Rejuvenating Bata shoes footwear

The name Bata is a household name in Kenya for shoes. Thomas Archer Bata, 30, heir to the Bata shoe empire, was recently in Kenya to deliver good news about modernising this legacy brand.

“We have some exciting projects on rejuvenating the brand, to make it relevant to younger and urban consumers,” said Archer, the chief marketing officer of Bata Group.

“We have a new brand called Red Label, which is more trendy, and we have a few others in our sports brands that are global and we have brought to Kenya.”

The Bata Fashion Weekend, an annual festival, was held in Milan, Italy in April.

The fashion week brings together designers, celebrities, and fashion influencers. As part of the show, student designers from around the world were invited to enter their styles into the Young Designers Challenge competition. This year the event was broadcast live on digital media.

“It had a lot of interest here in Kenya,” Archer said.

Bata Shoe Company was established in the Czech Republic in 1894 by Tomas Bata. He came from a family of shoemakers and was Archer’s great grandfather. Bata was one of the first mass-production shoe companies in Europe, and today the business has retail shops in 76 countries around the world.

Canadian-born Archer was initially uncertain about joining the family business. He completed a Masters in Political Science at the University of Edinburgh, before joining the company; in 2015 he was appointed the global CMO.

Bata Shoe Company was established in Kenya in 1939. The company has a presence across East Africa. Most Bata shoes in Kenya are locally manufactured. The factory in Limuru town just outside Nairobi produces shoes for the local market.

School shoes have been the signature of Bata shops for decades, and the safari boot, original to Kenya, is a well-grounded outdoor shoe that is hand-stitched. Brands such Ngoma canvas shoes, Pata Pata flip flops, Power sportswear and others have become popular over the years.

“With any business that’s been around for a long time, you need to keep innovating otherwise you go out of fashion,” Archer said.

With cheaper shoes coming into the country from places like China, and more than 70 per cent of buyers being women, Bata is repositioning itself as the place for fashionable footwear made locally.

Archer says the company is investing in local outlets by training staff and offering wider shoe collections. Bata is also capitalising on its online shopping.

“We’re trying to create some locally grown projects with talented Kenyans, and working with our team to develop new initiative,” Archer said.

In the past there have been complaints about the quality of some Bata brands.

Archer said, “We have very strict standards of quality and control. We are looking at ways to improve, and to share practices from our factories and research and development teams.”

Going forward, Archer sees Bata expanding their product range with more stylish shoes.

“We also see a lot of opportunity in the neighbouring East African countries where we have a minor presence. We want to bring more to those markets.”

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