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Old 23-01-2015, 09:04   #46
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

This is not good for me. There are plenty of things that I buy at West Marine that I need that same day. I am responsible for maintaining five different boats. In my area there are no alternative brick and mortar stores that are close. There are also plenty of things that I need to see in person before purchasing. One obviously cannot do that with an online vendor.

I can't wait 3 days to get a tube of 5200 or some stainless steel fasteners from Defender. I almost always need those things the same day.

All of the four West Marines in my area carry plenty of sailing related stuff such as blocks and high tech line. There are thousands of sailboats berthed here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I would not expect West Marine Reno to have a whole lot of sailing gear.

As far as employee knowledge goes, some are extremely knowledgeable and some are lacking. The older guys who have been working in a particular store for years are the ones who typically have the most amount of knowledge. Over time, you learn who the knowledgeable employees are.

I do not consider West Marine a ripoff. Their business model requires more employees and physical space that online retailers do not require. West Marines operating margin is 5.03% and their net profit margin is 2.51%. This is not a massive profit margin.

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Old 23-01-2015, 09:57   #47
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

Was a little surprised a few years back when WM tripled the size of their new shop in Buford Georgia. Manager, who I got to know pretty good, said they had been the top-selling store for 2 years. Lake Lanier does it apparently.
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Old 23-01-2015, 09:59   #48
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

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Originally Posted by David M View Post
This is not good for me. There are plenty of things that I buy at West Marine that I need that same day. I am responsible for maintaining five different boats. In my area there are no alternative brick and mortar stores that are close. There are also plenty of things that I need to see in person before purchasing. One obviously cannot do that with an online vendor.

I can't wait 3 days to get a tube of 5200 or some stainless steel fasteners from Defender. I almost always need those things the same day.

All of the four West Marines in my area carry plenty of sailing related stuff such as blocks and high tech line. There are thousands of sailboats berthed here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I would not expect West Marine Reno to have a whole lot of sailing gear.

As far as employee knowledge goes, some are extremely knowledgeable and some are lacking. The older guys who have been working in a particular store for years are the ones who typically have the most amount of knowledge. Over time, you learn who the knowledgeable employees are.

I do not consider West Marine a ripoff. Their business model requires more employees and physical space that online retailers do not require. West Marines operating margin is 5.03% and their net profit margin is 2.51%. This is not a massive profit margin.

Source; https://www.google.com/finance?q=NAS...MY2X9AaQ3YGgCA
Agree 100%
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Old 23-01-2015, 09:59   #49
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

While I lived in the SF Bay Area, I used to visit the Sausalito West Marine regularly (one of my favorite stores to visit) and the Alameda location too.

I have also been in other stores on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. The most unusual to me was one that was far removed from the ocean (4 hour drive) and about an hour drive to any lake large enough for bigger boats. At the time, I thought it bizarre to have a WM so far from a large lake or coast, but can also see that they positioned it in an upscale residential area where many boat owners reside, the same folks who buy during the week then take a road trip to their boat for the weekend boating.

For me, the advantages that West Marine offers a boater in comparison to a Online-Only internet store are:

1. West Marine provides a convenience to those people who want to try things on (clothing) and to get their hands on something (parts, binocs, etc.). This includes those people who want to get their hands on something NOW rather than waiting for it to be delivered. Online (only) retailers like Amazon or others also have good return policies, but there is the hassle of return shipping, and the further delay in getting a "good fit" for the item one wants.

2. They generally have a good selection of stuff in their stores, and easy access to ordering things that are not on the shelf.

3. They had a very easy return policy (I never needed to use it, but valued it).

4. There was always at least one person in the store who had more years of boating experience than the typical boat owner. This is easier to judge when one is face to face. This also helps when one wants some face-to-face advice on purchases (or confirmation of their choices), and that is true for a lot of people, even those who don't admit it.

Overall, I liked shopping at West Marine.

But, I also like smaller, local chandleries too, and understand their appeal and value.

