LADSON, S.C.— The great bus lurched and rattled as it inched up the highway from downtown Charleston into the city’s outskirts. Some relic from the 1960s, the bus was retrofitted with sleek, wood floors and a stereo permanently trapped in a Motown jukebox, and it was filled with dignitaries from around the fishing world.
Media types abounded, but also politicians, representatives from the American Sportfishing Association, and tackle shop owners—all gathered to experience something new from Shimano, a full-service experience center at the company’s east coast distribution hub in Ladson. The experience center bolsters Shimano’s east coast bastion, adding a facility that the company says will be used to host buyer workshops and community events to strengthen its foothold in the east.
“In 2002, our company grew to a point where servicing all of our customers from the west coast wasn’t adequate enough,” says Shimano Senior Promotions Manager Chris Russell. “It took the better part of a week to get product on the east coast, so we decided to expand to service customers within a three day turnaround time. Charleston, New York and Atlanta were identified as ports or cities where we could meet those goals, and Charleston won out because of the efficiency of port. You can turn around a container in one day. With our distribution center in California you’re at the mercy of the Port of Long Beach. If there’s a strike, it could paralyze not only Shimano but others. You don’t get that with Charleston.”
The addition of the new Shimano Experience Center brings community to the forefront of the company’s east coast plans, providing an arena to host fishing clubs, advocacy groups like the Coastal Conservation Association and government groups like the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
“It’s a base camp and a training center,” Russell says. “As we introduce new models and new technology, we can bring customers in and help plan out their business with us. When retailers are outside of their retail environment, you have their undivided attention.
“We want buyers to have a real experience with Shimano, something more than just a handshake and a ‘how are you doing?’ We want to be able to show them what Shimano is all about, to show them that we are the best in nature and the best in people.”
Russell says the fishing culture in South Carolina runs deep. “It’s one of the only places where we go, and people identify Shimano as a fishing company rather than a bicycle company,” he adds.
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