We went shopping at Payless 3 days after it filed for bankruptcy for the second time in 2 years — and it's clear why the store is dying

Katie Canales/Business InsiderUnattractive shoe displays, big competition from fast-fashion brands and larger retailers, and a lack of an e-commerce presence has contributed to the end of Payless, and of an era of value shoe store shopping.
  • PaylessShoeSource filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday.
  • This is the second time in two years that the company has filed for bankruptcy.
  • The store has struggled in recent years due to big competition from fast-fashion brands like Forever 21 and larger retailers alike. Its less-than-optimal online-shopping experience has also failed to give the company an edge.
  • We went shopping at a Payless location days after the company’s announcement and found outdated styles and dull shoe displays.
  • Here’s what it was like inside.


We visited the Payless ShoeSource location at 934 Market Street in San Francisco, California.

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This is one of roughly 2,500 stores in North America that will be closing following the company’s bankruptcy filing.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Business Insider


There were posters advertising the store’s closing displayed on the windows.

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The loud yellow lettering was hard to miss.

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And you could also spot yellow sales stickers on a display table of sneakers through the window.

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The advertising seemed to be working — the aisles were fairly packed with bargain hunters.

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Everything in the store was 20% off.

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Tall boots had a larger discount — they were 40% off.

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The women’s department was on the ground floor.

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Handbags lined a wall close to the cash register.

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There were also socks and tights, all advertised as being 20% off.

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There were a few of these cushioned seats stationed around the store. This one had some stains on it.

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Through the aisles, there was a wide range of shoe labels.

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Airwalk sneakers were abundant, priced at $US30.

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Champion sneakers and walking shoes were also prominent in the store.

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There were plenty of work- and comfort-oriented shoes, like these slip-resistant black slip-on shoes that cost $US34.99.

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What looked like school uniform footwear was in stock as well.

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There were heels and sneakers by the American Eagle brand.

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These American Eagle black flats were $US24.99.

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Shoes by Dexflex comfort were in stock.

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There were these on-trend red sock boots by Brash for $US50.

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These Brash over-the-knee boots were priced at $US60.

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But these sparkly tall boots were on clearance sale for a more affordable $US20.

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There was a handful of shoes that had the red clearance sticker.

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High-heels by the Christian Siriano brand were some of the trendiest shoes in the store. These gold shimmery heels were $US34.99.

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There were these pointed red pumps …

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… but also some more work-friendly shoes for $US34.99.

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Upstairs was the men’s department.

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It was a ghost town compared to downstairs.

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There were pieces of trash scattered in certain places.

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There were slip-on work shoes by Dexter Comfort for $US39.99.

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Shoes by the Hunter’s Bay brand were in stock.

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And these waterproof work boots were priced at $US44.99.

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There were multiple Champion sneaker options …

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… and there were slip-resistant work shoes for $US29.99.

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Overall, the store was nicely kept, but the shoes weren’t obviously sorted by category, like fitness, dress, etc.

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The shoe boxes sat straightened on the shelves …

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… but the display didn’t look anything like how department stores like Macy’s showcase their footwear.


Historically, the store has been known for its unbeatable low prices.

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Source: Digiday


But Payless has had to compete with other fashion brands across the board in recent years, from fast-fashion stores like Forever 21 to larger retailers like Walmart and Target.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Digiday


Payless also has a lacklustre online-shopping experience, which has likely played a role in its downfall.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Digiday


Some of the styles seemed outdated, too, like these glittery Birkenstock look-a-likes.

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Despite the bargain prices, Payless’ unattractive shoe displays, lack of an e-commerce presence, and inability to keep up with other fashion labels point to why it’s struggled in recent years.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

Source: Digiday


It seems as though an era of value shoe shopping is coming to an end.

Katie Canales/Business Insider

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