After weeks of speculation, Payless ShoeSource on Tuesday confirmed that it has sought bankruptcy court protection as it looks to unload some of its crippling debt and close 400 stores in the hopes of making another go of it as a leaner store chain.
The company said in a press release that it had voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 protection in bankruptcy court in St. Louis with a plan to slash its debt by half and significantly lower its interest expense on the way to an “expedited” exit from bankruptcy protection. The company said it had less than $1 billion in assets but as much as $10 billion in liabilities.
“This is a difficult, but necessary, decision driven by the continued challenges of the retail environment, which will only intensify,” Payless CEO W. Paul Jones said in a statement. “We will build a stronger Payless for our customers, vendors and suppliers, associates, business partners and other stakeholders through this process.”
Payless has a $520 million term loan coming due in 2021 and a $145 million loan maturing the following year, according to Bloomberg. Two months ago, credit rating agencies Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global downgraded the company’s debt because of revenue declines.
Payless becomes the latest retailer to seek court protection to fix its finances and core business at a time more shopping has moved online and customers are visiting fewer stores when they do go. The Sports Authority, Aéropostale, Wet Seal, American Apparel, Gander Mountain, BCBG and PacSun are among the chains to have filed for bankruptcy protection in the last two years, with some liquidating altogether. Last month, Sears Holdings (SHLD)conceded there there is ‘substantial doubt’ it can stay in business.
The chain was founded in 1956 in Topeka, Kansas, and employs about 22,000 people, according to its website. It operates 4,000 stores in 30 countries. In its last year as part of a publicly traded company, 2012, it had U.S. sales of about $2 billion. The retailer rose to prominence by offering customers a new approach: self-service in a shoe store in exchange for lower prices. But Payless has struggled in an increasingly competitive footwear world, with everyone from DSW to T.J. Maxx (TJX)encroaching on what had been its turf.
Payless, which reportedly had considered closing as many as 1,000 stores, had been part of Collective Brands when it was acquired in 2012 by buyout firms Golden Gate Capital and Blum Capital as part of a $2 billion deal.
Other retailer to close stores in big numbers of late have included J.C. Penney (JCP), Macy’s (M), Sears, and Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF). Some retailers are shutting down all their physical stores, including The Limited and Bebe.