representatives.