When Matthew E. Rubel joined Payless ShoeSource a little more than half a decade ago, the discount retail shoe store suffered from an image problem. Store associates considered it to be little more than a cheap place to buy shoes, at least according to company literature. More important, customers thought the same thing. But today, Payless has a new logo, a new store design, a studio in New York and partnerships with respected names in the fashion and shoe industries.
It is now also part of a larger company, Collective Brands Inc., which has gathered Payless with five iconic shoe brands Airwalk, Keds, Saucony, Sperry Top-Sider and Stride Rite in large thanks to Rubel and his entrepreneurial vision.
After less than two years on the job as chairman, president and CEO of Payless, Rubel and the company acquired The Stride Rite Corp. and Collective Licensing International in 2007. That brought in other brands and led to a significant change and a diverse hybrid business model.
Since the acquisition, Rubel has sparked an evolution in nearly every brand under the company umbrella. Payless, of course, received its major makeover. But Sperry, a mainstay in the industry for 75 years, expanded its women’s business and opened its first retail stores. Keds, familiar for almost a century, launched Keds Collective, which allows the minds of artists and musicians to run wild on the blank canvas of the classic sneaker. And Saucony expanded its strategy to reach a broader range of runners, expand its line to include apparel and sign a number of elite runners. Industry accolades have poured in all the while.
Rubel did not wait for the proverbial other shoe to drop on a tired company. No, he made his own luck, and now he is setting the pace.
How to reach: Collective Brands Inc., (785) 233-5171 or www.collectivebrands.com