Business practices in Panama are very similar to those in the United States. Business tends to be direct and straightforward. On average, Panama City accounts for 65% of total national sales of consumer goods. The remaining 35% is distributed among the principal cities of David, Colon, Santiago and Chitré.
Generally, the marketing channel structure in Panama is simple. Direct importers act as wholesalers and in many cases also as retailers. This situation is common in the case of apparel, automotive parts and hardware products. In the case of consumer goods, food and medicines, the retail operation is separate from the wholesale operation. For industrial goods, sales are normally handled by local exclusive agents or distributors. In other cases, local firms order directly from U.S. brokers or the manufacturer.
Some of Panama's major importers are also regional distributors for Central and/or South America, with warehousing facilities located in the Colon Free Zone (CFZ). Generally, CFZ importers/distributors have affiliated stores in Panama City for retail sale to the local market.
Most of Panama’s trade moves through the Atlantic ports of Manzanillo, Cristobal and Evergreen, and the Pacific Port of Balboa. The Tocumen International Airport handles the bulk of Panama’s air cargo.