Payless ShoeSource, the big American retail chain, announced plans to acquire Collective International, a privately held brand development, management and licensing company, for $91 million. The move is in line with the American retailer’s vertical integration strategy. If completed it would give it control of the Airwalk, Vision Street Wear, Sims and Lamar brands – all of which are in Collective’s portfolio.

Collective will remain based in Colorado and its executive, design and licensing teams will remain intact. All its brands have gone through multiple vicissitudes in international markets lately. The French-based Groupe Royer has the rights to the Airwalk brand for all of Europe except in the UK, where Pentland Group recently decided not to renew its Airwalk contract.

Separately, Payless has released its financial results for 2006, reporting for the 4th quarter a growth in net earnings to $24.6 million, as compared to a loss of $5.6 million in the year-ago period. Quarterly sales increased by 13.4 percent to $692.7 million. For the full year, earnings rose to $122 million from $66.4 million, and revenues were up by 4.9 percent to $2.8 billion.

Payless operated a total of 4,572 stores as of Feb. 3, which marked the end of its latest fiscal year. The company has been led over the last few years by Matt Rubel, the former chief executive of Cole Haan, a property of Nike.