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Preparing to export

Consultation and bespoke research

You should research market entry requirements using both desk research and market visits, and to determine whether:

  • there is a market for your product or service

  • your pricing is competitive

  • to adapt your business model

Find out more about marketing your goods and services for Switzerland at: https://www.great.gov.uk/.

You can also visit the DIT events portal at: https://events.trade.gov.uk/ to find upcoming events and missions, and contact the DIT team in Switzerland at: https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-switzerland#contact-us for events and company launches at Embassy locations.

The questions listed below should help you to focus your thoughts. Your answers to them will highlight areas for further research and also suggest a way forward that is right for your company. You may then want to use this as a basis for developing a formal Switzerland strategy, although this may not be necessary or appropriate for all companies.

Your aims:

  • Do you wish to buy from Switzerland, sell to Switzerland or both?

  • Do you wish to establish your own company presence in Switzerland (for example through exporting directly, appointing a local partner or distributor, setting up a local office, partnership or co-operative)?

  • Do you need to be involved in Switzerland at all?

  • Do you see Switzerland as part of a wider plan including e.g. other nearby markets?

Your company:

  • What are the unique selling points for your product or service?

  • Do you know if there is a market for your product or service in Switzerland?

  • Do you know if you can be competitive in Switzerland?

  • Are your competitors already in Switzerland? If so, what are they doing?

  • Do you have the time and resources to handle the demands of communication, travel, product delivery and after-sales service?

Your knowledge:

  • Do you know how to secure payment for your products or service?

  • Do you know where in Switzerland you should start?

  • Do you know how to locate and screen potential partners, agents or distributors?

  • Have you carried out any Switzerland-specific customer segmentation, and do you know how to best reach potential customers in-market?

It is unlikely that you will have the answers to all these questions at the outset and these ‘knowledge gaps’ should form the basis for further research and investigation. Some of these questions will require quantitative research in your sector, while others involve more contextual and cultural considerations.


Talking to other people in your industry and regularly visiting Switzerland will give you access to the most current advice, and such experience can often lead to new insights and form the basis for further research.

There are a number of trade shows held in Switzerland each year – these can be useful to test product viability in the market. The DIT Tradeshow Access Programme at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tradeshow-access-programme provides funding in the form of grants for eligible businesses to attend overseas trade shows. The funding helps your business gain:

  • market knowledge

  • experience in attending and getting the most from overseas trade shows

  • advice and support from trade experts

Visit the DIT events portal at: https://events.trade.gov.uk/ to find upcoming events and missions in Switzerland.

Find out more about marketing your goods and services for Switzerland, at: https://www.great.gov.uk/.

Contact the DIT team in Switzerland at: https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-switzerland#contactus for events and company launches at Embassy locations.

 

Getting started in the Swiss market

There are many ways to develop your business in Switzerland. These include:

  • using direct sales through direct marketing, mail order, telemarketing or the most popular forms, teleshopping and internet sales

  • setting up a business entity/local office

  • working with international distributors or agents

  • working with wholesalers acting as importers

  • using trading companies that operate, for example, networks of bonded warehouses

Visit: https://www.great.gov.uk/ for guidance on how to research overseas markets, as well as a range of other important issues for exporters.

Consult local English-speaking lawyers to avoid costly mistakes and ensure you start out in the way that is best suited to your sector of activity. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/switzerland-list-of-lawyers.

Direct exports and sales in Switzerland

Direct exports means you supply your products direct to the customer. You handle all the logistics of marketing, selling, sending overseas and getting paid.

If you do not have a high level of fluency in business German, French, Italian or Romansch, you may wish to use local representation. Options include using an agent, distributor or wholesaler.

The Department for International Trade (DIT)’s trade specialists can help you identify local representatives for your products in Switzerland. See: https://www.gov.uk/overseas-customers-export-opportunities.

Online selling to Switzerland

Internet penetration in Switzerland is among the highest in Europe, and the population’s global attitudes mean they are open to shopping with international retailers. Half of Swiss shoppers make an online purchase every month.

Find out about DIT’s E-Exporting programme at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/e-exporting, which can help you export your products to Switzerland.

Check out the gov.uk online marketplace in Switzerland site at: https://selling-online-overseas.export.great.gov.uk/, where DIT has negotiated listings at better-than-commercial rates.

Setting up a business entity in Switzerland

The main forms of business entity available in Switzerland are:

  • corporation

  • limited liability company

  • general partnership

  • simple partnership

  • co-operative

However, instead of incorporating a company in Switzerland a business can be operated through a branch of a foreign company. The legal form of a ‘trust’ does not exist in Swiss civil law.

Setting up a business in Switzerland requires the support of banks, consulting firms, trustees and attorneys specialising in company law. Registration is carried out by the commercial registry of the canton where the company is based.

The Swiss Federal Council has information and guidance on setting up a business as a foreign national in Switzerland, at: https://www.kmu.admin.ch/kmu/en/home/concrete-know-how/establish-an-sme/starting-a-business/foreign-national.html.

Contact the DIT team in Switzerland at: https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/department-for-international-trade-switzerland#contact-us to help find tax and legal advisers before entering into agreements or setting up in Switzerland.

Appointing an agent

Appointing an agent has several advantages, as they will:

  • have a better understanding of the market

  • know its rules and regulations

  • represent you in your absence

However, you should check contracts carefully as agents can work for several companies.

Licensing or franchising in Switzerland

Franchising in Switzerland is not very profitable due to limited market size and high operational costs.

Visit the international section of the British Franchise Association at: http://www.thebfa.org/international for more information on franchising.


 

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