Payless closing Harlingen, San Benito stores

HARLINGEN — Payless ShoeSource announced yesterday it has filed for bankruptcy and will close stores in Harlingen at Valle Vista Mall and in San Benito at San Benito Plaza.

The Payless stores at 1210 S. 77 Sunshine Strip and 1102 S. Expressway 83 in Harlingen were not on the company’s list of stores to be closed.

The local stores to be shut down are among 400 Payless stores which will be closed, including 75 in Texas. Also closing will be the Mission store at Sharyland Town Crossing.

At the San Benito location yesterday, workers said they weren’t authorized to speak about the bankruptcy or store closings but did confirm their store is on the list.

They said they had not yet been informed about whether they can apply for jobs elsewhere within Payless, or would be offered a severance package. They said they have received no information on when the store will close.

The company had been in talks with lenders for months seeking to come to an agreement on a restructuring plan for its 4,400 stores in 30 countries. Payless employs about 22,000 people.

“This is a difficult, but necessary, decision driven by the continued challenges of the retail environment, which will only intensify,” CEO W. Paul Jones said in a news release. “We will build a stronger Payless for our customers, vendors and suppliers, associates, business partners and other stakeholders through this process.”

The Payless Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing adds the company to a long list of other retailers cutting back on their physical presence mostly due to competition from online sales.

JC Penney, Macy’s, Sears and Kmart have announced store closures this year, along with chains like Crocs, BCBG, Abercrombie and Fitch and Guess.

Payless executives said additional store closings are likely. At one time during its restructuring talks with lenders, company officials floated the possibility of closing 1,000 stores.

The company was purchased in 2012 by private equity firms Golden Gate Capital and Blum Capital partners.