Oslo, the principal merchandising center, handles the distribution of many import products; Bergen and Stavanger are other west coast distribution centers. Trondheim is the chief northern center; Tromsø and Narvik are also important. The largest number of importers, exporters, and manufacturers' agents are in Oslo and Bergen. A 10% value-added tax (VAT) applies to many food products. A 24% VAT applies to most other goods and services.
Cooperative societies are an important distribution factor, with local groups operating retail stores for many kinds of consumer goods, especially in the food sector. Food market chains have developed rapidly in recent years. The Norwegian Cooperative Union and Wholesale Society represents a large number of societies, with over half a million members. Agricultural cooperatives are active in produce marketing and cooperative purchasing societies ( Felleskjöp ) do much of the buying of farm equipment, fertilizer, and seed.
The Norwegian Consumer Council (established by the Storting in 1953) advances and safeguards the fundamental interests of consumers. It publishes comprehensive reports on accepted standards for key consumer goods, conducts conferences and buying courses in various parts of Norway, arranges consumer fairs, and cooperates closely with other organizations and institutions interested in consumer protection. Newspapers provide the main medium for advertisements; trade and other journals carry advertising, but the state-owned radio and television do not.
Shopping hours are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM on weekdays and from 9 AM to 1 PM on Saturdays. Banks stay open from 9 AM to 3 PM Monday–Friday. Some manufacturers and major businesses will close for three to four weeks in July and/or August for a summer vacation.