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Payless shoe store files for bankruptcy, will close 4 stores in Maine

BANGOR, Maine — Payless ShoeSource, one of the largest family footwear retailers in the U.S., has filed for bankruptcy and announced plans to close 400 stores across the country, including four in Maine. 

The Broadway Shopping Center store in Bangor as well as those in Presque Isle, Biddeford and Ellsworth are among 400 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico that the Kansas-based retail giant is planning to close, according to the firm’s website.

Clearance sales will begin at the stores within the next couple weeks but there are no set dates for their closings, Meghan Spreer, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday.

“This is a difficult, but necessary, decision driven by the continued challenges of the retail environment, which will only intensify,” W. Paul Jones, the CEO of Payless, said in a statement posted on the company website.

The firm characterized the closing stores as “underperforming” and said it plans to modify leases for some other locations or evaluate them for closure. Payless owns at least three other stores in Maine, including locations at the Bangor Mall, the Maine Mall in South Portland and on Main Street in Westbrook.

Payless, which was founded in Topeka in 1956, currently has about 4,400 stores in more than 30 countries and employs more than 25,000 people, the Kansas City Star reported. It offers shoes and accessories for the family at moderate prices.

Payless sought protection from its creditors while it reorganizes in federal bankruptcy court, according to the newspaper.

The company said it expects to continue to operate its business, honoring employees’ wages, health care coverage and other benefits without interruption. It also said customers’ existing gift cards with Payless stores and Payless.com will be honored. Future obligations to vendors and suppliers also will be honored, the company said.

In its filing, Payless said its assets were worth no more than $1 billion but that its liabilities were at least that large and could be as high as $10 billion, according to the Kansas City Star. The Chapter 11 filing was made in federal bankruptcy court in St. Louis.

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