Payless to open 16 franchise stores in Vietnam, Thailand, Korea

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Collective Brands Inc., the retailer that said in August it's reviewing strategic options, will open its first Payless shoe stores in Vietnam, Thailand and Korea this year.

The company plans to open 16 stores through franchise agreements in the three countries this year, LuAnn Via, who heads the Payless division, said in a Feb. 3 telephone interview.

"We were very interested in Korea; we think that our brand will resonate very well there," Via said. "We perform extremely well" in developing countries, she said.

Collective Brands said in August that it was studying alternatives to boost the price of its stock. The company could be worth as much as $27 a share based on the value of its separate businesses, Morningstar Inc. has said.

Via declined to comment on the strategic process and how it could affect expansion.

"We have to be focused on driving the day-to-day business," she said.

Payless, with about 4,500 stores in 34 countries, opened its first franchised unit in 2009 in Kuwait. It now has 140 franchised locations and expects to increase the number to about 700 by 2014. Topeka, Kansas-based Collective Brands also owns the Saucony, Stride Rite, Keds and Sperry Top-Sider brands.

Collective Brands fell less than 1 percent to $16.65 on Feb. 3 in New York. The shares dropped 32 percent last year.

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