By The Active Agent
The opening of the new Rapha store on Crown St is an exciting development for both Sydney and Surry Hills.
As Time Out rightly notes, in its 5 August 2013 review, the ‘Crown Street store joins a selective list of international branches: London, Osaka, San Francisco and New York’.
It’s an interesting development for a company such as Rapha, seen to be right on the cutting edge of Britain’s new love affair with cycling, to be locating in Surry Hills and not in the CBD alongside the temples of Gucci and Prada at Westfield. Locating away from the crowd is what makes the brand itself, marks it out as a leader and not a follower.
As a keen cyclist and a Surry Hills resident, the opening of such a store was greeted in my household with much anticipation, however, whilst I loved the attention to detail, I wasn’t really sure what I was greeted with on my arrival. A shop, a café, both or neither.
The future of retailing is undoubtedly the ‘destination’ place, the shopping experience, otherwise price, alongside the strength of the Australian Dollar, dictates that I do my shopping online. My visit to the Rapha store was something that I found, personally, quite disappointing.
The store is based around a café and maybe that’s how I should really look at it; however Crown Street has many cafes, only one Rapha store, which is why I was here.
Indeed you may have noted, in the early morning, cyclists are everywhere and maybe this café has targeted this market very specifically. I won’t refer to MAMIL’s here, it’s heavily used, but they have time, money and a middle age crisis to deal with so maybe they’ve hit the market perfectly.
The staff, although knowledgeable and polite, were dressed for a café not a bike ride.
Indeed they are so focussed on serving their café customers that I encountered a customer being brought his coffee as he browsed the store. In theory this is excellent customer service, in practice, not so. He can’t now buy anything as he has his hands full, for his coffee was not served in a take away container but on Raphas own china. This made him an accident waiting to happen and someone, who whilst happily browsing himself, everyone else in the store was avoiding.
The reason he was given such a wide berth was that the prices at the Rapha store are eye wateringly high. Most cycling tops are north of $150. Jackets at $350 and gloves at $150.
Although all are top quality, I’m not sure who has the available cash to purchase.
If Rapha has been taking the temperature in Sydney recently, they’d have noticed that the default to ‘stupidly expensive’ restaurant scene was now suffering closures as the plethora of new, young operators understand that affordable nights out are really what everyone wants and more importantly wants to be able to afford, hence the growth in sliders and small bars, particularly in Surry Hills.
As I was pondering who they were targeting and thinking about what I could buy, certainly not the new gloves and shirt I was looking forward to buying as that would have set me back more than $300, I opted to check out the water bottles.
At the same moment one of my fellow shoppers said to a friend ‘I better just settle for a water bottle as its all I think I can afford’. But he and I were disappointed, they were not priced and for both of us, that was a worry, as we were both too afraid to have our dreams shattered by asking the price!
Even being a humble water carrier was now likely out of my range.
Rapha I wish you well, but it won’t be at my expense.
The Active Agent
4, 410 Crown Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010 [ map ]
(02) 9380 9717
Mon to Fri – 6.00am to 9pm
Sat – 8.00am to 9pm
Sunday and Bank Holidays – 8am to 6pm