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Via to Payless As President, CEO

LuAnn Via has been named president and chief executive officer of Payless ShoeSource Inc.

LuAnn Via, former group divisional president of Charming Shoppes’ Lane Bryant and Cacique units, has been named president and chief executive officer of Payless ShoeSource Inc.

This story first appeared in the July 10, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Via will report to Collective Brands Inc. chairman and ceo Matt Rubel. Via starts later this month.

Collective Brands operates three units, including the 4,500-store Payless chain that focuses on affordable shoes with a fashion bent for women, men and children, as well as the 300-unit Stride Rite chain, and Collective Licensing International, which specializes in brand management and global licensing of a portfolio of youth and  lifestyle fashion athletic brands.

Rubel had led the Payless unit. He joined the company in 2005 from Cole Haan, a Nike subsidiary. Rubel’s role has been expanded in the last year with Collective Brands.

Rubel said Via’s appointment will allow him to focus on the bigger picture, including optimizing current stores and international growth into regions such as Latin America. The corporation will open its first Colombian store soon.

“There is absolutely an opportunity to bring great fashion at great prices,” said Via, who plans to spend her first 90 days at Payless observing and listening before developing new initiatives.

Via will be responsible for spearheading day-to-day operations for Payless, including merchandising, marketing and retail operations. Payless has locations across North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. Collective Brands supports Payless’ corporate functions such as human resources and information technology.

Payless has upped the fashion ante of late with its House of Brands strategy partnering with Abaeté, Lela Rose and Alice + Olivia on special collections.

Before Charming Shoppes, Via was vice president and general merchandising manager of footwear, accessories, fine jewelry and intimate apparel for Sears, Roebuck and Co. and senior vice president of general merchandising development for Saks Inc.