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Old 02-05-2015, 10:58   #196
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

Thank you Longtimeboater for such a detailed and informative post.
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Old 02-05-2015, 11:17   #197
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

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Thank you Longtimeboater for such a detailed and informative post.
You're welcome. I know when a new member shows up with zero posts they are always strangers and a little suspect as to their motives, but this new change at WM has been on my mind a lot lately and I felt this was a good place to fill in some of the questions other boaters might have.

I'm actually very sad over these changes, I see a lot of long time, very good, very knowledgeable Associates either leaving or feeling they will be leaving soon. It is like watching the company, as we knew and loved it , die.

Who knows, maybe these changes are what will propel WM into the future, I hope so for my friends who have careers and families built on their jobs there. Only time will tell.
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Old 02-05-2015, 11:23   #198
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

The lifestyle business...isn't that how Nautica became a big clothing line?


Isn't that how Northface pretty much dropped quality and expedition gear to sell many many more puffy jackets to ghetto dwellers who never were going to the Himalayas, but like the concept?


West's overabundance of vest-pocket stores that never have any real depth of stock is sure nice, but really, between Ace Hardware and the overnight logistics from Amazon and other sources, mightn't this be a wise choice for West?
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Old 02-05-2015, 11:33   #199
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

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The lifestyle business...isn't that how Nautica became a big clothing line?


Isn't that how Northface pretty much dropped quality and expedition gear to sell many many more puffy jackets to ghetto dwellers who never were going to the Himalayas, but like the concept?


West's overabundance of vest-pocket stores that never have any real depth of stock is sure nice, but really, between Ace Hardware and the overnight logistics from Amazon and other sources, mightn't this be a wise choice for West?

You bring up a valid point about WM inventory. We, at the store level, hate it more than you customers. We know our market and what items we need to keep our customers happy, but the warehouse dictates what we get..........the stores have zero control over inventory. Most times, we will have one item on the shelf and the customer wants two, so we have to back order it and then they wait a week until the next truck comes. Or, we go to order it and the warehouses are both empty.

Every December or January West runs the inventory in the warehouses down to bare minimum levels and tells it's suppliers to hold shipments until they tell them to send them. We assume this is for tax reasons or maybe to make the annual report look better, but whatever the reason, it has been that way for years.

You will also see WM closing a lot of smaller stores and consolidating them into one Flagship store. The goal is to have fewer, but bigger stores, so a lot of the small town stores will be closing.......many have already.
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Old 02-05-2015, 12:49   #200
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

Sell sell sell....Hmm, can I get fries with that?(G)


In some states there IS in fact a business inventory/property tax, and everything "in" the store on January 1st gets taxed. So there's a very good reason to clear the shelves, you can cut your inventory tax bill in half for the year, by making a lean inventory for a week.


REI sure has grown over the years, not always a good thing. I preferred to mail order from them and not pay sales tax. Then they opened a store in my state. Not close enough for me to go there, but it costs me sales tax. Hmmm.


Radio Shack made similar inventory mistakes in the 80's. Tandy Corp said "Texas knows best" and a friend who managed a midtown NYC store kept trying to tell them, midtown Manhattan ain't Texas. If it isn't on the shelf NOW, my customer is going away and not coming back. Nope, Texas knows best.


It is pretty incredible how dense some corporate chains are. I was at one small chain, over five years ago, and the woman at the register said "Did you find everything you wanted?" and I said no, nowhere near. Then she said "Well you know, we can have the rest shipped to your home at no charge if you'd like to order it now?"


Bingo, she doubled her sale, and the store's sales. How many chains are too dumb to do that, even today? Customer is here, inventory is available....DUH?


I suppose West will need drones to get those 5/16" stainless acorn nuts delivered to the cockpit, though.(VBG)
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Old 02-05-2015, 14:15   #201
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

WM has been going that "lifestyle" path for at least 12-15 years. ANd in our area they did close the stores that did most of their buisness to the local fishermen and boaters and have opened megastores gered 90% toward the lifestyle customers. We do have Hamilton Marine in New England but unfortunately they're up in Maine. Their online deals even with shipping charges often come out cheaper than WM's stuff on sale. Wish they open a few stores here in MA, NH and RI. May be if we nag their corp. office enough they'll do it. ))
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Old 03-05-2015, 05:36   #202
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

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...We do have Hamilton Marine in New England but unfortunately they're up in Maine. Their online deals even with shipping charges often come out cheaper than WM's stuff on sale. Wish they open a few stores here in MA, NH and RI.
After all I've read above, I can't help but think that would lead to a big corporate infrastructure, a home office out of touch with the customers, inventory experts demanding that stores only keep one in stock, even for things that are purchased in pairs, and expanding floor space for high-profit "lifestyle" products.

