Once-Defunct Zellers to Return to the Canadian Market in 2023
In an unexpected turn of events, Canadians will soon be able to shop at Zellers, erm, again.
A press release from the Hudson’s Bay Company — they acquired Zellers in 1978 — revealed that Zellers will return to Canada in both digital and “shop-in-shops” formats by early 2023.
“Zellers and Zellers.ca will deliver a digital-first shopping journey that taps into the nostalgia of the brand Canadians know and love, while introducing a refreshed identity and a unique and exciting product assortment for families at everyday value,” it reads. “Feature anchor categories at launch will include, housewares and home décor, furniture, small appliances, toys, and pet accessories and the introduction of a design-led, value-driven private brand. The assortment and category offer will grow throughout the year, including the introduction of apparel.”
The reactions to the news have ranged from mild confusion to full-out confusion to mild excitement to “but will they serve grilled cheese, though.”
I mean, I guess it’s cool news about #Zellers and all, but if they ain’t bringing this back, then what’s the point, really?
— Colin In London (@CJMELondon) August 17, 2022
And to be fair, some consumers are very, very jazzed.
— Brittlestar (@brittlestar) August 17, 2022
As you’ll probably remember (because it wasn’t that long ago), Zellers was a strip-mall-mainstay for a number of decades in Canada. The discount department retail chain was founded in 1931, but hit its peak in the late 1990s with about 350 locations. But in the 2000s, it began losing ground to big-box competitors such as Walmart. By 2013, the bulk of Zellers locations were liquidated and shuttered, and by 2020, the very last location was closed, leaving only plastic bags emblazoned with their fire engine red logo in the wake.
But like low-rise jeans, Zellers is circling back.
It’s a throwback that nobody really asked for, but in this time of inflated prices, it’s hard to take issue with the discount retailer re-entering the Canadian market.
As for whether the operation will be viable, it’s too soon to tell, but it’s also too soon not to be totally skeptical.
“I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that it has legs given the fact that Zellers started to decline after we saw Walmart enter Canada,” says Alex Maksymec, Vice President and Sales Representative with Lennard Commercial Realty. “Even today, that’s the case. There’s Costco, and then other deep discounters like Dollarama, Dollar Tree, Winners, Giant Tiger. It’s really a crowded area for for discounting.”
Additionally, Maksymec thinks that while the nostalgia factor will give the brand a bit of a boost, it’s unlikely younger consumers will be fazed.
“I think Zellers has a nostalgic feel for baby boomers, but I don’t think that the Zellers brand is going to resonate with Gen Z or millennials or even Gen X, quite frankly. I don’t think they have any sort of emotional attachment,” he says.
Zellers respectively disagrees.
“We know how special Zellers is in the hearts and minds of people in Canada. ‘Where the lowest price is the law’ was a calling card, which has helped Zellers establish itself as more than a retail destination, but a place to build and support community,” Adam Powell, Chief Business Officer for Zellers, says in the press release. “Zellers is a brand deeply rooted in the Canadian experience. Spanning generations, people hold distinct connections to Zellers through shared experiences with family and friends, and we look forward to building on that in the future.”
If you’re seeking more clarification on the where, when, and why of the Zellers resurrection, expect to remain puzzled indefinitely.
STOREYS reached out to the Hudson’s Bay Company for comment, but we’ve been instructed to “stay tuned” because there’s “more to come.”
Zakiya is a staff writer with STOREYS. Previously, she has reported on real estate for Post City Magazines, Apartment Therapy, and Curbed. She also writes a quarterly series for a Canadian design publication.