I stumbled on this forum and this thread and it is interesting to me because I currently work at WM and have for a number of years. I think I can shed some light on what is currently going at West and explain how it is going to change for us boaters.
The relatively new CEO, Matt Hyde, is not from a boating
background, he headed up REI, a lifestyle/recreational corporation. IMO, he sees no value in keeping WM a marine supplier, but wants it to become a "Total lifestyle" operation.......ie, paddleboards, kayaks, clothing
, etc. His logic is that the boating
industry is flat growth wise, and if WM stays with just that market it will eventually die.
All that sounds good, but what does it mean for boaters, like us ? Well, for one thing it will mean that the stores will start looking more like the clothing
dept at a mall store than a boating store. You may have already noticed that half the stores are now clothes and they are right up front, where you have to walk through them to get to the real boating supplies. That is the way ALL of the stores will soon look.
Another huge change is that employees who were very knowledgeable in marine parts
and solutions to problems will be leaving..........I will probably be one of them sometime in the future. The "new" WM wants Associates who fit the new lifestyle program better than we who staffed the stores for years. They feel that younger, more hip Associates and Managers will be able to come on board with this new program better, so they are beginning to weed out employees who they feel do not fit this image. Even store managers are not safe from this change. The people who survive will be basically cheerleaders who applaud any decision the company makes or what they say.
What it is going to mean for boaters long term is that the Associates who actually had hands on knowledge and could solve your boating problems will not be in those stores so much any more. The one thing we always prided ourselves on, at the store level, was that we went way overboard
to make sure our customers got the answers they needed and the parts
that would actually work. I am not sure how the new, younger Associates, who know clothing, are going to solve a complex problem with a customer's on board water
, or anything else mechanical. I have worked with a lot of younger people, and it takes years to learn this business, and they simply do not have that experience under their belts yet.
I have no hard feelings, WM was good to me for years, but I see the company making some decisions that I think they will regret in the future. They are throwing out the baby with the bath water
by forgetting the boaters who built this company from the garage of Randy Repass to what it is today. I feel bad for customers who come in a year from now and need help from someone who knows how to fix the problem they have. All the new people will be able to do is show them the latest Spring fashions or tell them how cool the new line of paddleboards are.
There is also a new sell sell sell mentality, where Associates are told to lead customers into products that they had not thought about needing or buying
. We are constantly having "chats" with our managers who ask us how we could have sold that last customer more than he or she bought, and how we can do better in the future. We have actually had customers tell us off because they felt we were being too pushy.........and I agree. There is a fine line between serving your customer well and shoving things down their throats. But WM today wants us to do exactly that. For example, they will tell us to walk the customer into the clothing area and show them some of the items we sell.
It simply is not going to be the same.