My preference would be for Hamilton to expand their mail-order efforts to be more like Defender.

For some reason I still don't "get" the whole push to reduce inventory. I know it's an accounting thing, and a "value of money" thing. But I also believe that a business can be successful by having what the customer needs, in stock and ready to walk out the front door with.

I pay a premium to go to one local hardware store/chandler because I know they have everything I'll need in stock. I've walked out of WM empty-handed many times because they didn't. Who's making more profit off me?

Every year, there's a run on snow shovels, sump pumps, generators, lawn mowers, rock salt, snow blowers, etc. People seem to wait until they need these things to purchase them. Predictably, every store runs out of these items just when everyone needs them.

Not being a business expert, in my untrained mind, it seems like the business which keeps a warehouse full of these things could make a killing. In other words, keeping lots of inventory can pay off.

Even at home, and on my own boat, having the item I need "in stock" can save me a ton of money and time. I probably have thousands of dollars worth of stuff just waiting for the day I might need it.

To me, there IS value in keeping inventory. I guess I'm just old-fashioned.
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Old 03-05-2015, 05:54   #203
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

" In other words, keeping lots of inventory can pay off."
I know one company that went bankrupt that way. Inventory which is not turning over, is making a loss every day. Lost money on rent, power, security, inventory taking, lost money on financing the cost of the stuff. Keeping inventory is over-simplistic. Having inventory that is needed ("just in time" inventory) and that turns over quickly and repeatedly at a profit, is usually way more important.
If the business property tax (i.e. on inventory) is 10%, and you're only making 20% on the goods on that shelf...you've just lost half your profits by having the inventory on January 1st when it is taxed. Short your inventory, and maybe you lose the sale if there's a blizzard that week. Or, more likely, you double your profit margin by not having it. Odds are every other source in the same state will be doing the same thing.
There are no universal rules, except maybe "make the highest profit margin and fastest repeat turnover you can." No matter what the details of that may be. Sam Walton, founder of WalMart, was asked once how he could make a profit when everything was priced so close to cost. Ah, he said, but it isn't. He'd buy up some items dirt cheap and stack them in the end counters and in the aisles. And then the rest of the stuff, not so prominent but on the shelves? He'd sell for MORE than the competition. And they still do that.
They also were famous for the first major just-in-time retail inventory system. Every cash register dumped every purchase into a live inventory system overnight, so they could keep "just enough" in the stores but restock whatever was selling out, overnight. Couple of years ago they decided all that frequent restocking was costing too much, so they'd restock weekly. And the customers started bitching about the bare shelves, and sales dropped significantly. They've changed their minds and spend more money on more frequent restocking now. Even the folks with big bucks and offices full of "professionals" screw things up from time to time.
With the price of urban or suburban real estate? You really have to mark up that rock salt before you can justify keeping a bag on the floor more than a week or two. Especially if it doesn't snow that week.(G)
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Old 03-05-2015, 06:05   #204
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

Tom, you are right on so many levels in your post. All of us who work in the stores know our market and our customers, and we also know that the home office in Watsonville has no idea what we need. They continually blame problems on the stores and the Associates in those stores, but the real customer dissatisfaction comes from things they control, not us.

Our computer system is so antiquated that most mornings the registers won't open for the day. We spend hours on the phone trying to get the systems up and running for the day, and this has been going on forever. Or, the computer show we have X number of something in the warehouse, but when we order it they can't find any to ship.

But all of us have been down this road so many times. Every few years we get a new CEO who comes in and throws out everything the last CEO did and we start all over again. Our feelings are that, when Matt leaves, the next guy will come in and say "This place needs to return to being a Marine Store !" WM has been through something like 6 CEO's in recent years, so it is only a matter of time before this one goes.

I often wonder what Randy Repass thinks of all of this. He founded this business on a premise that boaters needed a place to buy good products at reasonable prices, and we have now become a boutique. Maybe Randy just took his money and doesn't really care any more, but I would hate to think that. Randy is a very nice, very smart man, and I just can't believe he is letting this all happen the way it is.
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Old 03-05-2015, 07:07   #205
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

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Tom, you are right on so many levels in your post. All of us who work in the stores know our market and our customers, and we also know that the home office in Watsonville has no idea what we need. They continually blame problems on the stores and the Associates in those stores, but the real customer dissatisfaction comes from things they control, not us.

Our computer system is so antiquated that most mornings the registers won't open for the day. We spend hours on the phone trying to get the systems up and running for the day, and this has been going on forever. Or, the computer show we have X number of something in the warehouse, but when we order it they can't find any to ship.

