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Marketing local products:
Short and long distribution channels

[ Summary ]

Section I
Marketing local products via short distribution channels


Chapter 4
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 his home.


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 further afield.


Installation requirements

  • The production site (farm, craft workshop, business) must be geographically accessible.

  • 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 authenticity.

  • 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 tools, etc.


Customer requirements

  • 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 fresh products).

  • 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).

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