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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



4.2 Markets and fairs


There are three different types of market, each with its own specific clientele and its own particular customer behaviour:


4.2.1 “Support” markets

“Support” markets are itinerant markets selling ordinary consumer goods, and are held at least once a week. Their clientele is loyal and comes from the local area. In most cases, customers buy their products always from the same producers. The constraint for producers is that they have to attend such markets regularly in order to benefit from the customer loyalty aspect.

Installation requirements

  • There must be enough product volume available to justify the journey to market.
  • Only markets where products are likely to be appreciated by the customers patronising them should be chosen.
  • Producers must attend the market regularly.


  • Producers must have the right equipment (e.g. a refrigerated van that complies with the national legislation in force regarding the sale of fresh products).

  • Spare time is required for this type of selling. Support markets are very time-consuming because they entail: preparation of the merchandise for transport and sale, transport, setting up the merchandise for sale, sale, return and tidying away. Attending a market takes up more or less one half-day to one whole day of work.

  • Producers must be rigorous in their choice of support markets. They should not choose too many, but choose them well. In many cases, the proportion of selling time versus production time becomes unbalanced. If it increases too much, business swings too far over towards the purchase/resale of products, which leads to a loss of authenticity for the producer/salesperson. A market must generate rapid turnover so that the products are replaced frequently.

  • Producers must match supply with demand through experience. The aim should be to arrive at market with the van full and to leave with it empty.

Customer requirements

  • Regular attendance of the producer.

  • A satisfactory price/quality ratio. On an ordinary consumer goods market, the customer memorises the price and compares it with products that he considers competitive.

  • Interpersonal relations: the customer wants to be able to discuss the product with the producer, who will know him by name, give him free goods from time to time, etc.


4.2.2 Seasonal events [1]

Fairs, festivals and seasonal events for selling and promoting products, the region, craft workers or agriculture. This type of fair also benefits from a sort of customer loyalty. Customers return season after season, or year after year, if the traders have been able to maintain the prestige and authenticity of the event, the quality of the products presented, etc.

There are two different categories of fair for local products: fairs organised in the region itself and urban gastronomic fairs. Regional fairs offer a better opportunity to develop customer loyalty. By participating in a local tourist fair, producers are also able to sell and publicise their products in an unusual, pleasant and enjoyable setting.

Installation requirements

  • The products must be suitable (they must keep well and have a high unit cost to warrant the journey to sell them, and not fresh products bought on a regular basis).

  • Regional fairs are the best selling medium, at least in the initial stages. They allow at least some of the customers attending the fair to be turned into loyal customers.

  • Producers should choose fairs that have very rigorous criteria for selecting exhibitors. This ensures the fair’s authenticity over the long term. In many cases, a fair frequented by too many street vendors gradually loses patronage, since the latter tend to poach customers.


  • The stand must be elegant (professional decoration, etc.) in order to encourage custom.
  • Customers should be attracted with a tasting session, game, etc.
  • Customer addresses should be collected and followed up.
  • Regional fairs should be the option chosen at the outset.

Customer requirements

  • Authenticity.
  • Feel-good factor, convenience, surroundings conducive to pleasure shopping.
  • Assurances as to the origin and distinctiveness of the product.
  • Information about the product.

    Organisation of mediaeval fairs (Navarra, Spain)

    The craftworkers’ association of Navarra (23 producers from throughout the region) successfully organises mediaeval fairs, complete with period costumes, decor, entertainment and activities, etc. The fairs form part of a product marketing strategy based entirely on direct selling in Navarra and the neighbouring Basque Country.

    For a more detailed description of this initiative, see the directory of “Innovative action programmes and rural development” (LEADER European Observatory).

Sometimes it is beneficial to seize the opportunity presented by major events in the life of the region.

    Creating a showcase for local products: the Hunting Festival in Mirandela (Norte, Portugal)

    The Terras Quente LEADER area is a hunting region where the situation for local products is difficult. Although traditional products still exist in mountain areas (cheese, delicatessen meats, weaving, etc.), production is in the hands of elderly people with no ambition to expand or to seek commercial outlets other than direct or traditional sales. The price of products is low in relation to the amount of work required to make them. LEADER has launched an innovative experiment based on organising a “hunting fair” in the small town of Mirandela at the start of the hunting season. It allows producers to sell their products to hunters from all over Portugal at very good prices. The hope is that young people and the most dynamic producers will seize this market opportunity and take back the initiative.

    For a more detailed description of this initiative, see the directory of “Innovative action programmes and rural development” (LEADER European Observatory).


4.2.3 Promotion markets

Promotion markets are markets aimed at promoting a certain type of product, a region, etc. Rather than making sales on the spot, the aim of this type of fair is to sell after the event. The people frequenting this type of fair are not ordinary consumers alone, but also professionals in the trade (distributors, restaurateurs, etc.). Promotion markets are therefore chosen not on the basis of the volume of sales to be made during the event, but on the basis of their impact on sales volume, i.e. the sales that can be made after the event. Such markets require thorough preparation (collecting addresses, meetings, invitations to trade professionals), as well as follow-up after the fair to chase up sales opportunities. Producers should give preference to specialised fairs or shows where not only are the products on sale of consistently good quality from season to season or year to year, but also and most importantly, the criteria for selecting exhibitors are very rigorous. This type of event does not usually fall into the category of short distribution channels.


[1] See on this subject the LEADER I
dossier on “Valorisation of local agricultural
resources”, appendix “Participation in trade
fairs and shows”, AEIDL, 1994.

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