Bata to close remaining stores in Canada

Remaining 30 shoe stores in Bata chain to close

Once a staple of malls across Canada, the last of the Bata Ltd. shoe stores will disappear over the next few months as the company closes its remaining 30 outlets in the country.

The closure will affect about 300 workers, the Globe and Mail reported Tuesday.

At its peak in the 1980s, the Bata chain included roughly 250 stores.

However, the company said its focus in Canada will now be on its 160 Athletes World stores, which will include some combined Bata boutiques.

Company executives cited competition from big retailers such as Payless Shoes and Wal-Mart as a major factor in the chain's exit from Canada.

Company chair Donald Marshall told the newspaper he hoped Bata would return to Canada in about two years in a superstore format that is now being used in Europe.

The Bata story began in Canada in 1939, when Thomas J. Bata arrived in the area near Trenton, Ont. He brought with him 80 employees from his shoe company in Czechoslovakia. They built houses in the Eastern Ontario town that became known as Batawa, and built their factory the next year.

Bata closed down its manufacturing plant in Batawa in 2000.

Bata, which has a headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, has annual sales of roughly $3 billion US with operations in 68 countries. The company has 4,600 stores around the world.