Sunday, June 1, 2008

Why Rapha is 'Made in China'

Attention : This maybe a spoiler for some but there are reasons to change the mindset.

UK based Rapha is made in China. Now its easy to get all offensive about that. China, while competitive, has also shown in the past how to make poor quality products, sometimes even dangerous to health.

Well, if you're thinking just in terms of manufacturing costs, yes, products should be cheap.

But there's more to the story. Think about it. There are many luxury brands out there that are made in China but they get back home here or elsewhere and are slapped with the most insane prices one'll ever see. I hear one of them is Banana Republic. They're so expensive for the common man that one can sell his house and sit on the street with a new BR Tuxedo.

One side of the truth is how you market yourself, who your customer base is, what your product is and what materials it uses, and knowing that someone will pay that much for it.

Seriously, Rapha seems very much for the upper high class cycling enthusiast. You don't see many Raphas around nor the Space Trooper-like Assos for that matter. So if you don't like it, don't buy it. If you have fashion sense and don't mind putting down the extra dollars, get one for the thrills.

Clearly only you must know whether something is for you or not. Not everything out there will fit you, your face, your body type. Face it, its harsh reality.

The other side of the truth is that operating in China has many advantages, far outside simply manufacturing costs. Its actually a combination of many factors. One huge advantage is having access to internal markets and having a good logistics and IT infrastructure already in place.

You must have a solid reason to go to China, instead of just wanting to take advantage of low labor costs.

Anyway, I also can't imagine why people think just because manufacturing was cheap in China ten years ago, its the same today.

Energy prices are increasing and so are costs. Its a dynamic situation here. Today, you can't see China as the same source of cheap manufacturing that it was a decade ago. Simply said, China's manufacturing competitiveness is coming under fire. Now I'm not going to sit here and explain all the facts, but to get a some clue, you must read "China's Shifting Competitive Equation" (pdf file) by the American Chamber of Commerce in China and Booz, Allen & Hamilton.

I hope you get an idea of where I'm going here. Chinese made products can have quality too, thats one side. And low manufacturing cost is not the only advantage in China, and even those things are changing fast now, thats another side. Still, inspite of these setbacks, the location that is China is pretty darn competitive.

So anyway, quickly, why is Rapha made in China? Simple no-brainer - Its not profitable for them to produce in the UK.

Read this email to the company by a customer. A short, to the point reply from Rapha follows.


I am an avid cyclist and a customer of yours, I purchased the tricolor jersey and the merino classic jersey a while back. I was surprised after washing my garment for the first time, to see a tag of which materials were used, and the production land. I was amazed that it said Made in China, I paid top money to purchase your items as I understood they were hand made in the UK. I am also a bit puzzled about the price, how can a jersey be worth 120 UK pounds, when the labor cost in China is about 1 percent of that. Is the mark up just a marketing scheme. I am sorry to say that I will not be shopping from you guys again.

Kind regards,
Raffaele G.

The Reply from Rapha :

- Forwarded message ----------
From: Simon Mottram
Date: 17-Jun-2007 23:43
Subject: Re: Great products but...
To: Raffaele G.
Cc: Enquiries

Hello Raffaele

Thanks for getting in touch and for buying our products.

We manufacture some garments in China because the quality the factories offer there is first rate and they are very reliable producers. The cost price advantage is a secondary issue.

If you've ever tried to have products made in the UK, you'd apreciate how hard it is to get craftsmanship and reliable delivery. I wish it was otherwise.

Our high prices come from the expensive fabrics and trims we use, not from a 'marketing scheme'. We have yet to make a profit (but are working hard at changing that).

Thanks again for getting in touch. If you have a problem with Chinese manufacture I don't suppose I will have changed your mind. But I hope I have clarified why and how we use factories there.

Kind regards


Simon Mottram
Managing Director

Performance Roadwear
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Office: +44 (0) 20 7485 5000
Mobile: +44 (0) 7979 597 807

Rapha Racing Ltd.
Imperial Works
Perren Street

Courtesy : London Fixed Gear and Single Speed


tilbert said...

Ah cmon Ron. China is good. Taiwan is even better. Why complain about products that was made in China? You've paid for a Brand that you like.
I did a little research few month ago, and found that the same top frame from Carbotec with different logo (ez. Storck, Schmolke, HaiBike etc.) can cost from 1500 -3000 euro. Carbotec original frame costs aprx. 800 euro.
It's looks like the LOGO is everything now. Consumers would by anything from a favorite brand and price doesn't matter.

YOur Till Ulenspiegel

Matt in Denver said...

I have a bunch of Assos shorts that I bought on good advice, but I'll admit I had avoided the brand precisely because I just figured it was a cheesy European fashion brand, and not necessarily functional. I tend think of European clothing as flimsy material lazily assembled by coddled workers daydreaming about their next 8 week vacation while they sew seams together wrong.

I could care less where something is made as long as it stands out on quality and function. Don't know about Rapha, but Assos shorts sure do, they're outstanding.

Chris said...

There is nothing wrong with manufacturing offshore as long as the marketing campaign doesn't lead one to believe they are receiving something different. said...

I bought a Rapha jacket when it went on sale at Competitive Cyclist, I got screwed shipping the thing to Canada, but at the price I paid - especially the sale price - I'm very happy with the product. The attention to detail and the tailoring are fantastic. It's a well thought out and very well engineered garment, and that's worth something to me, no matter where it was produced. I'll likely use it years.

This reminds me. I wore a Patagonia Capilene baselayer on my ride into work today - it was expensive, sure, but I've had it for 7 years and it still serves me very well.

Some brands have it together.

meade said...

Rapha is just plain too expensive...ibex and patagonia both have some great stuff and are much cheaper...if they would product more cycling stuff I would be set...