Bata forecasts upturn in footwear market this year
Bata (Thailand), the local arm of a global footwear company, expects the country's 102-billion-baht footwear market to be active this year as foreign tourists return and many locals resume their shopping habits.
Wilasinee Parnurat, the company's country manager, said consumers have resumed their daily routines and are eager to buy shoes since pandemic restrictions eased in the second half of last year.
Boosted by this positive sign, Thailand's footwear market is expected to grow by up to 9% in 2023, compared with a projection of 7% issued at the end of last year.
The country's footwear industry resumed growth of 20% last year over 2021 after contracting by 20% for two years in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic that prompted schools to be closed and people to work from home.
"We believe that there is still huge demand for footwear this year, as seen from signs that customers can spend a shorter amount of time at footwear shops to buy shoes, as it is easier than during the pandemic," Ms Wilasinee said, adding that during the end of last year, many international brands also chose the country as a strategic location in which to expand their shops and flagship stores, reflecting a resurrection and and a growth tendency for the fashion industry in Thailand.
The return of foreign tourists, international brands' renovations of their existing footwear stores and the allocation by footwear firms of larger marketing budgets are expected to drive growth of the footwear business overall this year, she said.
Ms Wilasinee predicted that beyond 2023, the footwear market is likely to return to grow by an average of 3-4% per year as was the case before the pandemic.
In a move to tap into the full recovery of the footwear market this year, Bata plans to launch various strategies to boost its sales to grow by 20% this year from 2.45 billion baht last year.
It expects sales will be back to their peak level of 3-4 billion baht over the next five years.
Bata will open 11 new Bata stores this year, bringing the total to 241 stores nationwide. The company also plans to revamp the image of 57 existing Bata stores in the first quarter of this year, as well as offering new models of its high heels and sneakers to attract customers who previously may not have considered purchasing Bata products.
Bata will also collaborate with three partners to launch three new collections to lure younger customers, including a collaboration with Greyhound's Smileyhound brand in June.
It will communicate more with customers via social channels such as Line and TikTok to attract younger customers. The company is aiming for the contribution to its sales via the online channel to increase to 15% this year, from 9% last year.
"With those plans, we hope to erase the recognition of Bata in terms of uniform shoes with a basic design and footwear for the grand mom and pop generation,'' Ms Wilasinee said.
In addition, the firm launched an aggressive marketing campaign featuring Bella Ranee "Bella" Campen, a famous actress, as its brand ambassador for the second consecutive year. It also plans to open more Bata stores in downtown areas.
"Having Bella Ranee as our first (Thai) ambassador in almost 100 years of Bata has created a strong continuously positive impact on the Bata brand. Now, the average age of customers visiting Bata stores is 37 years old, down from 53 years old previously," she said.