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Bata has 1,400 point of sales in the country.
Bata has 1,400 point of sales in the country.

Lockdown easing: Bata restarts over 50% stores, taking orders on WhatsApp

  • Bata reported a 56.6% drop in consolidated net profit for the March-ended quarter to 38.4 crore as the lockdown towards the end of March forced it to shutter stores across India

NEW DELHI: India’s top footwear retailer Bata India said 53% of its stores have resumed operations even as consumers working from home are turning to its e-commerce portals and online marketplaces to buy casual footwear.

The retailer has been taking orders on WhatsApp while focussing on online sales channels as opening of all stores in the immediate future remains uncertain. Bata has 1,400 point of sales in the country.

On Monday, Bata reported a 56.6% drop in consolidated net profit for the March-ended quarter to 38.4 crore as the pandemic-induced lockdown towards the end of March forced the company to shutter stores across India.

Now that its stores have resumed operations, with the Centre allowing non-essential services to resume, albeit under restrictions, its stores in tier 3 and tier 4 towns are performing well, Sandeep Kataria, chief executive officer, Bata India Ltd told reporters on Tuesday.

"Demand is moving—we are tracking it on week to week basis—it also varies quite significantly across the type of store and the part of the country as well. So, high street stores performing lower than those in residential areas. A lot of stores that are in smaller markets are performing faster," he said.

Kataria expects an uptick in demand towards the festive season later in the year.

"Initially, people will be a little hesitant about stepping out. I’m sure by the time we come into the festivities in the later part of the year, we should be in even better shape."

As India entered the fourth phase of the lockdown earlier this month many are now seeing stores reopening but with reduced staff strength and store timings.

"As of last Monday, we had 809 of our stores, which are 53% of our total selling points, open. We are following the rules and regulations which the government has asked us to do, where if it means limited hours so in some places it was till 3pm in others till about 6pm or also the alternate day or three day a week, kind of process that is being asked by the government authorities," he said.

Moreover, consumers preferring to stay indoors are also turning to the internet to order goods.

Kataria said the company is facilitating orders through WhatsApp and has updated its website to expand offerings. "We have also increased our presence on the three marketplaces ie Amazon, Flipkart, and Myntra.To make matters even easier for some of our consumers who may not be able to step out, we have enabled WhatsApp shopping, which we tested out for the last two weeks, and are now rolling it across the country. This allows us to get in touch with our customers who have come to us in the past, to be in touch with them and make sure that we are able to offer them, and deliver at home."

"Bata will not open any stores in the next three to six months…appetite for investment in India is very much still there. But we do need to really understand in which direction demand moves. As far as capex is concerned in our factories are distribution centers, that will continue," he said.

Kataria expects a "short phase" where people will turn only to essentials and also buy products that they need to work for home. For Bata, this translates to casual footwear, and other products priced lower than its formal office or outdoor shoes.

He expects footwear priced less than 1,000 to drive sales.

On future demand, Ashwani Windlass, chairman, Bata India, said the country is dealing with both the demand and supply shocks. "And this happened in background of somewhat sluggish economy, we were not in the best of shape, as the pandemic hit."

While the supply chain is now coming back with economic activity resuming, Windlass said the demand shock will take time to resolve.

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