Commentary

Unable To Stay Relevant And Solvent, Payless Will Close All U.S. Stores

It was news not only for Glamour and People magazines over the holiday weekend, but also for dozens of local media outlets around the country, from the Sandusky [Ohio] Register to the Duluth [Minn.] News Tribune to WGHP Fox 8 in Greensboro, S.C.: Payless Shoes is closing all 2,100 of its remaining stores in the U.S., as well as its online operation, and plans to go out of business in this country.

“Founded in 1956 in Topeka, Kansas, Payless has more than 3,600 locations in 40 countries and over 18,000 employees, according to its website. A spokesperson said its international franchises and Latin American stores will not be affected,” Ahiza Garcia reports for CNN Business.

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Liquidation sales in U.S. stores started Sunday. All will remain open until at least the end of March and most will remain open until May, the AP’s Anne D’Innocenzio reports.

“The chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2017, closing hundreds of stores as part of its reorganization. At the time, it had more than 4,400 stores in more than 30 countries. It remerged from restructuring four months later with about 3,500 stores and eliminated more than $435 million in debt,” D’Innocenzio adds.

“A manager at the Miller Hill Mall Payless shoe store in Duluth referred questions about the fate of the operation to corporate headquarters. But calls and emails to the … company have gone unanswered,” the Duluth [Minn.] News Tribunereported yesterday. “Signs at the Miller Hill Mall Payless store have been posted, saying: ‘Everything must go’ and ‘All sales final.’”

“The Payless liquidation comes as more people are opting to shop online rather than in stores, which were at the core of the shoe company’s strategy. But e-commerce explains only part of Payless’s challenges. While Payless struggled to stay relevant with shoppers, other retailers catering to bargain conscious shoppers, like TJ Maxx and Nordstrom Rack, are thriving,” writes Michael Corkery for the New York Times.

“Keeping up with emerging fashion trends and creating attractive stores requires constant investment, which was a challenge for Payless. Some of the company’s stores have also been hurt by their location in struggling suburban malls that are anchored by Sears and J. C. Penney, another listing retailer. As hundreds of those anchor stores have closed, traffic to nearby retailers in the malls has slowed,” Corkery continues.

Also, “it made some questionable moves to stay relevant, including orchestrating a hoax where it anonymously invited influencers to the launch of Palessi, a faux-luxury store that carried Payless shoes,” observes Gaby Del Valle for Vox.

 “The retailer actually duped 80 social media fashion influencers into spending upwards of $640 on a pair of the store’s affordable footwear. For the funny campaign, Payless created a fake luxury store named ‘Palessi’ (along with a corresponding luxury website and Instagram account) and filled it with shoes normally retailing from $19.99 to $39.99, but convinced the style gurus to buy them for much more,” Maria Pasquini recalls for People.

“For those who have nostalgic memories of browsing the stores’ sky-high aisles, the end of the shoe company is a sad day: 'Wow is it weird to mourn the death of Payless Shoes? My parents didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, and I’m pretty sure my first pair of “grown up girl shoes,” a scalloped white pump (3 in, max) with a cork heel (it was like, 2005, ok?) came from there,’ one Twitter user wrote,” Julyssa Lopez reports for Glamour

And that’s just one of the less-than-280-character eulogies running under the headline: “Payless ShoeSource Is Closing, and Twitter Has Gone Into Mourning.”

“Payless had been trying unsuccessfully to find a buyer. After no such deal could be clinched, the … company has decided to initiate preparations to liquidate,” sources told Reuters’ Jessica DiNapoli and Harry Brumpton as the story broke. “There is still a small chance a buyer could emerge after Payless files for bankruptcy, the sources said,” they wrote.

The shuttering of Payless “means the likely loss of another longtime tenant for the Sandusky Mall due to financial strain in the retail industry. Past closures include Sears, Elder-Beerman, Macy’s, Osterman Jewelers, and Charming Charlie. Andrews Jewelers and Crazy 8 have also begun the liquidation process after they filed for bankruptcy in the past year,” reports Michael Harrington for the Register.

“The pace of disruption in retail is widely acknowledged,” A.T. Kearney partner Greg Portell tells CNN Business. “Yet, the pace of change inside retailers continues to lag. Many retailers find themselves trapped in a cycle of continuing to chase consumer trends. … Without bold action, the retail landscape will continue to be scattered with bankruptcies.”

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