Austria is a dynamic EU member country with an affluent population of 8.3 million German speakers and a territory about the size of Maine. Austria’s manageable size and stable business environment make it an attractive market for U.S. exporters and a test market for U.S. firms eyeing expansion into neighboring Germany. Austria’s historical and economic ties to Eastern and Southeastern Europe also make it a logical base for serving those growth markets. At present, approximately 340 U.S. firms have subsidiaries, affiliates, franchisees, and licensees in Austria, of which about 100 have regional responsibilities for Central and Eastern European, or Balkan countries. U.S. products and services enjoy a good reputation in Austria.
Demand for safety and security equipment and services continues to be significant and remains a primary area of focus at several institutions of the Austrian Government and government connected bodies. As in other EU countries, emphasis has been placed in Austria on homeland security, transportation and critical infrastructure protection. Although final data is not available, the estimated total Austrian market demand for safety and security equipment in 2011 was $421.6 million. U.S. safety & security equipment imports into Austria are estimated to be $4.3 million.
U.S. firms should plan their market entry very carefully. Given its location in the center of Europe and the size of its market, small enough to allow a quick overview, Austria stands out as a desirable, affluent pilot market for advanced U.S. products. The best strategy is to screen potential distributors, and select a qualified local distributor. Austrian distributors are usually knowledgeable and experienced. The majority of distributors are fluent in English. They are also knowledgeable about EU approval procedures and will obtain approval for U.S. suppliers if needed.
The successful U.S. supplier should discuss and agree on a marketing strategy with a prospective distributor. Once the agent or distributor is selected, it is preferable to maintain this relationship for a number of years. Abrupt changes in distribution patterns distract users from trusted suppliers and have been detrimental to U.S. suppliers who have taken such action in the past. It may take up to two years to introduce a new product, owing to the conservative and complex nature of the Austrian market.
CURRENT MARKET TRENDS
The past decade has been characterized by a significant decrease in overall crime rates, as well as, property crime rates; though cybercrime rates saw a dramatic increase. In the year 2010 reported crime rates dropped to a number of 535,745, which represents the lowest level since 2001. A total of 540,007 crimes were reported in Austria in 2011 and therefore it represents only a slight increase of 0.8% compared with 2010. Though violent crime is relatively low in Austria, it has been slowly rising with an increase in murders and attempted murders from 162 in 2010 to 174 in 2011 at a solution rate of around 91%. The main reason for a decrease in the overall crime rate since 2001 can be attributed to large decrease in property crime. Vienna is still the region most affected by crime, followed by Lower Austria. In the past years, Vienna has become a target for burglaries and break-ins, which many Austrians attribute to the political and economic consequences of continuing integration in Europe and the subsequent increase in immigration, both legal and illegal. However, a master plan implemented in 2010 to combat the high number of burglaries seems to have had an effect: break-ins into private homes decreased by 38.6% while apartment break-ins decreased by 17.9% compared with 2009. In 2011 break-ins again decreased slightly by 0.8%. The incidents of car theft, after falling to an absolute bottom level in 2010 (5,150 reported incidents), also continue to remain low in 2011 (5,158 reported incidents).
A significant portion of the decrease in property crimes can be attributed to the break-up of one of the major burglary rings operating in Austria. While this was certainly a large success and the police have taken measures to increase and improve the effectiveness of police, there are indications that the low property crime rates of 2010 and 2011 may not be sustained. The number of reported break-ins increased in 2011 which may point to the re-grouping of some of the burglary rings that were disbanded earlier in the year. There has also been a dramatic rise in cybercrime, from 1,490 reported cases in 2010 to 5,100 cases in 2011. Combating cyber and internet crime has also been cited by the Federal Police Agency as a main priority for 2012.
In 2011, a substantial increase of bank robberies has been reported, especially in the province around Vienna. In most of the cases the automated teller machines (ATM) have been opened and completely destroyed.