But all of us have been down this road so many times. Every few years we get a new CEO who comes in and throws out everything the last CEO did and we start all over again. Our feelings are that, when Matt leaves, the next guy will come in and say "This place needs to return to being a Marine Store !" WM has been through something like 6 CEO's in recent years, so it is only a matter of time before this one goes.

I often wonder what Randy Repass thinks of all of this. He founded this business on a premise that boaters needed a place to buy good products at reasonable prices, and we have now become a boutique. Maybe Randy just took his money and doesn't really care any more, but I would hate to think that. Randy is a very nice, very smart man, and I just can't believe he is letting this all happen the way it is.
Is there a system in place at all where you can report the continuing problems with the system at large? Tell them how much they are micro-managing the stores? a way that Randy reads about those problems in his stores?

if there is, are the problems/suggestions just ignored like they don't care what issues people have?
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Old 03-05-2015, 07:46   #206
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

When we first started in boating West Marine was our go to for everything. We used to joke about making our "weekly deposit" at West Marine. Or if we didn't go we'd say, "they should be calling from West Marine soon to check and see if we're alright." But over the years we saw this shift happening. So often they didn't have what we needed. We also felt the prices got so astronomical. ($4-$5 for 10-15 teak plugs, I bought a bag of 100 from a local source for $10.) Employees are very often not knowledgeable at all about marine products or problems.

Years ago in San Diego we started making the shift from West Marine to smaller local stores that were more specialized, places that were owned by sailors, staffed by sailors, and/or geared toward cruising. Places where you could not only get the gear you needed, but get real honest answers about it from people who knew their stuff. San Diego Marine Exchange and Downwind Marine were our favorites in San Diego. Here we have Fawcett Marine (thank goodness).

The sad fact is that West Marine will probably do just fine in their new market and we will have lost a valuable local resource. Really, we already have. They will sell enough kayaks, paddleboards and trendy t-shirts and windbreakers to make their bottom line. Us old salts will just have to find other sources. With all of the online sources available, and with better prices usually to boot, that will not be hard. It will just require a bit of pre-planning as you will not be able to have a part on Saturday afternoon that you only discovered you needed on Saturday morning.
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Old 03-05-2015, 15:55   #207
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

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Is there a system in place at all where you can report the continuing problems with the system at large? Tell them how much they are micro-managing the stores? a way that Randy reads about those problems in his stores?

if there is, are the problems/suggestions just ignored like they don't care what issues people have?

I wish there was some way for us, at the stores, to communicate with those at corporate, but there is almost no way to do that and, when you do need to get help from someone up there, it is like jumping through hoops to reach the right person. Even Store Operations, who are supposed to be our contact for store related problems, are hard to get and harder to get to call you back. Our internal systems are really bad.

In defense of this new Lifestyle WM, they are selling a hell of a lot of Kayaks, paddleboards, and clothing now, and those are high profit items, so I guess their plan is working in that regard. The problem is, kayaks don't break as often as boats, so once they sell one the customer will have no reason to return or to join the membership. It was boaters who were the repeat customers, the membership buyers, and the TowBoat US insured. I wonder if WM had factored in what they will be losing in memberships and in returning customers ?
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Old 04-05-2015, 05:15   #208
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

I've been to West Marine a few times that past couple of weeks. Yes they seem to have more lifestyle stuff, but they still had all the nuts/bolts and other stuff they normally have at the store I go to. No sign of them reducing real boating stuff to have more "lifestyle" stuff.

Far I'm concerned everything is good at WM.
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Old 04-05-2015, 14:03   #209
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

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I've been to West Marine a few times that past couple of weeks. Yes they seem to have more lifestyle stuff, but they still had all the nuts/bolts and other stuff they normally have at the store I go to. No sign of them reducing real boating stuff to have more "lifestyle" stuff.

Far I'm concerned everything is good at WM.
The stores around here just have the basics of basics for boating stuff (stuff in their sale flyers, etc). Rarely 2 of anything boating-wise, in stock. Actual boating stuff was reduced by over half compared to a few years ago.

Just about any part/supply I requested in recent memory, always was answered 'we can order it...it will be a few days' . I did, however, pick up flares to replace the expired ones, that were in stock. I think that was my only purchase in the last 2 years.
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Old 04-05-2015, 17:40   #210
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

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The stores around here just have the basics of basics for boating stuff (stuff in their sale flyers, etc). Rarely 2 of anything boating-wise, in stock. Actual boating stuff was reduced by over half compared to a few years ago.



Just about any part/supply I requested in recent memory, always was answered 'we can order it...it will be a few days' . I did, however, pick up flares to replace the expired ones, that were in stock. I think that was my only purchase in the last 2 years.

You need to go to the Woburn store


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