Navigating Global Waters West Marine's Spreads Its Risk by Ex
The international team works out of the Watsonville headquarters where West Marine maintains an international call center staffed with multilingual customer service reps. Also on hand are product advisors to assist reps in answering technical questions. More than 10 percent of West Marine's business comes in by phone—which allows the cataloger to talk to its customers, get direct feedback and find out how to best serve them.
The cataloger also uses the Internet to communicate with its customers, often using e-mail to address concerns regarding costs and delivery. An increasing number of its international orders are coming in via the Internet.
Products are fulfilled from two distribution centers located in South Carolina and California, using one of three delivery options—FedEx, DHL or the U.S. Postal Service. While the cataloger tries to make clearing customs as seamless as possible, it can be a challenge. Currently, its prices don't include duties and taxes. This doesn't hamper sales, however, according to Flannery, because the majority of its customers are savvy travelers accustomed to paying duty and tax on imports. What's more, many of West Marine's products are not available in local markets. Flannery notes the cataloger is working toward being able to quote prices that include duty and tax, but this is a time-consuming task with more than 36,000 items and special order products available that range from 10 cents to $10,000 in price. Says Flannery: "The customs problem is not beyond the realm of solving, but it will take a bit of effort and time."