CHANDLERIES: YOUR ONE STOP MARINE SHOP
Last updated: 02/10/2019
Just about everything you need to run a boat or yacht can be procured from a marine chandlery, making them a frequent stop for yacht crew as they travel the world.
While some are based marina-side, others operate a ‘man-in-a-van’ delivery service from further afield or work solely online, but what can they source for the yacht, and what part do they play in the smooth running of the yacht?
What is a chandlery?
Historically, a chandlery is a medieval office responsible for making, storing and selling wax, candles, and as a by-product, soaps. As these were items all required aboard ships, chandlers became a more general dealer for everything required for the ships’ stores.
Today, a chandler is therefore better known as a dealer or trader for a particular market, such as the supply of essential goods for ships. Of course, ‘ships’ now means all kinds of boat: everything from tiny day-boats to superyachts. Products stocked are usually the kind that come in useful on any sort of vessel, though you may find differences in their stock based on location and customer demographic; for example, a chandlery based in a well-known superyacht marina may vary some of its inventory to better cater to the needs of its visiting boats.
Although, according to YES Marine, as yachts are growing in numbers and size, it is becoming increasingly difficult for chandleries to cater to the needs of all vessels.
A 15-metre sailboat, for example, is unlikely to require the same maritime products or equipment as a 75-metre motor yacht. The sailboat is likely to want a good selection of products such as blocks, halyards and butane bottles, whereas the motor yacht will need professional cleaning products, pneumatic line fittings and salt pallets.
In response to the vast increase in demand, chandleries are starting to evolve and emerge into more niche markets. Many existing hybrid chandlery stores are beginning to target more specific segments, for example, boats under 25 metres, boats between 25 and 50 metres and boats over 50 metres. They are also segmenting by particular department, such as deck, engine room or interior.
Yacht chandleries are stocking essential products that they know their target market use daily, meanwhile remaining knowledgeable and in contact with suppliers of various other specific items.
The job of a chandler is somewhat unique in that it deals largely in one line of business therefore allowing exclusivity and understanding to both parties, and the very nature of the profession often means local chandlers can become very trusted resources.
Marine essentials you can buy from a chandlery
Chandleries sell a whole range of products to cater to every area of a boat. Typically speaking, most chandleries will stock a large selection of items within the following product categories:
- Anchoring and mooring equipment, shackles and fittings, rigging, flags and wind indicators
- Refrigeration products and equipment, toilet and plumbing supplies, galley and cooking equipment, pumps, heaters
- General DIY tools, deck brushes, varnishes and polishes, sealants, lubricants and paints
- GPS and navigation equipment, maps, compasses, clocks and barometers
- VHF radios, autopilot equipment, radars, electronic charts
- Batteries, power inverters, plugs and sockets, solar power and wind chargers, switch panels
- Interior and exterior lighting, headlamps, touches and other safety lighting
- Life jackets, emergency supplies, flares and horns, danbuoys, throwlines, life rafts
Of course, stocks vary from chandlery to chandlery, and much can be ordered in, but the above list gives a rough idea of the general products you’re likely to find within a majority of reputable chandleries.
Tips for buying at a chandlery
Many chandlery owners and staff pride themselves on their knowledge of products and the advice they can offer to customers. Take advantage of it, especially if you haven’t been in the marine industry particularly long and may be prone to buying incorrect items.
Push for bulk discounts
More often than you may think, you may find yourself needing to purchase a particularly large amount of a single item. Since chandleries are often run by the owner or his family, staff can often be very receptive to discount requests if you’re buying a lot of something.
Take advantage of the face-to-face service
Online retailers have been stepping up their service game for a while now, with next-day delivery and free returns becoming the norm. That said, it’s almost impossible to argue with the benefits of buying face-to-face: returns are often easier, you’re more likely to buy the correct product to begin with, and the entire experience is just that much more personal—something quite desired in the superyacht industry.
Expect to pay a little more
With the above in mind, buying face to face typically costs a little more, but the convenience, personal advice and friendly face usually compensates for this. That said, buying from an online chandler holds its own benefits for those who prefer, with next-day delivery, free returns and online chat making up for a lack of brick-and-mortar stores in port.