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Payless files for bankruptcy, will close all 2,500 North America stores

By Nicholas Sakelaris

Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Payless ShoeSource has officially declared bankruptcy and will close all 2,500 of its North American stores by the end of May, it said in a filing.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection late Monday. The move files reports last week that signaled the retailer was heading in that direction.

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Liquidation sales started last weekend with plans to shutter some stores by the end of March. This marks the second time Payless has filed for bankruptcy in the last two years -- but this time, the company will not survive.

"The challenges facing retailers today are well documented, and unfortunately Payless emerged from its prior reorganization ill-equipped to survive in today's retail environment," Payless chief restructuring officer Stephen Marotta said in a statement. "The prior proceedings left the company with too much remaining debt, too large a store footprint and a yet-to-be realized systems and corporate overhead structure consolidation."

The Topeka, Kan.-based company held out hope a buyer would bail out the company but that didn't happen.

The company has debts and assets between $500 million to $1 billion. Several Chinese shoe companies are among its unsecured creditors. Like many old brick and mortar retailers, Payless has struggled to compete with the convenience of online shopping or the scale of Walmart.

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Payless locations outside North America will remain open, including 420 company-owned stores and 370 international franchises.

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