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COVID-19 triggered “third cycling boom,” says Rapha boss

Upmarket cycle clothing firm set to return a profit thanks to sales boost says CEO Simon Mottram

Rapha CEO Simon Mottram says that the coronavirus crisis has triggered a “third cycling boom” for the North London-based brand he founded in 2004.

He said that previously the company, which he still runs after selling a majority stake in 2017 to an investment group run by two heirs to the Walmart grocery fortune, benefited from sales spikes after the global economic crash in 2008 and the London Olympics four years later.

Speaking to Telegraph.co.uk, he said: “This is the third boom, I think that I've seen in my time at Rapha, the third cycling boom.

“It’s interesting how they tend to go hand in hand with economic problems and the rest of the economy that cycling has these wonderful moments.”

Mottram sold a majority stake in Rapha in 2017 to RZC Investments, a private equity firm run by brothers Stuart and Tom Walton, whose grandfather Sam Walton founded Walmart, the world’s largest retailer by turnover until Amazon took the top spot.

Parent company Carpega Limited is due to file accounts for the year to 30 January 2020 in the coming weeks.

The Telegraph reports that they will show that the company was close to breaking even in 2019/20, following a £5 million loss the previous year.

But Mottram told the newspaper that during 2020, the company saw sales rise by 38 per cent, with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation expected to stand at around £13.8 million.

He said: “When we look at the new customers we've been pulling in – we’ve pulled in 155,000 customers last year, in 2020 – but by and large, those people around the world are existing cyclists.

“They’re not people who've just decided to buy a dayglow jacket and a hybrid to ride to work because it's lockdown.

“It's people who had already ridden a bit and possibly been in one of those booms before, but have gone through a year or two of riding and then lost interest for some reason.

“The prompt to revisit cycling that COVID gave was really powerful.

“It doesn't take more than two or three rides to think: ‘I love this. I've forgotten how much I love it.’ After that, they start to think, ‘Well, I'm not going on holiday, and I'm not buying a new car. So maybe I can afford a new pair of shorts?’”

He added that the company remains committed to weaning itself off the dependency on discounts that had previously hit its bottom line, as reported here on road.cc back in 2019.

> Rapha boss explains how brand is reducing reliance on discounts

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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