Payless ShoeSource and its new Joint Venture partner led by Colombian retail businessman Samuel Azout, will bring Payless ShoeSource to the Colombian market with 10 new stores expected to open beginning in summer and early fall 2008. Details of this new joint venture agreement were not disclosed.

Payless has an expanding international presence today with nearly 200 stores in nine countries throughout the region including in Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. These operations are through existing joint venture partnerships. Payless also has a strong presence in Canada, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Saipan, all of which are operated directly or as wholly owned subsidiaries.

“Payless is on a mission to democratize fashion and design in footwear and accessories for the world, and we are truly thrilled to bring this brand promise to the people of Colombia,” said Matt Rubel, chief executive officer and president of Payless ShoeSource. “Through our feasibility studies, Colombia arose as a strong fit for the next step in Payless' international expansion. It's a vibrant country with a large, growing population, expanding spending power, and a strong appetite for on-trend fashion at a great price. We are pleased to be partnering with Mr. Azout — who has done great things for the steady and marked growth of the retail industry in Colombia — and want to thank the Colombian government for all its support on this initiative as well. We look forward to a bright and successful future together.”

Payless said it believes Colombia could, in the long term, support at least 100 stores nationwide.

In keeping with Payless' strong commitment to the communities in which it operates and to philanthropic giving that benefits women and kids, Payless also said it plans to work with local foundations to donate shoes for the needy, as well as raise money for key causes affecting Colombia.

“We couldn't be happier with our partnership with Payless, which will inject a fresh new concept into the Colombian retail landscape,” said Samuel Azout, leader of the Colombian joint venture partner group. “Fashion is a right, not just a luxury. Colombians are going to be overwhelmed by Payless and what it has to offer — a fun, inspiring shopping experience with great brands and high-quality, affordable fashion products — all soon to be available to shoppers. Payless is a powerful partner to bring the fashion democracy to Colombia and to be involved as a partner in our community as well.”