Payless is closing all 2,100 stores in yet another sign of the death of fast fashion

By Elizabeth Segran

In another sign that fast fashion is dying off, Payless ShoeSource Inc. says it plans to close all of its 2,100 stores in the United States and Puerto Rico. Two years ago, Payless declared bankruptcy during a wider wave of store closures throughout the country, something we’ve come to describe as the retail apocalypse. At the time, the company shuttered a number of its stores, which allowed it to eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, according to the Wall Street Journal. But none of this restructuring was able to save it from further collapse.

The decline of Payless can be attributed partly to broader trends in the market. The brand’s stores were largely located in malls, and there has a general decrease in the amount of foot traffic at large shopping centers over the last few years.

But there’s also an important shift happening in consumer behavior. People are moving away from poorly made, inexpensive fashion items. For decades fast fashion, epitomized by brands like H&M and Forever21, churned out cheap, fashionable clothes that customers could wear a few times before chucking out. But as I’ve reported before, many fast-fashion brands are now on the decline.

Payless was the shoe equivalent of fast fashion. The brand was not known for the quality or durability of its product, but competed largely on price. As a result, customers could buy whatever boot or heel was in season, and expect to throw it away months later. Consumers appear to be tired of this approach, partly because it is so environmentally unsound. While Payless has spiraled downwards, a flock of brands making high-quality, eco-friendly, durable shoes like M.Gemi, Allbirds, and Rothy’s have been thriving.


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