Bata in the News: A High-Profile Interview with Alexis Nasard in Italy
Bata in the news

The most-read daily newspaper in Italy recently published a wide-ranging interview with Bata Group CEO Alexis Nasard. He touched on the company’s strategy and how Bata is bringing the swagger.

The prestigious Corriere della Sera published the article, by Maria Teresa Veneziani, on March 25. Read on for an edited translation.

“We have been quite low-key. There is something to being discreet, but it’s good to let people know what there is of value. People do not know that we at Bata are the world leader in footwear. We sell a million pairs a day, in 50 countries, and we have 23 production centers."

Lebanese and 50 years old, Nasard has a diverse resume: a bachelor’s in engineering, a master’s in business administration from Berkeley, and 24 years of experience in groups such as Procter & Gamble and Heineken. He confesses he moved to Bata – a shoe brand created in 1894 by Czech cobbler siblings who rode the wave of the American industrial revolution – because he loves fashion and shoes.

"We’re trying to become an ever more innovative brand also in terms of style. We have been around for more than 122 years, and we have to surprise loyal consumers." As a matter of fact, Bata shop windows feature the shoes launched by the catwalks: suede ballet flats and low heels in pale dusty pink, as well as espadrille sandals with gold bands and pom-poms, priced between 60 and 120 euros."

"Bata launches a thousand new models a year, but we also have the classics," continues Nasard, pointing to his brown lace-ups and red socks. "If the tie is serious, the socks are cheerful – even pink."

How does a brand reposition itself? "Rule No. 1: the product is king. There are many trends: shopping malls, online shopping, large and small shops, but if the product isn’t good there is no reason to exist. The point is the quality."

The second rule concerns the brand: "We must bring swagger to Bata." What’s that? "Make comfort sexy and sexy comfortable."

Then the markets: "The goal is to continue to be leaders and competitive in already developed markets like Europe and push in the others." And Italy? "It remains our benchmark market, because here there are demanding clients and craftsmanship know-how to pay attention to even if you produce elsewhere." There are 250 Bata stores in Italy, out of 5,266 worldwide, 80 percent of them non-franchise.

"To enter stores, people need to feel surprise and delight. You have to create emotions. We are pushing on athleisure, urban sneakers, because people want them."

“For Bata Tennis we launched special capsule collections realized with fashion brands like Comme des Garçons and Julien David, sold in stores such as Colette in Paris or Selfridges in London, and we developed collections dedicated to the Peanuts characters. Many celebrities in the ‘90s wore Bata sneakers, among them Kurt Cobain and Magic Johnson!”

Today there is Melissa Satta. "It is important to really know who you want to reach. She is the celebrity our female consumer pays attention to."

How important is e-commerce? "It’s a fantastic lens to understand what the market wants, but the challenge online is to avoid ‘mosquito management’: the digital agenda has to be subordinate to the strategy, not vice versa.” The risk? “Flying around aimlessly, like a mosquito. What we want is to sell cool shoes that people want!”