Bata Italia managed to improve its operating margin (Ebit) to 7 percent of sales in 2004, up from 6.5 percent in the previous year, notwithstanding a 5 percent cut in its average selling prices following the planned sourcing of a larger portion of its footwear ranges in low-cost countries. The new Italian-designed Bata Premium Collection is performing very well, taking advantage in part of a new procurement center in Guangzhou, China.

Bata Italia’s sales increased by 14 percent to €310 million, with a 2 percent improvement on a same-store basis. A total of 50 new stores joined the company’s retail network in Italy and in other countries under the control of this Italian subsidiary of the Bata group. Of these, 10 were new franchised stores in Italy and 19 were franchises established abroad. Four new Bata stores opened in the Moscow area through the company’s new local subsidiary, Compar Russia (Comprus).

Bata Italy, which has been franchising stores in its home market for 25 years, had a total of 204 corporate stores and 90 franchises in Italy at the end of 2004, plus 91 franchised stores in other countries, including the Czech Republic.

The business plan calls for the opening over the next three years of 10 new Bata City stores, 50 Bata Superstores, 30 Athlete’s World stores and 20 Bata shop-in-shops. Furthermore, 15 new Bata Factory Stores should be added to the network. This format was introduced in Italy in 2003 and the experience has now been translated into France with a first factory outlet opened last March 18 at Fresnes, South of Paris.

For its part, Bata France is accelerating the opening of new stores. Nine new Bata stores and one or two Athlete’s World units are in the pipeline for this year, while other stores are being renovated. Five new Bata stores and two Athlete’s World doors were opened in France last year, taking the network up to 200 units. The turnover of Bata France reached €123 million in 2004.