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Get to know Force 4 Chandlery

Written by
Andrew Flynn
Published on
29/2/2024
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Welcome to the latest instalment of our 'Get To Know' series.

Each month, we spotlight one of our clients, introducing our audience to their products and services while delving into the latest trends within their specific industries.

This month, we’re delighted to talk with Lawrence Parr, Managing Director of Force 4 Chandlery.

Thank you for your time, Lawrence! What can you tell us about Force 4 Chandlery?

No problem. We are the UK’s largest chandlery. Don’t worry, not everyone knows what a chandlery is! The business began in London in 1977, selling boat parts in the summer season and ski equipment in the winter. To this day, we continue to hand-pick the clothing, electronics, books, charts and chandlery featured throughout the website, to offer our customers the ‘Right Choice at the Right Price’, which has been our motto since we started.

We’re now approaching 50 years old as a company and have nine shops across the United Kingdom, as well as a mail order & web distribution centre. Our product selection is chosen by yachtsmen for yachtsmen, so you can be sure of finding the sailing equipment you need for your boat.

Can you share any key milestones or achievements that Force 4 has reached recently?

Our loyal customers have just received the 40th edition of our annual catalogue, containing 252 pages of our favourite, hand-picked products. We’re also really excited to have moved into a new 40,000 square foot distribution centre in Gloucestershire.

Are you excited about a particular product or range at the moment?

We have invested a lot of manpower and years of experience into our range of sailing clothing, Windward by Force 4. Having listened to the feedback of our customers, and colleagues who use the kit when they’re out on the water, we feel that this year’s range is our best yet. If I could single out a particular product it would be our Offshore+ Sailing Suit, made from new, lighter-weight fabric to improve on the durability, breathability and waterproofness of our earlier ranges.

How is the marine/marine leisure industry faring and what are your expectations for the next few years?

The marine industry is ultimately a niche sector in the wider UK leisure market. It is fairly robust but at the mercy of the Great British weather! With that said, record-wet months in 2023 did us no favours, so we’re hoping for more sunshine this year, and those who are lucky enough to own or have access to boats will be back out on them in the months ahead.

On the bright side, the supply-side issues that seemed to have dogged every industry over the past few years appear to have abated for us, and we’re expecting a positive sailing season this year, with Force 4 on hand to help with fully stocked shops and warehouses, and the boating expertise our customers have come to know us for.

On a lighter note, can you share a fun or interesting fact about the company that people may not know?

Our technophobe owner is always proud to say that he was the first, and last person to use a fax machine in the marine industry. Some of our suppliers only ‘end-of-lifed’ their machines a few years ago when we made the full transition to email purchase orders.

What steps do you take to ensure your customers a positive online shopping experience?

With over 18,000 products on our website it’s critical that customers can find what they’re looking for–and indeed find things they didn’t know they needed!

A catalogue is great for that as you can browse using an index and quickly turn to the page you need. Direct navigation is a bit trickier on a website, so robust site search and relevant add-ons are really important in providing a seamless user experience.

What advice would you give to individuals or businesses looking to start an online retail venture?

Whether through traditional or modern digital marketing methods, it is crucial to have a strategy for attracting consistent visitors to your website. It is equally important to have an established USP(s) that you can maintain and adhere to. Constant reinvention is challenging and potentially counterproductive, so define a clear objective and a strong position in the marketplace.

And finally, what are the key goals and plans for the year ahead? 

We would love to revive our export business. Previously, we shipped items to numerous countries, but unfortunately, Brexit disrupted our operations. It has taken a considerable amount of time to build a solution that ensures a seamless experience for international customers. We were hesitant to resume international sales until we were confident in delivering this, but we are optimistic that, with Venditan’s assistance, 2024 will be the year to propel this important aspect of our business forward again.

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