Rapha Roadwear's niche bike apparel

| Print |  Email
Articles - April 2013
Monday, April 01, 2013

BY CHRISTINA COOKE

0413 FOB GamePlan RaphaRoadwear
Rapha's classic bib short for women riders.
// Courtesy Rapha Roadwear

For the next four years, a niche bike apparel company with its U.S. headquarters in Portland will outfit the top-ranked pro-cycling team in the world. The London-based company Rapha announced in January its sponsorship of the British Team Sky, which claims 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and several national champions among its ranks.

“This is the highest level,” says Slate Olson, general manager of Rapha’s Portland office, which oversees marketing, customer service and distribution in North America. “We have high, high hopes.”

Since launching in 2004, Rapha has produced cycling apparel known for its understated retro styling, high-quality merino fabric and unapologetic high prices — most jerseys cost at least $200. The company grossed $30 million in 2012, a 50% increase over 2011, and hopes to achieve a similar growth rate this year with the help of the international spotlight. The Portland headquarters, for its part, is gearing up to support the expected worldwide expansion.

Fran Millar, head of Team Sky’s business operations, says the team broke its contract with former sponsor Adidas a year early to sign with Rapha because leaders realized they wanted a company that specialized in cycling.

“At the core of their business is the idea of making people fall in love with the sport, and that’s what we want to do,” Millar says. “I don’t think we could be more closely aligned.” Rapha produced 700 custom pieces of on- and off-bike clothing for each of the team’s 27 riders and 68 staff. It also developed lines of performance apparel and street clothes for fans.

Olson sees many benefits to the investment on Rapha’s end. Sponsorship will allow the company to build credibility as a high-performance brand and fine-tune its designs with help from the pros. While cycling is hugely popular in Europe, where most pro races take place, Olson sees potential for the sport’s growth in the U.S. — aided by the fact that two of Team Sky’s riders are American. The team will compete in the USA Pro Challenge in August.

“We have massive lengths we can go to here based on the sheer size of our country and the number of cyclists,” Olson says.

Already, the North American headquarters has begun preparations to serve a larger market. The seven-person Portland office intends to hire several more employees over the next few years. Distribution, formerly in London, relocated to Portland last February. And while the primarily online company does not plan to add U.S. retail partners beyond the existing 14, it will establish additional Rapha Cycle Clubs: retail spaces that sell gear plus coffee and food. There’s one in San Francisco, and Olson expects another three or four to open in the next few years.

In addition, the Portland headquarters will continue disseminating positive stories to inspire potential customers. Outfitting the No. 1 team in the world, Olson says, will “give us a pretty big megaphone.”

 

More Articles

Eco Zoned

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY HANNAH WALLACE

Travelers have always come to Oregon for its natural beauty. But will the increasing popularity of agritourism, European-style hiking getaways and forest resorts relax Oregon's notoriously strict land-use laws?


Read more...

100 Best Green Workplaces announced

News
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
OBM-100-best-Green-logo-2015-1000pxwBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

More than 250 people turned out today for Oregon Business magazine’s seventh annual celebration of the 100 Best Green Companies to Work For in Oregon.


Read more...

Photo Diary: Forest Grove Farmers Market

The Latest
Thursday, May 14, 2015
IMG 8469BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

There are more than 160 farmers markets in Oregon, contributing an estimated $50 million in sales, according to the Oregon Farmers Markets Association. We checked in on the Forest Grove market, which for several years has brought local produce and food vendors to Main Street in the center of town.


Read more...

Make the Case

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015

10 briefcases that mean business.


Read more...

Man for All Seasons

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

A longtime technologist and entrepreneur, Dwayne Johnson, 53, is managing partner of PDXO/GlobeThree Ventures, a strategy and business consultancy in Portland.


Read more...

Foundations perspective

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Martha Richards, executive director of the James F. & Marion L. Miller Foundation.


Read more...

3 trends in the garden business

The Latest
Thursday, April 30, 2015
gardenthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Oregonians are scrambling to get their gardens in order for the summer. Here are three tips from landscaping and urban farming expert.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS