More than two dozen The Bay locations across Canada will soon be home to Zellers stores, as the retailer has announced more details of its plan to resurrect the defunct discount brand both online and in physical stores.
The Hudson’s Bay Company says that later this month, Zellers pop-up shops will open up in 25 Bay stores across Canada. At launch, four will be in British Columbia, three in Alberta, one each in Saskatoon and Winnipeg, nine in Ontario, five in Quebec and two in Nova Scotia, but the chain says more may follow.
While the Zellers brand was a household name in Canada for decades, it largely vanished from the retail landscape in 2011 when Target expanded to Canada, setting up shop in 220 Zellers locations. Another 64 operations owned by HBC continued to operate until 2013, when the plug was officially pulled on the discount chain.
Though a few locations remained open for a while after the Target launch, they eventually closed down, too.
While the stores were gone, HBC retained the trademark rights to the brand name until at least 2020. The following year, the Moniz family of Montreal, which runs a small retail empire, tried to register the Zellers brand name for themselves and open stores under that banner, leading to a legal fight with HBC over trademark infringement.
That court battle is ongoing, but HBC has been hinting it has its own plans for the Zellers name for a while now, launching pop-up shops in a small number of Bay locations during the pandemic.
Wednesday’s news is a major expansion of those plans. In addition to the 25 physical stores set to open soon, HBC is also launching a full-service online store at Zellers.ca soon.
“Customers can expect a helpful, playful shopping experience packed full of low prices day in, day out,” the retailer said in a press release.
HBC is hoping to tap into consumers’ sense of nostalgia in reviving the brand, but retail consultant Doug Stephens says that can only go so far.
“Maybe consumers will gravitate to this concept, but I just don’t see it happening,” he told CBC News in an interview.
He says that while the pop-up shop concept may bring in some new customers as a novelty, HBC will be hard pressed to convert that traffic into sales at its core Bay locations.
“Is this more aimed at trying to breathe new life into Hudson’s Bay? If that’s the case, I think it’s a day late and a dollar short,” he said.