The good thing about a chain like West Marine, is that there is some consistency of product, pricing, service, return policy, in whatever location of the chain you visit. Seattle, Key West, Savannah? They are consistent on key points.

When one travels, it is easier to trust a "known" retailer rather than have to find out everything about a local-only retailer (see the success of McDonalds and other chains). This is a big convenience to some.
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As for the issue of "lifestyle" products in their stores?

I don't see that as a negative, if it helps their business remain profitable and helps them keep their stores open (which is a convenience to people like me who like brick and mortar shops).

I have bought gifts and clothing items for others and myself at their stores, so it does not bother me if they have "non-hardware" items on hand. In fact, I would prefer to buy clothing items (foul weather gear, boots, etc.) AT a West Marine, rather than just online, because I like to get a good fit. The same with things like binoculars (where eye relief has to be "tested" by putting them up to your eyes and glasses.

It also gives the girlfriend or Admiral something to do (shop for soft goods) while the guys who took them to "stop by West Marine for a few minutes" are fondling the nuts and bolts and anchors.

That said, I knew quite a few female sailors who knew more than most male sailors, so they were also admiring the hardware and tools.
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Old 23-01-2015, 11:02   #50
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

I entirely agree with RandyM above. The customer service is great, although the summer help can be so unexpert as to be very unhelpful. The prices are not the cheapest but someone has to pay for the brick and mortar and the customer service. You get what you pay for. I worked at a boatyard for many years as a tech. Many customers complained about our parts prices, but we carried an inventory of items our local (nice-size) WM did not. Specialty items that at the time were hard to find online. But now you can get them online if you don't want to look at them and hold them in your hand, or match the other part to it, before you buy it.

I have a prior background in business (MBA type - yuck). So I have some insight to the marketing and financial decisions a company like WM has to make. Unfortunately they may make some grave mistakes with the corporate MBA types that may be the executives now. Going life-style means changing who you compete with. You now don't compete with other chandlers, but with Land's End, etc. But now you don't really have a differentiation and don't have that "mystique" of going to a true nautical store to buy a nautical shirt. You just go and buy a shirt with sailboats on it.

In my opinion stupid, but time will tell.

I do find that our local store is better stocked than it was 10 years ago with sailboat equipment. It still does not carry everything I need but I still go there quite often and it is handy to be able to drop in to get epoxy, 5200, rope, etc. that the local hardware stores do not carry.

But potential changes to their business model has been going on for quite some time now. I met Randy Repass (the founder of WM) in Tonga and Vanuatu in 2005 when he was sailing his very unique rig with his young kids and wife. Wonderful easy-going people. But it was obvious that WM would be changing. At the time it seemed it was going to go just to fishing supplies and may be it is in mid-west stores etc. where sailboats are not common.

I really would miss WM if it gets out of the chandlery business. I can order stuff from Fisheries Supply in Seattle and have it delivered next day and I can return it for full credit, but what a hassle, and I can't hold it before I buy it. That is valuable to me.
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Old 23-01-2015, 12:01   #51
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

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Originally Posted by Island Time O25 View Post
I think it's more of a case of the industry shooting itself in the foot. I'd pay a 10% premium for shopping at a physical location. But not a 50%+ premium.

WM listed a folding ladder I was looking to buy for $239 and they did not have one in stock and it would be a few weeks at best for them to get it in. I got identical one online for $130 and it was delivered free in 2 business days. I would have gladly paid $150 to WM if they had one in stock as time was of essence for me. But not twice the price online. And not with a 2 week wait.

It's a classic case of really stupid top management killing a once successful brand. And blaming anyone but themselves.
Couldn't agree more. I started work at West Marine shortly before the company went public, and over the following 4 years noticed most of the changes commented on in this thread. Rebranding products took priority over product performance, quality and superior non-West Marine products were discontinued. By the third year following its going public, cutting labour costs fell upon the higher paid, more experienced employees. Seasonal lay-offs was the primary method for accomplishing this goal. And, bringing in 'part time' stockers who by law could do nothing else, but were nonetheless scheduled for floor time. Consequently full-time and part-time higher paid salespeople were scheduled fewer work hours.

