matiboy, it can and, for me anyway, it does work.
I have used West Marine because, having been into one of their stores in Charleston, South Carolina, I know they are part of a very big chain. My experience of dealing on line with them is first rate.
For example, I ordered a Bennett trim tab rig, from in May this year and having paid by card on-line the stuff was with me in 48 hours.
The usual dollar for a pound exchange rate applies, so my thousands dollars bought kit including freight that would have cost a grand in the UK. That saving came to 360 quid before tax.
I did get clobbered for duty, freight tax and VAT which added about 130 quid making the nett saving about £230 - 23%. Not bad.
There are obviously down-sides to buying from abroad but if the purchase is big enough - say,
a new SIB for Narked - it could be worth it. And try haggling. When I told them the saving wasn't big enough they increased the discount.
Check out www.westmarine.com
You can even phone them free on a UK number...
0800 895473 though I haven't tried this myself yet. They respond quickly and politely to emails.
Finally, I did check with Customs and Excise on what is taxed and what is not. Worth doing. Apparently flow meters are not taxed if imported from the USA. My next purchase is a Floscan fuel guage and I may buy that from West Marine. It's just a bit iffy because the thing is not that expensive and the saving may not be worth the hassle if it goes wrong.
Hope that's of help