Marketing local products:
Short and long distribution channels
[ Summary ]
Marketing local products via short distribution channels
The different forms of marketing
The basic premise when selling via short distribution channels is
that the customer will make very little effort to go and get the
product, hence the need to bring the product as close as possible to
Form of marketing by type of clientele
4.1 Selling direct from the farm, the
craftworker’s premises or the company’s
point of sale
Products are sold directly from the production site, to which
consumers travel to buy them. This is the easiest form of marketing
to implement. The point of sale generally requires little investment
(500 to 2,500 euros).
However, there is one constraint: the point of sale must have
customers in its catchment area! In other words, it is usually
futile to set up a point of sale in a very isolated farm, unless it
is to sell a rare and highly specific product. This form of
marketing should be developed wherever possible because it enables
these farmers to familiarise themselves with demand and gain
experience in dealing with customers.
The investment covers setting up sanitation and reception
facilities, a small sales area on the production site and a car
park. The quantities sold are often limited because consumers will
not travel far to buy a single product. Only well-situated
production facilities, for example at the side of a busy road or in
a tourist area, can expect large numbers of customers.
In order to increase sales, it is possible to establish jointly with
other farmers or craft workers, on an exchange or sale-or-return
basis, a range of products for which consumers are willing to travel
- The production site (farm, craft workshop, business) must be
- There must be customers in the catchment area, preferably
capable of becoming loyal customers.
- The point of sale should offer a wide range of products rather
than only a small range.
- Commercial innovation may be kept to a minimum because, in
this case, what customers are looking for first and foremost is
- However, the point of sale must be dynamic (improved
decoration, service, etc.), and evolve in line with the number of
customers and its turnover.
- Cleanliness in the farm courtyard, car park and sales area is
the number one priority.
- There should be a sign indicating the production facility and
mentioning that direct selling takes place, with opening days and
times, as well as sufficient signposting from the main road.
- The sales area requires very little display space, at least at
the start: a table and shelves to hold the products are sufficient
in the initial stages.
- The interior fittings and simple decoration should make use of
the resources of the farm or craft worker: photographs of the
production process, the region, the raw materials, the production
- Authenticity of the product, assurances as to its composition
and rearing or production method (food product).
- Regular restocking of products (especially in the case of
- Direct contact with the producer.
Development and professionalisation of a traditional direct farm
selling approach: “Fermière de Méan” (Wallonia, Belgium)
Marc, a young farmer, is endeavouring to find his niche on the
family farm after having completed his agricultural studies. On the
farm, his mother maintains the tradition of producing value-added
dairy products: butter, buttermilk and a Belgian speciality:
“fromage frais” (maquée). Marc is continuing the tradition,
expanding the processing side and selling his produce at market. In
order to increase sales and extend the product range, he sells the
produce of other farmers alongside his own. He is also extending his
own range of dairy products by learning about cheese making. The
“Cooperative fermière de Méan” was set up around this young farmer.
Today, the cooperative participates in nine itinerant markets, has
set up two sales counters, and is seeking to consolidate its
customer relations by improving product quality and the customer
service training of sales personnel. It publishes a quarterly
newsletter for its customers.
By opening a shop beside a busy road it has been possible to
increase the quantities its sells to local customers and, since the
dioxin crisis in Belgium (summer 1999), the cooperative has doubled
its market-based sales.
For a more detailed description of this initiative, see the
directory of “Innovative action programmes and rural development”
(LEADER European Observatory).