There's much I could say about my personal experience and feelings toward West Marine, but won't. It appears the company is in line to receive its cummupance, and the wheel has finally turned. There's a huge building vacated by Best Buy opposite West Marine in Marin City. It would be great if Defender opened its first brick & mortar store there.

Prices at West Marine in Marin City are rediculously high!
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Old 23-01-2015, 12:14   #52
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

less face it... Bass Pro Shops and Cabelas and the other big shops make a lot more money... the buying audience is much bigger than sailboaters... It seems you cant find a place to park at the local Cabelas up here... anytime they are open....
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Old 23-01-2015, 12:46   #53
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

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We don't want the brick stores to go but we look and touch in them and then rush to the computer and buy it. We want the help from the pros but don't want to pay for that. Same reason all the electronic stores are closing.

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Well said, Scuba! We are witnessing, in America, the death of Main Street. The internet has proven that price, for most, drives the market. We are seeing it today by the loss of Mom and Pop stores as well as big retailers who provide service, technical information and convenience closing their doors in record numbers across the US. They can't compete with vendors who run their business out of a spare bedroom and a storage space for their inventory. Here in the Midwest, you only need to drive through the cities and suburbs to see its effect with empty storefronts, vacant industrial areas and large retail outlets for rent. Many will never reopen. So, that's the beauty of a free market system. It always gives the consumer what he wants. But, when price is the sole motivating factor, you'll never get the complete package . . . but, wow . . . what a cheap price!
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Old 23-01-2015, 12:58   #54
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

Actually some of our local Home Depot and Lowe's carry a decent "emergency" marine section - lines, 4200/5200, epoxies/resin, marine quality ss nuts and bolts, shackles, etc. meaning that the need exists and is being addressed, albeit partially. That and the fact that WM is/will be moving away from its core marine supply focus may open up an opportunity for some current/former more boat oriented WM execs to go with a competing operation.

I envision a store model with a decently or even well stocked regional warehouse (directly servicing marine yards and large volume buyers as well) serving a bunch of local near shore small footprint brick franchisee stores which can be run and managed much cheaper than WM behemoths.

And the proximity of well stocked warehouse, located in a cheaper part of the region, will enable the small front store to bring an item to a customer in 1-2 days or with enough demand may be next day as well.

More remote customers would still benefit from the warehouse's proximity. For example, here in New England say in NH or ME such a warehouse could be put up for peanuts compared to the costs of opening a flagship WM in Boston. But still close enough for a quick delivery schedule.

And if the franchise will compensate franchisees for any online sales as well, even if partially, there would be an additional incentive for them show an item live to a customer and not worry if he or she goes to their web site for the sale. Plus the smart return policy which would allow buying a part in FL or even online and returning it in MA would keep most customers loyal and in my own experience such liberal return policies make me spend more overall anyway.
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Old 23-01-2015, 13:35   #55
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

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I envision a store model with a decently or even well stocked regional warehouse (directly servicing marine yards and large volume buyers as well) serving a bunch of local near shore small footprint brick franchisee stores which can be run and managed much cheaper than WM behemoths.

And the proximity of well stocked warehouse, located in a cheaper part of the region, will enable the small front store to bring an item to a customer in 1-2 days or with enough demand may be next day as well.

More remote customers would still benefit from the warehouse's proximity. For example, here in New England say in NH or ME such a warehouse could be put up for peanuts compared to the costs of opening a flagship WM in Boston. But still close enough for a quick delivery schedule.
Uhhh, I think there already is one... It's called Defender Industries :-)

I live on the Jersey shore, Defender is located near New London, the eastern corner of Connecticut... Even shipping Ground UPS, if I order an in-stock item before mid-afternoon, I'll almost always have it the next day...

