Local Payless not part of closures

Last updated: April 5, 2017 - 12:05pm

BUCKHORN — The Columbia Mall's Payless Shoe Store has escaped the ax, according to a company press release.

The Kansas-based discount shoe chain has declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced plans to close 400 stores immediately.

While the list included 10 Pennsylvania stores, most closing are in the Philadelphia or Pittsburgh region, and the closest location is in Towanda.

Payless has more than 4,400 stores in more than 30 countries and was founded in 1956.

It plans to reduce its debt by almost 50 percent, lower how much it pays in interest and line up funds. The company says some of its lenders have agreed make available up to $385 million to keep the stores running.

"This is a difficult, but necessary, decision driven by the continued challenges of the retail environment, which will only intensify," said said Payless CEO Paul Jones in a statement.

Shoppers are increasingly shifting their buying online or going to discount stores like T.J. Maxx to grab deals on designer brands. That shift has hurt traditional retailers, even low-price outlets like Payless.

In fact, Moody's Investor Service said earlier this year that the number of "distressed" retailers —those with cash problems and lots of debt that are facing strong competition — is at the highest rate since 2009. It named Payless as one of the retailers.

Several retailers have closed stores or gone out of business in 2017. The Limited closed all 250 of its remaining stores early this year. It had operated nearly 400 stores at the end of 2000. Teen retailer Wet Seal in January said it would close its 171 stores.

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