Payless ShoeSource: A Brief History

Knoji reviews products and up-and-coming brands we think you'll love. In certain cases, we may receive a commission from brands mentioned in our guides. Learn more.
A brief history of Payless ShoeSource.

Payless ShoeSource, most commonly called “Payless”, is a chain shoe retailer. They carry many different styles of shoes - high heels, fashion boots, rain boots, tennis shoes, flats, sandals, and more – and a small amount of handbags and purses.

Something that sets Payless apart from other shoes retailers is what they call “BoGo”, which is short for Buy One Get One. Under this sale, if you buy any one pair of shoes, you can buy another pair for half price.

Cousins Louis and Shoal Pozez were the founders of Payless ShoeSource in 1956, and called the original three outlets in Topeka, Kansas simply Pay-Less National. By 1960, the cousins had opened twelve more outlets in Oklahamo, Texas, and Nebraska.

The original plan of operation for the store was meant to keep costs to the owners minimal. They used simple wooden shelves for their displays, often set up by the manager of a given store, performed much of the maintenance themselves, and only had about one to two clerks per store. This allowed them to keep costs incredibly low, and the average price for a pair of shoes at the original stores was about three dollars.

Another way they keep the price of their shoes down is by having an incredibly large number of suppliers. No company had supplied more than six percent of Payless’ merchandise in 1960. This protected them from any sudden shortages of merchandise as well as sudden price increases.

Since the mid 1960’s, Payless has had suppliers making shoes to their specifications as a way to control the quality of their shoes and as a response to customer demands. These eventually became the private-label brands that are now a key part of Payless outlets.

In 1962, the company went public under the name Volume Distributors. It changed its name in 1967 to Volume Shoe Corporation, and in 1978 Payless ShoeSource was chosen to be the name for the majority of the company’s retail outlets. The company was bought by May Department Stores Company for $160 million in 1979, and in 1991 the company name was changed to Payless ShoeSource Inc. In 1996, it was spun off to shareholders, and in 1997 Payless bought Parade of Shoes from J. Baker, keeping it as separate division of Payless.

In 2004, Payless, having suffered much profit loss, closed down the Parade branch entirely.

Since 1999, Payless has had its website,, where customers can go to purchase their products online.


Appelhanz, Christie, "Payless Strides into New Territories," Topeka (Kans.) Capital- Journal, May 29, 1999

McNally, Pamela, "Penetrating the Great Wall of Payless," Footwear News, August 16, 1993, pp. 1+

Payless ShoeSource: Definition. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2010, from