It’s the end of an era for Payless: The company announced yesterday that it would shutter all of its remaining U.S. stores and e-commerce operations.
Payless began in 1956 in Topeka, Kan., founded by cousins Louis and Shaol Pozez as “Pay-less National.” The Pozez cousins had an idea that at the time was unheard of: to sell shoes at a low price in a self-select environment. This model remained central to Payless operations over several decades.
The company went public in 1961 and was renamed as Volume Shoe Corp. Later that decade, it launched a massive expansion plan, acquiring 25 Hill Brothers Shoe Co. stores and rebranding the Kansas City-based chain locations under the Payless name.
A second version of the Hills Brothers Shoe Store Chain, based in St. Louis, was scooped up by Volume Shoe Corp. in 1971 — with more than 100 new locations going to the expanding retailer.
Volume Shoe Corp. was acquired by May Department Stores Co. in 1979.
Amid the fitness and sneaker crazes of the 1980s, Payless found success with its Pro Wings sneakers. Selling for just $15 to $20, the sneakers featured Velcro straps instead of laces — and with their price and practicality became a popular choice among schoolchildren.