Rubel Pushes Payless into Middle East

NEW YORK — Collective Brands Inc. CEO Matt Rubel cheered Payless ShoeSource’s march into the Middle East last week, and the retailer plans to continue expansion in the region this year.

The company opened two stores — one in Avenues Mall in Kuwait and the other in Sahara Mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — through M.H. Alshaya Co., an international franchise operator.

Rubel said at least 10 more stores will open in the Middle East this year, and approximately 25 will roll out next year as the firm eyes other key markets in the region, including Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.

“We feel we’ve revamped our offer over the past three years to be something we can export around the world,” Rubel said. “And we found a great partner and a great business structure that would enable us to do it more effectively.”

The move marks the company’s first venture into franchising, which Rubel said will be the retail model going forward for global expansion.

“When you get outside the Americas and into developing nations, there are other people who have infrastructure set up and have the know-how and know-who in those countries,” Rubel said. “They also understand the economy, so putting their capital in play enables them to drive the business more effectively.”

Alshaya, which has worked with various other retail brands such as H&M, Starbucks and Foot Locker, is in charge of site selection, planning, construction and staffing for the stores. Though the first two locations are mall-based, Rubel said the roll out in the region would include a mix of formats.

“There will be central business district stores, street locations and freestanding locations,” he said.

The entire range of Payless merchandise is available in the Middle Eastern stores, including the men’s, women’s and children’s collections, and the guest designer collaborations with Patricia Field, Lela Rose, Stacey Bendet of Alice & Olivia, and Laura Poretzky of Abaeté.

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