Footwear retailer Payless ShoeSource is to enter the Colombian market with ten new stores expected to open beginning in summer and early autumn 2008.

It has tied up with a joint venture partner, led by retail businessman Samuel Azout, the former president and CEO of Carulla Vivero SA, Colombia's second largest retail company.

Full details of the joint venture agreement have not been disclosed.

"Payless is on a mission to democratise 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."

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

Payless currently has nearly 200 stores in nine countries throughout the region including in Central America, the Caribbean, and South America.

It has a strong presence in Canada, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam and Saipan, all of which are operated directly or as wholly owned subsidiaries.