retail

Payless Shoes Closely Watched by Wall Street

Posted by Mark J. Miller on November 1, 2011 10:01 AM

Payless ShoeSource, which calls itself "one of the largest footwear retailers in the western hemisphere," has been boosting its fashion cred by tapping designers such as Project Runway winner Christian Siriano, Isabel Toledo, Lela Rose and Silvia Tcherassi to create more stylish footwear for the discount shoe chain.

Few may realize that the retailer is a subsidiary of Collective Brands, Inc., a holding company with three business units: Payless, Collective Brands Performance + Lifestyles Group (PLG), and Collective Licensing International.

The Payless mission is to "democratize fashion and design in footwear and accessories and inspiring fun, fashion possibilities for the family at a great value." Its sister business unit, PLG, markets footwear and related products for children and adults under well-known brand names including Stride Rite, Sperry Top-Sider, Saucony, and Keds.

Collectively, the Collective Brands stable was worth a cool $1 billion in September, according to Morningstar estimates cited by Bloomberg. Naturally, such figures get Wall Street mavens excited.

“For somebody to want the core Payless business they would need to have a strong stomach for turnarounds, which is why it makes more sense for a private equity buyer,” Paul Swinand, an analyst for Morningstar in Chicago, told Bloomberg in September. “In order to make money, you need to take risk, and to me, the risk-reward here is not bad.”

“Not bad” is what Topeka, Kansas-based Collective Brands Inc. is hoping some investor or potential purchaser decides. After all, the shareholder value fell 36 percent this year, Bloomberg reports. The company is undergoing  “reviewing ‘a full range’ of plans to bolster shareholder value after falling 36 percent this year,” according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 

The store’s revenue “is projected to climb to a record this year and next,” the site notes, but “the company’s same-store sales have dropped for four straight years. That’s one of the reasons Payless CEO Matthew Rubel resigned back in June.

“The customer that you’re catering to, they’re not buying as much at this time,” Kevin Roche, a fund manager told Bloomberg. “People are worrying about what the next week will bring, so they’re going to be spending less. That’s what makes this model difficult.”

Bloomberg notes that Roche’s firm had about 140,000 shares of Collective Brands at the end of June but have gotten rid of them. That’s exactly what Payless is also planning to do with 475 of its stores, about 10 percent, over the next three years.

More news may come in its third quarter earnings report, scheduled for Nov. 21st.

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