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Ocean Leisure: The London Chandlery at the gateway to the South Coast

by Mark Jardine on 14 Dec 2016 14 December 2016
Ocean Leisure's Federico Da Sie © Mark Jardine

We spoke to Federico Da Sie about Ocean Leisure, London's Premiere Marine and Watersports Store. The team are all made up of watersports enthusiasts and experts, and we wanted to know what differentiated the store and how it had adapted in the online retail age.

Mark: Could you tell me a little about the history of Ocean Leisure?

Federico: Ocean Leisure is an independent shop that started in central London in 1985. We started as a diving and sailing shop and thirty years on everything around us has changed but we're still here. We've added other sports like triathlon and kayaking to our ranges, and every other kind of watersport that you can imagine.

Mark: Having a shop at Embankment, very close to Waterloo, do you find you get a large number of sailors who are heading to the South Coast from London?

Federico: Yes definitely. Obviously the position is the key factor for retailers, especially now. You have to be easy to find and to get to. Sailing-wise a lot of people that sail in Hamble are London-based. If they don't live here, at least they work here and pass here once a week. That is a key factor for us.

Mark: In the age of the internet, where everybody is ordering things online, what is the difference that you have that you can provide to customers, especially in the marine technical clothing market?

Federico: The main thing is always the service. In terms of service what I mean is that when you come here you have the opportunity to try everything of any brand that is on the market. On top of that, even if there is no stock the fact is that we have the best relationship possible with our suppliers. That means we can call the suppliers, find the stock for you and basically you can get everything that you want.

Mark: Do you find that generally sailors come in with an idea of exactly what item of clothing they want, or is it something where they might come in with an idea initially and once they've talked with your staff they might come out with a completely different product?

Federico: I think there are different kinds of sailors and different kinds of customer. There is the customer that already knows what they want, what there is, and we do sometimes have people who tell us exactly what they want. This kind of customer is the type who usually goes on the internet and buys items there because they already know what they want.

Often we have customers who might be beginners and they come here with an idea. Then they speak with the staff, who are not only trained but are sailing instructors or keen sailors, and at that point, after an hour of chat, we understand exactly what they need. Seeing everything that is on the market, often they end up buying something different to what they thought and sometimes even spending a bit less than what they were expecting.

Mark: Which are the main brands that you work with? Is a single particular brand your strongest or is it wide range?

Federico: The range is wide. In terms of sailing we have Gill, Musto, Henri Lloyd, Zhik, and then accessories from other suppliers such as SealSkinz and Dubarry in terms of boots. I like to say that we have all of the best brands.

Mark: One of the key areas on a campaigned yacht is where you have an owner who may want to kit out the entire crew. Can you provide this service?

Federico: Yes we can, and have done exactly this. While a big boat campaign can speak directly with the suppliers, we can find out from the owner or boat captain exactly what they need and give them an idea of everything that is on the market. Last month for example we went on a customer's boat, checked the size of everyone, they saw a sample of every single brand, we then checked the stock with each supplier. We are able to close the deal giving exactly what they wanted. Without that you have to spend a lot of time doing it yourself.

Mark: So this isn't just a service to an individual inside the shop, this is something where you go out there and provide a bespoke service for a yacht?

Federico: Yes, we are definitely moving in that direction. We've seen that where the customer is keen to have the best service possible and has recognised that having the best service possible means having the best people work for you. We are more than happy to provide this service.

Mark: With a job like this where you are talking sailing and giving advice on sailing, do you have much time for sailing yourself?

Federico: I find the time! Fortunately the owners of the company have been clear from the beginning; every one of us comes to Ocean Leisure with strong experience in the sport that they follow and they strongly believe if you carry on doing this sport you will be more in contact with where the market is and can also have a bit of fun as well.

Mark: You come from a competitive sailing background in Italy. What boats are you sailing at the moment?

Federico: Like many people, I progressed from dinghies and moved into keelboats. I sailed a lot under the IMS rating rule, which doesn't exist any more, and then on to one-designs such as the Farr 40 and Mumm 30. I was a professional sailor for ten years, than I moved to England because I married an English girl. Here I found this job which is connected with the sport that I love. At the moment, together with other friends, I am sailing in a Sigma 33 and we do many of the offshore races that are held in this country.

Mark: This year which events have you done?

Federico: This year we've just done a couple of races to France. But in the next couple of months we start our second Fastnet campaign. This will include all the RORC offshore races around the South Coast and English Channel, building up to the Rolex Fastnet Race in August.

Mark: Many thanks Federico, it's great to get an insight into how the Ocean Leisure team work.

Federico: Thank you.

Find out more at oceanleisure.co.uk and visit their store at 11-14 Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5AQ. Full details on the Ocean Leisure Location page.

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