Case Studies

Cockermouth Country Market

Key Facts

A weekly market where you can find local Cakes, Bakes, Produce & Crafts made by local producers. Their delicious food is made by experienced home cooks and all the plants, fruit and vegetables on sale are seasonal and grow in the lovely Cumbrian soil, fed by the voluminous rain!

You can also find a cornucopia of garments and gifts for all ages, tastes and budgets made by creative local crafters.

We Cook! We Craft! We Grow!

Based in England
Established in  1961
Business type Country Market
Company type Cooperative
Yearly turnover £30k per year
N° of employees 1 part-time volunteer

Background & values

Cockermouth Country Market is one of 400 country markets across the country. Originally set up in 1919 for women to sell their surplus produce after the Second World War, the Country Market became a central part of communities across the United Kingdom.

They have since re-organised themselves as cooperatives of local producers. 

Typically, produce is sold collectively in country markets so producers do not need to pay for their own individual stalls. Instead, a producer is invited to become a member of the cooperative and then they are able to display their produce alongside others every week. 

For each item sold, like many other country markets in the country, Cockermouth Country Market retains a commission of 10%. This allows the market to rent spaces when necessary.

The Vision

The vision of Cockermouth Country market is to ensure they incorporate the country market commitment to local produce sold by local people in a manner that is sustainable.

How the Open Food Network fits into this vision

The global pandemic, with the subsequent shift to using technology to stay connected, meant that the adoption of software that enabled Cockermouth Country Market to sell their produce online was vital. 

In addition, their existing relationship with other food enterprise managers that work closely with the Open Food Network encouraged them to choose the Open Food Network platform.

This decision was further assisted by the fact that another food assembly in Cockermouth, Cockermouth Online Market, were already using the platform.

Their biggest challenges

The most recent nationwide lockdown was particularly challenging for Cockermouth Country Market as they were unsure how to keep their customers engaged. Prior to Covid-19 the physician infrastructure played a central role in producer-customer relations, particularly for their elderly customers. Cockermouth has sinced reopened, albeit with caution since most of their customers are quite vulnerable.


As it was in 1919, the country market model still requires each cooperative to be led by a chairman, treasurer, secretary, and a number of officers. This model is replicated in Cockermouth country market, which is run by a chairwoman, secretary, treasurer, and a market manager.

It is worth noting the online aspect of this country market is done by the Chairwoman Suzie Cliff (Sue) and not the market manager.


Order cycles

Every Friday around noon, Sue shares a message on the Cockermouth Country Market facebook page reminding her customers that the Cockermouth Country Market online shop is now open.

Their shopfront then remains open until 9am the following Wednesday. 

From Wednesday their producers, all of whom Sue has a close relationship with, will bring their produce to her home ready for customers to collect on Friday.

Now the national lockdown is over, Cockermouth Country Market intends to distribute online orders through the market’s physical stall. 

At the end of each month, producers that supply the market will send an invoice to the treasurer for payment. 

Holding Stock

They do not need to hold stock as most of the products sold by Cockermouth Country Market are made-to-order or supplied based on demand. 

Handling food waste

The close relationship the market has with its producers and customers ensures that Sue has just what she needs for delivery with little to no waste. And when they have run out of reusable baskets they use recyclable or compostable bags.

Supplier relationships

While anyone can ask to join the Cockermouth Country Market, they try to avoid having more than one producer supply the same product.

Should this occur, rather than turn the prospective producer away, the market ensures the packaging of the product differs enabling the shopper to self select.

Producers selling elsewhere

There are no rules preventing producers who sell through Cockermouth Country Market from selling their products elsewhere. In fact, it is quite common for producers to sell via the market to gain exposure for their new products that may be sold elsewhere.

Staying in touch with producers and managing conflict

Prior to the pandemic, Sue used to see the producers at the market every week. As such, they quickly became friends.

Now for the most part, these relationships are managed online, which Sue does mostly via email. 

There are few complaints to be managed at Cockermouth Country Market.

The most common request from customers are for photos of the products sold, which at times can be challenging to get from the producers.

Under such circumstances, Facebook and the good rapport the producers have with each other and the market can easily remedy the lack of readily available product photos. 

Tools & equipment

Cockermouth Country Market does not use any specialist tools or equipment for processing their orders other than baskets for packaging their goods and a printer to label the items sold.

At present, most of the order preparation takes place in Sue’s home.

Essential tools

Other than an excel spreadsheet, Cockermouth Country market does not use any specialist computer software. They do not feel they will need to use any until they grow significantly in size.

Efficiency of current processes

Cockermouth Country Market finds their current processes to be very efficient, especially with the support of the Open Food Network. Although, navigating the Open Food Network platform has taken them some time to get used to. 

Business model

As previously mentioned, Cockermouth Country receives 10% of the sales revenue of all products sold. Last year this totaled £34,000 so the market earned £3,400. 

From this income, the market has to pay rent for the tables and the physical premises they use. In addition, 1.5% of this income must also be remitted to the country market head office, and 5% to the country.

The rest is then used for sales and marketing material. 

At the end of 2019, in an attempt to retain savings for at least three months worth of rent, the market cut back on some of its expenses, maintaining an income by commission of approximately 8%. 

It is important to note here that beyond commission, the Cockermouth does acquire some grant funding from its local council.


Currently, there are no paid employees at Cockermouth Country Market. The market manager, treasurer, and chair all volunteer their time to the food hub. 

Customer relationships

Who are their Customers?

Customers at Cockermouth Country Market are mainly over the age of 50. Although during the school holidays the atmosphere around the market does chase with the influx of tourist visitors.

Cockermouth Country Market has not completed a formal demographic survey but does have a general idea of who their audience is. They would like to carry out a survey at some point but are aware this often takes time to be done properly. Nonetheless, better understanding of their current target market may help the market better serve and grow their online community. 

Communication with old and new Customers

Facebook and Instagram are the main mediums Cockermouth Country Market use to communicate with their customers. They make frequent use of banners and fliers and have used the local newspaper and a feature on a competition on BBC Radio Cumbria to raise their profile within the community.

Handling complaints and unhappy Shoppers

Country market rules state that refunds are due for customers who raise a complaint about the product(s) they have purchased. Complaints made to Cockermouth Country Market are uncommon however. This may be because customers are often aware that producers who sell through Cockermouth Country Market are not professionals.

Engaging with the local community before the pandemic

Cockermouth Country Market has participated in local charity events such as Cupcakes for Carers and Day for Vanessa. This was a fundraiser for a local hospital in commemoration of the death of someone well loved in the town. 

Every year when the community decides to come together at the local pub to switch the public Christmas lights on, the market provides a hamper as part of the local fundraising efforts and festivities.

Measuring impact

The market finds it difficult to measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. While facebook analytics is fairly easy to understand, it is challenging to decipher why a specific customer has not returned. As such, Cockermouth Country Market would appreciate further support in this area.

Follow Cockermouth Country Market on social media:

Getting help from the Open Food Network

Cockermouth Country Market have enjoyed the support offered by the Open Food Network so far, particularly how quickly they resolve issues raised. 

Cockermouth Country Market would like it if they were able to contact customers directly using the online platform as opposed to using a different application.

Open your food hub

Register now