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  #1  
Old 12-17-2009
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Where is everyone shopping?

I am surprised to see over and over again people talking about this great thing they found at West Marine, or that great new gadget from West Marine.
I don't get it. Now I will admit that I have shopped at WM, and they are very pleasant. I will also say that at the two locations I frequent most Vancouver and Victoria, I rarely get great advice from these very nice people.
I am not a hippie, but I have to ask, why aren't we shopping at local vendors? We sailors are a tight community and I really am shocked to read about people bypassing the local guy whom they share a marina with and heading off to a big corporate giant. I will admit, I shop at Costco, but at least there is a cash savings there, WM is consistently 10-25% more expensive than the local guy's sticker price, which with a smile and a conversation goes down by the time you reach the cash register.

So why do we do it? Am I missing something?

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Old 12-17-2009
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PR,
Store at my marina IS a West Marine. The problem is that local businesses around here are few and far between as many of the local stores have been put out of business by the big chains. Nearest local marine store to me is an hour drive. However, when I'm in the market for anything more expensive than a few dollars the first place I look is online. Have gotten some good buys that way.
Agree on Costco -- have saved the price of admission and more on gasoline alone. Unfortunately they don't carry boating supplies.
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Old 12-17-2009
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WM is an emergency supplier for us.
If we are there, it must be sunday and we are in urgent need that cannot wait until monday. Aside from their higher prices and lower quality, the stores I have been too, have not had any of those "experienced and helpful" store employees, just my luck.
I prefer to frequent the little guy whenever possible.
I am also the sort who is into the whole touchy-feely aspect of shopping, as a result I find the whole internet shopping experience less than satisfying.
Being in the Great White North, just about everything on-line comes from south of the border which makes things like time-frames and shipping a real PITA and UPS has a $60 border-crossing surcharge which tends to kill most deals.
As to Costco we have never joined, being only 3 in our family I find it hard to get through things like a Kilo of PB or Mayo before it goes bad and I cannot use up a gross of Romain before it wilts. While some of the deals are very tempting (we have friends that go regularly and extol the virtues) we have, so far, resisted and continue with the "little guy" whenever possible.
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Old 12-17-2009
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Here is my issue with local suppliers:

1) Rarely is the little guy offering the low price...especially on low volume, big ticket items like electronics
2) West Marine price matches competition even big online ones (sometimes)
3) West Marine offers a loyalty program that ends up saving me even more money...West Advantage gold (comes with my BoatUS towing) gets me about $200-$300 a year back on top of normal spend
4) Usually have access to someone with a Port Supply account that can save big bucks on high margin items like cleaning supplies or accessories...
5) Global reach and presence that the little guy cant offer
6) Returns aren't a hassle...I've had small chandleries refuse to take things back that just didn't work out on my boat

Now, here is the problem with West Marine
1) Unlike Sailnet, they're not fostering a community much...so I'll occasionally buy from here to keep the whole shebang going
2) Cheap low quality Private Brand merchandise that is replacing the national brands in the assortment and reducing "choice". Used to be you could by 3 or 4 different kinds of anything at WM...now, its 1 national brand and their house brand. *ugh*
3) Price matching cant be doubled up with coupons/promotions.
4) Like all retailers, they are very good at segmenting the market and pricing...results in different prices online vs in store. Not as much cross-promotion. Something could be on sale online but they'll have a $10 shipping charge which kills the benefit of buying store
5) Sales tax...grrrrr
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Last edited by night0wl; 12-17-2009 at 08:27 AM.
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Old 12-17-2009
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I always try Minney's first, but it's hit or miss for some things, otherwise we DON'T HAVE any local chandlery stores anymore. Well, there may be a couple in the big harbors like San Diego and LA/Long beach, a "local" I've used (~ 30nm away) said he is forced to buy many things from WM now. Besides buying most of the other retail stores they have also bought many of the smaller companies that make marine products.
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Old 12-17-2009
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I honestly don't get why more people don't shop right here at SN or Marine.com. I've bought several things from them and have gotten very good prices (definitely better than WM) and they've been great to deal with.

They give us a great forum and great prices - and the CEO will email you directly if something is out of stock or it there's any other problem with the order. How much more local can you get?
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I'll echo some of the issues with local or small.

I like the idea of a local store and advice would be great but it really is only worth what you paid for it and often not that. The internet is a much better source of info than a clerk or even a single store owner.

Stores do not generally hire experienced marine techs, be that WM or anyone else for that matter. Service business on the other hand do but they are expensive.

WM is not a deal but they have lots of shiney stuff so I visit now and then.

The WM rewards program did not work for me. The fact that we were on a boat and that boat moved was waaaay too much for them to handle. Like getting insurance, as soon as your boat starts to move the system falls apart.

As for local...well generally it is lack of stock, finding them can be hard, then they have to be open, and since they do not have stock I have to go elsewhere.

I would go to the store that had everything, if it had everything. Trouble with that model is it doesn't make money. To have everything is to have millions of dollars of stock. These days only internet companies can do that.

It sucks but that is the way it is. I was looking for an M10 x1.0 cap nut yesterday. Now you would think there would be the industrial store that would have row upon row of hardware but after asking a dozen people and checking out several places it is clear there is no longer such a store. The biggest in the area that I could find was a fraction of the size I need (if I want to be able to find everything in one spot) and it was poorly stocked as most stores are.

The situation sucks but getting stuff was never easy so that has not changed.
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Old 12-17-2009
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West Marine

I've bought a lot of stuff from WM and shopped them almost exclusively when I first got into sailing but I've found them to be a bit expensive of late when compared to other suppliers. I now favor on line, such as here, or Fisheries Supply in Seattle.
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Old 12-17-2009
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WM's prices aren't that out of league if you have the patience to wait for sales and/or coupons. I get frustrated with how much the items carried in store vary from location to location and how it seems like they only get in one or two orders of certain items per year. They're always good about offering to order things in that they've run out of or don't carry in the store, but typically if I'm walking into a store looking for something it's because I need it now, not two weeks from now. The situation would be improved if they had a website intelligent enough to know which items are stocked and available in store and even better if they had a store pickup option.

As for some of the online marine merchants, probably more of them than not are actually small mom and pop type operations.

For the Marylanders on here I was surprised to get an e-mail yesterday from Fawcett saying they're moving out to Bay Ridge Rd. They've been such a fixture in their current location it's hard to imagine them gone. They say the move is for more square footage and to better accommodate future expansion but I'm looking forward to hearing more about what's *really* prompting the move.
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Old 12-17-2009
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Defender.com for stuff I can wait for. WM for stuff I can't. Our WM in Annapolis is staffed by cruisers. I get lots of good advice there and they ask me how such-and-such project went the next time I go in. The other well-known local store (Fawcett's) is usually more expensive, so I don't venture over that way much. They can print charts, though, so I do go there for that.

Sell at a good price, offer me a good selection, provide me with great service and I don't care where your headquarters is.
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