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FLIBS 2011: West Marine offers preview of Lauderdale superstore

FORT LAUDERDALE — West Marine opened the doors of its newest store last week to marine media to flaunt its largest store ever built and what it says is the biggest boating store in the United States.

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The new Fort Lauderdale superstore will have its soft opening Nov. 11 and a weeklong grand opening celebration Dec. 7-11. At 50,000 square feet it’s twice the size of West Marine’s major flagship stores and five times the size of a standard West Marine store.

The store creates a one-stop shop for the boater, with everything from electronics to apparel to fishing gear available in one location. More than 30,000 products are in stock, compared with the average flagship store, which stocks between 15,000 and 18,000.

Boaters walk in to colorful displays on either side and a replica megayacht flybridge, built by Hargrave Custom Yachts, in the center that showcases more than 300 working marine electronics.

“It’s about the customer,” explained Lynn Ferguson, chief marketing officer and senior vice president. The store offers interactive experiences for consumers and offers anything they could want to enhance their boating experience.

“We listened to the customer, and that’s what we incorporated into this store,” added regional vice president Erik Rimblas.

West Marine rolled out its flagship model a few years ago and currently has eight flagship stores — four in Florida and the others in Newport, R.I.; Brick, N.J.; San Diego and Woburn, Mass. Rimblas said the company has found that these flagships have “retail gravity” and can pull in boaters from 50 miles away or more.

When the company opens a flagship store, it has closed other stores in the area that would compete with the larger store. With the opening of the Fort Lauderdale superstore, only one smaller store will be closed.

Other features of the store include:

• A megayacht division catering to captains and crews

• The ability to create a seminar space at the front of the store

• A large customer service desk

• Sailboat hardware

• A rigging shop

• Three monitors throughout the store that offer do-it-yourself videos

• A working head

• A full engine parts section

• Many interactive displays

• A complete apparel section that includes Qwest Marine’s own line of clothing

• A complete apparel section that includes Qwest Marine’s own line of clothing

• Jewelry and watches

• A watersports area

• A bait shack where fishermen can hang out and tell their stories

    West Marine has 319 stores in 38 states, Puerto Rico and Canada and three franchised locations in Turkey. The company said 73 of its stores are based in Florida.

    The new Fort Lauderdale superstore will employ 84 associates, more than double the 40 at its existing Fort Lauderdale location.

    — Beth Rosenberg

    b.rosenberg@tradeonlytoday.com

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