As rivals close in, Bata steps up online play

Bata, whose red and white painted outlets have traditionally initiated many an Indian into footwear shopping, is changing garb.

The octogenarian company, which has outlets across the country, is stepping up its online presence as new-age shoppers are increasingly trading touch- and-feel of the product at a brick-and-mortar store for the click of a mouse.

Bata is already selling shoes online through its website and has its own delivery channel called Bata Home, which it started after e-commerce sites started getting popular.

But now, realising that a standalone website might not have the traction to attract the traffic, the company is tying up with most of the established e-commerce players and even providing widely accepted service standards like cash on delivery.

“The comfort of buying online by the new generation will impose a challenge on your company for increasing its presence through e-commerce sites. In addition to recording a well-deserved growth in its Bata Home delivery services during 2012, the company has improved its online shopping experience by making ‘cash on delivery’ and ‘multiple order services’ for the customers,” Bata said in its annual report.

The company has tied up with e-commerce sites such as Jabong, Snapdeal, Rediff and Junglee, it said.

Even as threat from competitors looms from the virtual space, in the real world, too, things are not quite pleasing for Bata.

Economic slowdown has hit the shoe-buying habit of consumers, forcing Bata to go slow on its retail expansion.

“Following weak consumer sentiment and reduced traffic at key retailers, revenue growth for Bata tapered off to 11.8% in the first quarter of calendar 2013. Bata is facing slowdown since the past one year and we expect the moderation to continue in the near term,” brokerage Nirmal Bang said in a recent report.

“Due to moderation in growth, Bata has trimmed its aggressive expansion plan by opening and relocating just 22 stores in January-March period, compared with 61 stores a year ago,” the brokerage said. Bata, however, would continue to expand.

“The company has continued its strategy of expanding its retail operations and has opened 189 new stores in 2012 across metros, Tier 1 and 2 cities. We will continue to expand its retail operations across the country in future,” Bata said.

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