Panama has the highest per capita income in Central America. However, the majority of income is skewed to a small, consumer goods-oriented economic class. These upper-middle and upper income class families have high levels of disposable income. They are interested in purchasing high quality, trend-setting goods. Price is less of a factor in purchasing decisions made by this class than for the middle and lower income classes. The majority of Panamanians are interested in quality, but price still plays a more important role in the purchase decision.
The use of the U.S. dollar as legal currency and consumer preference for high quality products at competitive prices are two reasons for high acceptance of U.S. products in Panama. Overall, U.S. products are well accepted in the market and are considered of good quality. However, in many instances, U.S. products must compete against lower priced products, especially from Asia. For example, as in the U.S. itself, Japanese and Korean electronics dominate the market because of aggressive market entry techniques and good quality at competitive prices. Note that U.S. brands, many of whom manufacture outside of the U.S., enjoy a prominent position in the marketplace and in the Colon Free Zone. Such brands as Nike, Oakley, and Columbia sportswear fall into this category.