Vosper: Doin’ the Walmart Shuffle

One development that led to some Stateside head scratching back in May was the introduction of consumer direct carbon road, gravel and mountain bikes from a new brand called Viathon. The bikes themselves, it was agreed, were competently designed and engineered, and marketed by respected industry professionals with big-brand credentials. And while low, Viathon pricing was at parity with any number of other name-brand carbon models, including Trek, Specialized, Cannondale and Canyon. But what engendered the persistent application of digits to scalps in this case was the identity of the brand’s owners: Tom and Steuart Walton, grandsons and among the heirs to the fortune of Walmart founder Sam Walton.

Then there was a sales strategy, which at least hinted at distribution via Walmart.com and its several hundreds of millions of visitors per year. And most interesting of all, the underlying notion that some portion of those visitors who had never owned a high-end bike before somehow would jump at the opportunity to purchase a full-dress carbon machine with elite wheels, an unknown headbadge and a price ticket northwards of three thousand US dollars (GB£2,470; AU$4,431)… precisely because they didn’t have to go into a bike shop to purchase it.

“We’re trying to build a culture, building an education,” said Mark Jordan, whose CrankTank marketing group is promoting the Viathon model. “With Walmart’s reach, we will create an awareness of the brand.”

That was in May. Less than 90 days later, Viathon announced via direct mail and on its website that it was dropping prices on all models by as much as a thousand dollars per unit, to as low as US$1,998 (GB£1,643; AU$2,946), proving once again that Walmart really is “the low price leader.” Even better, a search for the bikes on the Walmart website returns a notice that the item is no longer available, and the image shown is of another brand and model entirely. The bikes are still listed at “Summer Sale” prices” on the Viathon website.

Stay tuned for more from Rick Vosper on Cycling Industry News. And catch up here