There are four primary marketing areas: the Caribbean coast region, the Antioquia region, the Cauca Valley region, and the Bogotá region. Firms desiring distribution of their products to all important national markets generally appoint agents in the leading city of each of the four regions (Barranquilla, Medellín, Cali, and Bogotá, respectively). Most small purchases are made for cash, but many stores offer installment credit facilities. A 16% value-added tax applies to most goods and services. As of 2002, there were about 80 franchise companies operating stores through the country. These are primarily foreign-based fast-food establishments.
Small, individually owned retail establishments predominate, although chain stores are increasing. Variety stores and department stores on the pattern of those in the U.S. are becoming popular, and food supermarkets are increasing in larger cities. Local farmers' markets, however, are still more generally patronized even in the cities, and in rural areas they are often the only trading centers. Direct marketing is gaining in popularity.
Business hours vary largely with climatic conditions; however, the usual workday is from 7:30 or 8 AM to noon and from 1 to 4:30 or 5 PM . Most businesses close on Saturday afternoons, Sundays, and on state or religious holidays. Banking hours are generally from 9 AM to 3:30 PM . Retail establishments are generally open from 9 AM to 7 or 8 PM on weekdays and from 9 AM to 9 PM on Saturdays. Restaurants and other food stores may be open on Sundays and some holidays. Major credit cards are now generally accepted in most cities and ATM machines are prevalent.
The principal advertising media are newspapers, magazines, radio, and television; in motion picture theaters, it is also customary to display advertisements on the screen between features. There are a number of advertising and public relations firms.