The chain of businesses or intermediaries through which a good or service passes until it reaches the end consumer. A distribution channel can include wholesalers, retailers, distributors and even the internet. Channels are broken into direct and indirect forms, with a "direct" channel allowing the consumer to buy the good from the manufacturer and an "indirect" channel allowing the consumer to buy the good from a wholesaler. Direct channels are considered "shorter" than "indirect" ones.
Goods and services often pass to consumers through multiple channels. While increasing the number of ways in which a consumer can find a good has the potential to increase sales, it also creates a complex system that can make distribution management difficult. In addition, the longer the distribution channel the less profit a product manufacturer might get from the sale.