According to WWD, Payless said it had acquired Collective International LP, a
three-year-old Denver-based brand development, management and lifestyle
company, for $91 million yesterday. Collective owns youth lifestyle and board
sport-inspired brands including Airwalk, Vision Street Wear, Lamar and
Sims in the footwear and kids’ apparel markets.
The acquisition marks Payless’ first foray into brand management, as well as apparel. However, since the appointment of Cole Haan alum Matt Rubel as chairman and
chief executive officer in May 2005, Payless has gone out on a limb
with several strategies, so this foray is not a surprise. Rubel has implemented a new
fashion-forward store design concept, while retaining a self-service
bent. The firm has tapped ready-to-wear designers like Lela Rose and
Abaeté’s Laura Poretzky to collaborate on footwear collections, while
stylist Patricia Field is working on a line for holiday 2007 — she
flaunted a pair of shoes from the collection at the Academy Awards last
month. Rubel has also been at work honing a "house of brands" strategy,
offering licensed footwear from labels such as Spalding, Champion,
Dunkman, Airwalk and Tailwind, an athletic-cum-fashion brand by Exeter
Brands Group, a subsidiary of Nike Inc.
At this stage, Rubel did not
provide specifics on how Payless plans to grow the company via
licensing or buying other brands. He pointed to Iconix, which on
Tuesday bought Rocawear, as a model for Payless. Iconix also owns
brands such as Badgley Mischka, OP and Danskin.
also spoke of his goals for the Payless brand itself. "It’s our
objective over time to become a vertical house of brands in the
footwear and accessories business," he commented. "[We want] to become
the first fully integrated, vertical, specialty footwear retailer to
actually build our discreet brands to have their own customer base and
their own images."
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