By the end of the month, Payless Shoe Source will have vanished into retail history—taking more than 60 years of business, 18,000 jobs and more than 2500 combined stores in the U.S. and Canada with it into oblivion. Retail chains go out of business all the time of course, and most of them don’t rate a eulogy. But Payless does, because it existed at the intersection of classism and capitalism, and it is both a victim of the retail apocalypse and a key figure in rise of fast fashion.
So what legacy does this chain leave behind? What does this store mean to the millions of kids who couldn’t afford the ‘good’ shoes with the swooshes or the stripes on them? Why is it dying at the same time as more people than ever are falling in to poverty? And did it go out with perhaps one of the only meaningful pranks ever performed by a corporate entity?
GUEST: Sara T Bernstein, writer, The Outline, co-founder Dismantle digital magazine