I think Stephan Lance is a smart enough businessman, not to ruin a thriving family business started by his dad in 1938, by thinking of 'franchising', or opening additional locations... :-) Stephan is a great guy, loves the business, but also places a very high priority on the time spent with his young family, on the water, and living a more laid-back lifestyle in a less populated and frenetic region... He already runs the largest single location dealer of inflatable boats in North America, how much bigger does he need to get?

The more things change, the more they stay the same... From 1987:

BOATERS TURNING MORE TO DISCOUNTERS - NYTimes.com





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Old 23-01-2015, 15:15   #56
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

A common occurrence in outdoors stores.

REI was started by a number of PNW climbers, including Jim Whittikar (first American to summit Everest), as a way to market mountaineering equipment at reasonable prices. The door handles were all changed to ice axes molded in polyurethane ~ 10 years ago. At about the same time all the ice climbing and winter mountaineering equipment (ice axes and everything Jim was interested) were removed from the stores, to make room for what they actually made money on--life style items. They still have a fair selection of mountaineering gear on-line, but not in the stores. I have a far broader climbing gear assortment in my basement that the bricks and mortar stores.

A friend of mine started an outdoor store some years ago. His partners made him move out the climbing gear in favor of more ski clothing after 1 year.

Of course we caused this... by shopping on-line!
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Old 23-01-2015, 16:17   #57
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

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A common occurrence in outdoors stores.

REI was started by a number of PNW climbers, including Jim Whittikar (first American to summit Everest), as a way to market mountaineering equipment at reasonable prices. The door handles were all changed to ice axes molded in polyurethane ~ 10 years ago. At about the same time all the ice climbing and winter mountaineering equipment (ice axes and everything Jim was interested) were removed from the stores, to make room for what they actually made money on--life style items. They still have a fair selection of mountaineering gear on-line, but not in the stores. I have a far broader climbing gear assortment in my basement that the bricks and mortar stores.

A friend of mine started an outdoor store some years ago. His partners made him move out the climbing gear in favor of more ski clothing after 1 year.

Of course we caused this... by shopping on-line!
Yup, REI is the one I think of first that exemplifies this trend...

Should come as no surprise, this sort of shift only mirrors that of sailing and cruising having become more of a 'Lifestyle', as opposed to an 'Activity', anyway... :-))

My local WM is in Brick, NJ, and was one of the first of the high-touted "Flagship/Superstores" to open several years ago... It is undergoing a massive, storewide interior renovation as we speak... You guessed it, an even greater percentage of floorspace given over to "Soft Goods"/Clothing, kayaks/paddleboards/water toys moved up the front, and what used to be a fairly extensive selection of sailing hardware has already shrunk considerably...
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Old 23-01-2015, 16:34   #58
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

I was surprised and taken aback that the St. Petersburg store had such a small selection of life vests that I had trouble finding one with a built in harness. That display rack was probably no more than 12-15 feet in size, had only 2 tethers and no jacklines. The tethers were mixed in with a number of other items tossed on the bottom shelf.

Impressive?

Not really.

They had tons of power boat types though. And a LOT of clothing etc. It is one of the flagship stores, and sad to see that the demographic that most who are here have been relegated to an after thought. It causes confusion for existing customers, and I wonder how attractive the change is to new ones.

It would be nice to at least see a consolidation of sailing/boating accessories, parts and equipment in a store in a major sailing center like the Tampa bay area. After all, they still actually build boats here.


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Old 23-01-2015, 16:44   #59
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

While profit margins are high for clothing, it has an expiration date. That's why you see end-of-season sales with big discounts and donated, unused clothing for hardly anything (pennies on the dollar) at thrift stores. My GF can acquire a nice, new outfit, from shoes to hat, for under $20.
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Old 23-01-2015, 17:06   #60
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Re: West Marine changing strategies: likely de-emphasising sailing related support

For the sailors in the crowd, here it's what West Marine store in St. Petersburg emphasizes.



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