Company aims to be one-stop-shop for boaters, attracting a diverse — and enthusiastic — clientele
Odette Intili, general manager of the new West Marine flagship store in Brick, N.J., was never much of a boater until she started working at West Marine in 1995 as a part-time cashier. Now, she and her husband own two Sea Rays — a 20-footer for them and a 26-footer for friends and family.
Bringing in new boaters is one goal for West Marine’s newest store, says Southeast regional manager Erik Rimblas.
“The boating lifestyle appeals to so many different customers,” says Rimblas. “We’re giving people the diversity they want.”
The flagship store, at 51 Chambersbridge Road, opened its doors April 17 and covers 25,500 square feet — nearly three times the size of an average West Marine store, which is about 9,000 square feet. This is the fourth flagship store West Marine has built. The new store in Jacksonville, Fla., which is 30,000 square feet, opened in March.
At a corporate level, West Marine is focusing simultaneously on consolidation and expansion. Last year, West Marine closed 32 stores, opened five new stores and expanded seven, according to West Marine CEO Geoff Eisenberg. There are currently 342 stores nationwide.
“We started talking about doing this store a year ago to combine our two branches in Brick,” says Eisenberg. “We’re really more of a destination company than a lot of places so you really won’t see us in shopping malls. We consider ourselves boaters and we cater to boaters.”
Angling for sales
In addition to making the new flagship store a one-stop-shop for boaters, Rimblas and his crew are working to draw as diverse a clientele as possible. Part of that plan includes a focus on fishing — a popular pastime along the Jersey shore, for both men and women.
“We carry brands that make women’s fishing clothes and fishing shorts – we don’t have to dress like guys anymore,” says Shannon O’Neill, a sales specialist and angler. “Old Harbor Outfitters is a great company for comfort and fashion for men and women who enjoy the sport.”
Another brand the store carries is Lolë, which stands for Live Out Loud, and provides clothing for women that is durable but classy on or off the boat.
Ty McGowan, fishing specialist, says the store is in the process of researching quality fishing rods made specifically for the size and weight of women. Currently, the store carries 150 different reels and 300 rods as well as a bait freezer.
“It is one of the biggest-growing segments of the marine industry,” says McGowan.
“Within the last eight years or so, we’ve definitely seen a shift in the boating industry taking women more seriously,” says Intili, who has been a store manager since 2003, and works with a team of other female managers at the Brick store.
Gear to go
In addition to the expanded clothing and fishing section, the store also carries hardware and parts, smaller vessels such as kayaks and dinghies, and an electronic section with the sound system options located inside a full-sized eye-catching flybridge in the center of the store.
“There’s so much here besides boating supplies,” says operations manager Susan Fry.
Intili says the store plans to carry more foul-weather gear for women and children in efforts to appeal to families. In order to stay ahead of the market, the company must always be willing to change and evolve with the trends, says Eisenberg.
“Our thinking six years ago is not at all our thinking now when we first started testing the concept of flagship stores in San Diego and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,” says Eisenberg. “Our layout is different, our color fixtures are different, our technology is different. The store should be what the customer wants and needs now and into the future.”
For information, visit www.westmarine.com
This article originally appeared in the Connecticut & New York Home Waters section of the July issue.