Family-owned Bata was established as the leading supplier of footwear in francophone Africa, so much so that in some tribal languages, the word bata was a synonym for shoes. That was during the redevelopment and expansion of the brand after the Second World War.
Today, it is no. 1 in the region.
In 1894, Tomáš BaÅ¥a founded Bata Shoe Company in Zlin, Moravia (Czech Republic today). He invented the mass production technique for footwear in Europe in a bid to properly shoe everyone, especially those who can’t afford to buy a pair. Bat’a produced a shoe that was made of canvas and rubber; four times cheaper than anything in the market and just as durable. Thus he was called the “Shoe King.”
“It was like what Ford is for cars, Bata is for the shoe industry,” said Thomas Bat’a, fourth generation member of the family and chief marketing officer of Bata Shoes.
He added, “Shoe making was originally a very expensive industry, and by replacing certain materials with better materials and setting up production lines, we managed to drive down the prices dramatically—which means that big parts of the world can afford shoes for the first time.”
It is a remarkable feat for such a brand, not only to innovate a technique, but more importantly to survive two world wars and the Communist revolution—incurring significant losses and setbacks, of course—and stand stronger than when it started.
Under the founder’s son, Thomas Jan Bat’a’s, leadership that spanned four decades, the brand was rebuilt from scratch and established itself in 19 locations in 12 countries—most of which included the Bata name (Batanagar in India, Bataville in France, Bata-Kolonie in Switzerland and Batadorp in the Netherlands).
Today, the brand continues with its global re-expansion; currently present in 76 countries and has a strong presence in Pakistan, India and Africa. And before 2016 ended, Bata opened its first store in the Philippines at SM Megamall, a comeback after the brand left the country before World War II.
“We do believe that there is a very big opportunity here in the Philippines because other [footwear] brands don’t offer these sort of products,” said Bata in an interview with Manila Standard.
While the designs are not entirely exclusive to the brand, which Bata affirmed are “a bit more European in taste,” the price points—which range from about P1,500 to P6,000 and up—make them quite different from the competitors. In terms of style, they have trendy pieces infused with kind of classic, according to the chief marketing officer.
In its first Philippine branch, Bata brings in its Ambassador label, which offers a wide range of footwear for men in lace and slip-ons; Power, designed in Canada with style, technological features, comfort and durability that make it perfect for athletic wearers; and Weinbrenner, composed of “strong shoes” perfect for those who love the outdoors.
Bata also offers North Star, a sport casual footwear and accessories label for the youth; and Bubblegummers, Bata shoes designed for kids.
Women shoppers, meanwhile, have a wide range of choices—patent pumps, block heels, platforms and flat shoes among others—considering that majority or 65 percent of Bata market is composed of women ages 25 to 40.
When asked if Bata is planning to bring in more labels under the brand, the official said, “The first step is to really get to know the market and understand the consumers to see which kind of products people in the Philippines are looking for.”
The shoe company, however, intends to expand its retail presence in the country, starting in Metro Manila, said Bata. “We’re opening seven to 10 stores at SM Malls in Metro Manila in the next 12 months. From there, we’ll see [what to do next].”
Bata is located on 3/F, The Mega Fashion Hall, SM Megamall.
For more information, visit Bata Philippines on Facebook and @BataPhilippines on Instagram.