Rapha rolls into Melbourne

Rapha 2Global cycling brand, Rapha, has opened a pop-up store in Melbourne to test potential new markets as part of its Australian expansion.

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Rapha was launched in 2004 as a cycling clothing and accessories brand and has evolved into an international network of cycling clubs, anchored by flagship stores which are part cafe, part clubhouse.

Known as Cycle Clubs, the flagship stores regularly host exhibitions, events, and display cycling memorabilia. The official kit supplier to Team Sky since 2012, Rapha is known for manufacturing premium cycling gear, which it sells instore and online.

Marc Sundstrom, GM of Rapha’s Sydney Cycle Club, said the physical locations allow the brand to get involved with local cycling communities.

“Being that Rapha is predominantly an online business, the Cycling Clubs allow for much more of a community-based offering,” Sundstrom told Inside Retail Weekly.

“We are known for being an industry leader, for providing quality kit and just being able to provide a community and a sense of belonging and being for everyone who is involved.”

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The Melbourne pop-up opened on Little Lonsdale Street last weekend and follows the successful reception to the Sydney store which opened in 2013 in Surry Hills.

Rapha’s Australian offices are in Melbourne, however the brand made the strategic decision to open its first Australian store in Sydney.

“I think part of the thinking behind it was, ‘If the Cycle Club can survive and flourish in Sydney, then it can go anywhere within Australia’,” Sundstrom said.

In Sydney, Rapha organises at least five different rides a week for its members and other rides that are open to the general public, a dynamic which has strengthened the retail arm of the business.

“With that, the sales have steadily increased, which has been great,” Sundstrom said. “I think it is more about sustainable growth than just being able to sell as much as we can.”

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Having taken more than two years to test its theory, Rapha is now ready to focus its efforts on a more cycling-oriented city.

As well as testing a new market, the Melbourne pop-up is a ‘thank you’ to the Rapha Cycling Club members based in the Victorian capital.

The Melbourne store will run various events and will open for 12 hours a day until the lease finishes on Christmas Eve.

“Coming into the Christmas period, it’s never a bad thing to have a pop-up, especially for something in high demand already,” Sundstrom said.

Sundstrom is confident the pop-up will exceed sales targets based on the consumer demand to open a store.

“In terms of opening up a flagship store here and to have one here permanently, I think it is just finding the right location at the right time.”

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Headquartered in London, the roll out of international locations is strategic and slow-moving.  The company-owned stores are based in “key cycling cities” around the world across Europe, North America, Japan and the UK.

Across its network, Rapha uses Vend software on iPads to handle the POS for the cafe and retail sales.

“Being that we are a multinational company, and we are pretty much all over the world at this point, it’s [Vend] great for inventory control in terms of shipping, anything to do with logistics, but also point of sale as well,” Sundstrom said.

Another Rapha pop-up will open in January for the Tour Down Under in Adelaide to test the South Australian market and there is potential for two more pop-ups in 2016, Sundstrom said.

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