Payless ShoeSource to close all stores, another blow to Presidio retail

PRESIDIO – Payless Shoe-Source’s Presidio storefront will shutter, along with all 2,500 of the retailer’s stores, amid the corporation’s bankruptcy declaration. The company’s discount shoe stores will begin shutting down at the end of March, with the majority remaining open until the end of May.

Reached for comment, the Pay-less corporate office did not have information on when individual stores would shut down, or how many employees would lose their jobs in Presidio. The company estimates 16,000 Payless employees will be laid off across the United States.

Payless ShoeSource is the third retail chain to leave Presidio in recent years, after Shopko Hometown closed its Presidio store in December 2018, and retailer ALCO closed in October 2014, after both stores filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Now, Payless has met the same fate. Surprisingly, the three retailers that have left Presidio are all interconnected. Shopko Hometown acquired all ALCO locations after AL-CO’s bankruptcy, and Shopko had leased their entire shoe department to Payless since 1999.

Brad Newton, the Executive Director of the Presidio Municipal Development District (PMDD), was not concerned by the retail downturn. Newton said of the Payless closing, “I’m sorry it didn’t work out, I wish that it didn’t happen, but the habits of the shopper are changing, so there’s more and more online sales. Shopko and Payless are pretty good examples of that.” Both companies are corporately owned, and the chains’ troubles reflect the broader retail landscape where “small box” stores are falling behind retail giants like Amazon and other online vendors. Newton added, “It’s not just here, it’s everywhere.”

Newton’s PMDD collects a small sales tax on every retail purchase in Presidio, so its functions depend on a thriving retail economy. On average, the PMDD collects $10,000 a month in taxes, which is then re-invested into local Presidio businesses. Asked whether the PMDD would take a more aggressive approach to funding retail in order to stave off these closures, Newton explained that giving PMDD funding to retailers doesn’t accomplish much if there isn’t a customer base for it.

“Of course we support any efforts of retail, but our primary thing is industrial type jobs.” Newton explained. In Presidio, “You have to create jobs so that people have money in their pockets, so they can walk into a shop to buy things. If you can create industrial jobs, you can make sure people have money in their pockets to shop retail.”

Instead of investing in retail, Newton will pursue bringing more industrial businesses like the concrete plant, the compressor station, and the dried chili plant to Presidio. Going forward, the railroad bridge, future hotel plans, and other upcoming developments all bode well for creating new permanent job opportunities for the people of Presidio.

The Payless shoe chain began a liquidation sale of all current inventories on Sunday. The company will also close its online store, with a plan for all United States operations to be shut down by May. International stores will be unaffected. The store had previously declared bankruptcy in 2017, closing 700 locations.

With his focus on industrial jobs, Newton said, “In the near future we’ll have some pretty exciting news.”