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  #1  
Old 01-16-2012
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Just sayn': Comparison shop before you buy

Some of you may know I bought a boat last month. Alas, not a wooden boat, but a nice cruising boat nonetheless.

I've always known you have to shop carefully when buying boat goodies but this morning I did a side by side comparison between two big retailers on a few random items. Some of which I need, some I was just curious about.


Tefgel 21.99 v 18.48
Lanocote 13.49 v. 10.79
Scraperite pack 6.29 v 3.99
2 shaft zincs 26.98 v 18.65
TRUPLUG 21.99 v. 19.99 (was on sale recently for 15.99)
Boot Paint .5 pint 13.99 v 15.55 THE ONLY ITEM WHERE RETAILER "A" beat "B"
Firefly 3 strobe 72.99 v 69.99
2" foam brush 1.29 EA. v. 20/17.16 HUGE Difference!

Grand total 203.52 v 174.60


Now I know they will match prices, and sometimes you can get a deal on reduced or free shipping... but that's about a 16% increase in the cost of those items!
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Old 01-16-2012
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Minnewaska will become famous soon enough Minnewaska will become famous soon enough
You point out the big gotcha. Shipping can make it back, so be very careful with that. You didn't name names, but I will.

West Marine is famous for higher prices, but join their club and you will get a continuous supply of 10 to 15 percent discount coupons, cash back programs and they even have free shipping a couple of times per year. I had six cases of antifreeze shipped for free this Fall. That was way better on a total cost basis than my other go-to supplier, Defender, who was less expensive for the product but charged shipping.

I assume WM strategy is to get a few sales at full price when they can. But as you pointed, they will price match. That's a pain and it drives me and everyone nuts. But I admit to gazing around a WM store to kill time with no shopping list and loving it. Can't do that at Defender.

P.s. I also like Jamestown Distributors and have ordered from SailNet too. I find SailNet's inventory to be limited, but ironically I found something I was looking for that none of the rest had at all.
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Old 01-16-2012
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The biggest problem with West Marine is that if they don't have it in the store and you order it from them, then you pay shipping plus sales tax on a higher price for the item. Several online suppliers do not collect sales tax and have from time to time free shipping for a threshold volume of purchases. It is not very hard to reach their threshold when ordering boat things. Also, I hate store loyalty programs. If they can sell for less then let them do it without me enrolling or carrying some kind of discount card. Low price is important, but so is service and availability. What good is a brick and mortar store that does not stock the item you need? Last but not least is information. It is much easier to get accurate information about a product on line than in a retail store, marine or otherwise.
I accept that sailing gear is small a market, special application stuff and therefore costs more than generic hardware but look at the list in Sailordave's post. How much of that stuff is really small market specialty stuff?
caveat emptor.
John
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Old 01-16-2012
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I will gladly pay extra for the ability to inspect an item or to compare the construction of competing brands prior to purchase. Retail stores are invaluable for this. What I find sleazy is the practice of going into a retail store to examine merchandise, try it on for sizing, and then go purchase it from a mail-order vendor.

On the other hand, if what I'm buying is a pure commodity or an item with super high quality-control so I know what I'm getting, I have no compunctions about buying that online, sight-unseen.
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Old 01-16-2012
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Dont underestimate the premium associated with being able to walk out of the store with your item in hand and available. Convenience is a factor.

For example, nearly *EVERYTHING* that can be found at a 7-11 could be cheaper at a grocery store....and by extension, most things at a grocery store are cheaper at a Wal-Mart , Sams Club, or Costco. But damn it, when you need a 6-pack of Coke for rum-mixing and the 7-11 is on the corner by the boat ramp...I'll pay the 30% extra to buy it from there than trucking it over to the grocery store or Wal-Mart for the few bucks difference.

Same goes for West Marine.

What I cant figure out is why their web prices are so ridiculously out of line....
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I agree that I am willing to pay a premium for availability. But I haven't found a marine vendor that qualifies. Driving to West Marine for a zinc, or breaker or bulb over the years has become a joke. It is always the one they are out of !!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Minnewaska View Post
I agree that I am willing to pay a premium for availability. But I haven't found a marine vendor that qualifies. Driving to West Marine for a zinc, or breaker or bulb over the years has become a joke. It is always the one they are out of !!
That's because they stock one deep.
Their computer must be set so that O&ST=0. But here in South Texas it is 7 days at best and maybe 13 days. That's 10% of a 4 month sailing season. What good is a brick and mortar store if the item you need is not in stock?

And another thing, how often do they have competing products on the shelf ready for your inspection. I was looking for a strut zinc, the local stores stocked a brand that does not make the size I needed, but all knew that the other brand made the size I needed but didn't know where I could get one because they all used the same distributer and he only carried the brand that didn't.

A good thing you can say about West Marine is that they try to put stores in small market marine locals where-as Defender/JD/etc do not. But given the paucity of sailboat equipment at the local store, I rely on the internet to fill my needs even if it means a 7 day O&ST. You get used to it.
John
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Old 01-16-2012
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Long Island is really lucky in that there are 3 large west marines with in a 15 mile circle that are good about price matching

What is even better we are one day shipping from most internet sales

What is even better yet the independent marine store is still alive and well here and again the worst case is a 40 minute drive
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I will also add this to the conversation. My marina has a very small chandlery that stocks oil, wire, zincs and things of that sort. I tend to buy them there when I can for a few reasons.

First, if the tenants don't use it, they will not want the investment in inventory to sit idle and would likely shut it down. It is very convenient when you are in need.

Second, I'm a believer that the marina needs to make money for the customer's experience to be good. Otherwise, you find services being cut or prices being tweaked. I do not agree that the slip fee should be enough for them. Most are designed to break even on slips and moorings and make their profit on the rest.

Last, businesses can and should favor their more profitable customers. Those aren't necessarily the ones that spend the most, but rather the ones that give them the most profitable business. If overpaying for a few gallons of oil gets me on that list, it's well worth it. Same holds true for buying fuel at your home marina and not stopping at Joe's Fuel-a-Rama on the way home.
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I've found that smaller retailers often have better prices than the big 3--WM, Defender, J'town.
Check Fisheries Supply, Redden, Genuinedealz (electrical supplies) and some Ebay stores, like Milwawkee Rigging just to name a few. Takes some Googling but often worth it.
I resent driving to a WM store and finding that they don't want to keep a decent inventory.
And I have no problem with looking at something on the shelf there and buying it online at a better price. They want to sell me off the shelf, they can stock a more reliable inventory and get their prices down some. I don't owe it to them to play along with their business model. Further, I had to argue with WM once to get them to honor their price-matching policy, and the item they finally sent was an old, superceded model that looked like it had been returned defective. I had to go to the manufacturer (Fujinon) and they made it right. That cost WM some good will.
I've run into some really great store staff at WM (e.g. Portsmouth NH).
But overall, it's dog-eat-dog and I ain't gettin eaten. Not too often anyway.
JV
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