With too much recent emphasis inside the retail environment on the word fashion complicated further by the erroneous use of luxury,markets are more like disorganised pits as far as segments go. Every buyer craves for fashion,yet a majority want it to be affordable. Bata,one of India’s most familiar brands,a 75 year old leather retailer and manufacturer,hangs perilously on one such pit. Despite a variety of attemtpts at makeovers,and inviting free spirited designers like Malini Ramani for affordable and fashionable shoes,the brand’s image remains what it was: sturdy,reliable,middle class and non-trendy. To me,Bata is an interesting case study of dragging strategy at the moment in a very buzzing retail scenario. Bata’s rebranding seem to remain unrealised. This is despite the fact that within Bata’s product range,dozens of things have actually changed. Take a closer look and you will find that there is some very good footwear available. It is ‘almost fashionable’ and very well priced: a middle level brand for the budget conscious shopper. To add to it,are Scholls,Hush Puppy (with genuine leather) and other parallel ranges and now the Bags and Belts range. Bata doesn’t have the snobbishness of a trendy brand,but then it is not charging you for it either.
Some days back,I got an email from a PR company on Bata’s new range. It made me curious. When I searched for figures,I found that Bata India has grown outstandingly in the first quarter of 2012. It reported 41 % growth in Net Profit and 31 % in Sales. It has opened 67 new stores in the country (it has 1250 stores in 500 cities of India). We can choke ourselves on words like fashion and luxury but tell me one another footwear retailer that has grown so much. You can buy Bata online,there is a toll free number for queries and on the face of it,everything you need to list it with happening footwear. The quality of products is most often fine. Yet,a heavy,mustiness stays in our perception of Bata. Despite commercial growth,the brand is nowhere in the recall value of trendiness,that New India seeks so desperately.
So what’s wrong with Bata? Exactly what’s rite with it. It may have upped the quality of its footwear and made it partially more stylish than earlier,but Bata stores are boringly designed. Even though the sales staff is quite helpful and no one sizes you up by the size of your wallet,(thankfully),nothing in the store makes your pulse race enough to want it right now. The visual merchandising in the stores is way too poor to fall in line with a makeover strategy.
I took these pictures on my Blackberry phone to point out how clubbing bags with shoes in the display area creates a sensory mish-mash and a brand confusion. Also,the website (www.bata.in) is insipid. Instead of getting a cracking new digital artist to make an exciting webpage,seemingly old ideas and rites of sales strategy have gone into making this page. No consistency in models,little consistency in brand image. Hardly a rite choice.