Home Back Issues April 2013 Rapha Roadwear's niche bike apparel

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

Oversight? Or gaming the system?

News
Monday, July 14, 2014
AmazonBY VIVIAN MCINERNY | OB BLOGGER

Some people think Amazon’s winking eye logo is starting to look like a hoodwink.


Read more...

Green Endeavor cleans up

News
Wednesday, August 06, 2014
080614 ULnew greenendeavorBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Portland startup Green Endeavor strikes gold, inking a partnership with Underwriters Laboratories, an Illinois-based consulting and certification company with offices in 46 countries.


Read more...

Portland rises

News
Monday, August 18, 2014

IMG 2551Portland is in the middle of another construction boom, with residential and office projects springing up downtown, in the Pearl and Old Town. OB Web Editor Jessica Ridgway documents the new wave.


Read more...

Updated: Disrupting innovation

News
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
070814 thumb disputive-innovationBY LINDA BAKER  | OB EDITOR

The New Yorker recently published a sharply worded critique of “disruptive innovation,” one of the most widely cited theories in the business world today. The article raises questions about the descriptive value of disruption and innovation  — whether the terms are mere buzzwords or actually explain today's extraordinarily complex and fast changing business environment. 

Update: We caught up with Portland's Thomas Thurston, who shared his data driven take on the disruption controversy.


Read more...

Trends in business succession

News
Thursday, July 03, 2014
TrendsBY TED AUSTIN & MIKE BAELE | GUEST CONTRIBUTORS

The Office of Economic Analysis announced that Oregon is currently enjoying the strongest job growth since 2006. While this resurgence has been welcome, the lingering effects of the 2008 “Great Recession” continues to affect Oregon businesses, especially with regard to estate planning and business succession.


Read more...

Two sides of the coin

Contributed Blogs
Monday, August 25, 2014
0825 thumb moneyBY JASON NORRIS | OB GUEST BLOGGER

Ferguson Wellman’s investment views on the economy and capital markets.


Read more...

OB Video: Dress for Success

News
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
DFSOBY JESSICA RIDGWAY | OB WEB EDITOR

Dress for Success Oregon promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools.


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