Ritchey Tires - Overview

Tom Ritchey, the founder of Ritchey Design, Inc. has for the last several years applied himself to the re-design, sometimes re- invention of specific component parts used on bicycles. With his design, manufacturers are contacted to establish their willingness to manufacture on another's behalf, once their capabilities in workmanship and quality control have been established. In some instances Mr. Ritchey actually gets involved in instructing the factory on how to achieve the quality of work he desires. With the relationship to a manufacturer established, Mr. Ritchey contracts for products to be manufactured bearing his name. In some instances, Ritchey Design, Inc. contracts for, and imports the goods for themselves to sell to stores, but more frequently a group of importer/distributors supplies the money for the goods through a letter of credit, with Ritchey Designs brokering the transaction between the factory and the importer/distributor. The reason Ritchey products are so generally available is because these importer/distributors order different products, in different quantities, and each of them has a different rate of sale on the goods. So, in general, retailers have always got at least one source among many to actually draw from. This diversity and complexity in the distribution chain has led to relative inventory stability and propelled Ritchey products growth in market share tremendously in the last few years. To be fair about it, both Tioga and Panaracer tires are distributed in the same way, but the number of importer/distributors is smaller because Ritchey permits companies who use their parts as original equipment on bicycles, to also be a part of this distribution group. The biggest benefit of this style of distribution is that retail prices can be competitive. Where a single company imports and distributes solely their own brand of bicycle goods, there has been a tendency to "price fix" in spirit if not fact. Generally when the single source company finds some stores competitively pricing because they may buy bigger quantities and gain a more competitive cost basis, or a smaller store may have smaller fixed expenses so they can afford to sell the bicycle goods for less than their competitors, the price coercion policy begins. When some of these sole importer/distributors have seen what they believe to be too competitive pricing, they have started issuing "price lists" instructing retailers what the "minimum" retail price will be on a country or world wide basis. If the retailer or mail order concern fails to abide by their pricing, future sales and shipments to that retail organization cease. At this time we won't mention the names of these single source distributors, but when you see our price within a few cents of a local store or one of our mail order competitors you can pretty much be assured that the "price law" has been laid down on that single source company's goods. This pricing behavior stifles competition, subverts the free market, and puts an un-necessary tax on the purchaser of these goods, because the purchaser (consumer) is obligated to pay more than they may have had to otherwise. When the consumer is forced to pay more, they are being denied the possibility of either buying more bike parts for the same money or spending the surplus on something else meaningful in your life. Legally these organizations have found a loophole in what we all thought was the repeal of "fair trade" laws. Only the consumer is hurt, while the importer/distributor and the retailer who conspire without speaking to charge a higher regulated price. We find the practice distasteful and would hope that an FTC attorney would look into it. Again, Ritchey is not among this group in any way, and their style of doing business would at this time make such practice impossible. Ritchey has their tires made in both Japan and Taiwan. The Japanese maker is IRC (Inouye Rubber Company), while the Taiwan maker is Cheng Shin. Both companies have good reputations as tire maker in their respective lands. Ritchey had the first tires which introduced a softer rubber compound for the mountain racing market. This "low-density rubber" used for their tread stock they call "WCS" or World Championship Series". The WCS rubber is used on some of their tire models and is available in a Black or Red colored tread.

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