Monday, September 4, 2017

in which rapha eats itself

It had to happen.

Rapha, for years the silliest and most overpriced bikewear maker on earth, has been bought with Walmart money, by a Walton grandson.

I am looking forward to witnessing the downfall of a brand that had grown so pretentious and ridiculous that it should’ve been shut down ages ago.
It’ll be interesting to see what used Rapha t-shirts sell for on eBay.
Will they go the way of Fender guitars (“pre-CBS” era versus “modern” era)?

This whole thing — and the way folks are wringing their hands over it — is making me laugh my ass off.

Rapha has been silly and overpriced for a very long time.
Remember that the high price of an item constitutes half its consumer allure.
People buy stuff because it's expensive. They wear Rapha precisely because it makes them look and feel wealthier to ride in a $200 jersey instead of a $5 t-shirt. Almost no one will admit it -- especially since, in more recent years, as Rapha's manufacturing expanded to more place around the globe, quality control has already diminished -- and consumers will have to confront the fact that they paid a crap ton of money for something that more and more resembles crap.

Rapha grew and thrived because it started out exclusive and expensive, and so attracted everyone who wanted to ape the rich. It will lose many of those those consumers for the same reason: rich people don't shop at Walmart -- or any of its subsidiaries.
So yes, I'm gloating,  and thoroughly enjoying the Schadenfreude of it all.
Sue me.

So let's see what happens to the brand.
Will "pre-Walmart" Raphaware become "collectible" and more "valuable" as a result of the takeover?
Will people who are "fans" of the brand (and everything that goes with it, including the race team they sponsor, the magazines of glossy-sexy photos they co-produce, and above all the "prestige" of owning something that says "RAPHA" -- because, money is sexy even when the sex is not) suddenly realize that they've been had?
Or will they actually feel a sense of loss over this piece of pretentious bike culture, a "culture" so fake it may well have been conceived in a circle jerk of "design" consultants?

It'll be interesting to watch.
Meanwhile, I'm gonna guess that Rapha stuff is going to go for cheap on eBay and craigslist.

And as before, lots of folks will still enjoy riding like this, on an older bicycle wearing nothing more than an old t-shirt and cutoffs.
(And sunscreen. Don't forget the sunscreen, kids.)

Happy riding.


Brian W. Ogilvie said...

I'm no fan of Rapha's marketing, but I will say that the one Rapha product that I own, a set of arm coolers, does actually live up to its billing. They protect my arms from the sun as well as sunscreen does, and through whatever high-tech magic they do, they help me feel cooler when riding on a hot day while not getting sunburned. I looked at a few other arm coolers but they weren't significantly cheaper, so either the market is small or the fabric is expensive. As someone who needs to be careful about exposure to sunlight, I'm a contented customer.

I'm also not convinced that the fact that a Walton grandson has bought the company means that it's about to become downmarket. It's a personal purchase by someone who, as far as I know, isn't involved in Wal-Mart's daily operations. It's not like Amazon buying Whole Foods, which was a corporate acquisition that led pretty quickly to some significant price markdowns.

All that said, I can't justify paying Rapha's prices for most of their products, even though I could probably afford them if they were a priority (after all, how often do you need to replace your shorts and jerseys? Mine last for years).

a said...

one of my fondest thrifting memories is finding a $4 100% merino t shirt at goodwill and then realizing it was a Rapha product. i'm so glad it'll maintain its integrity :D

Louis said...

Hahaha...I'm laughing my proletarian ass off! Great post, Beth.