Hudson’s Bay resurrects Zellers

Canadian department store Zellers hopes to return next year, a decade after the discount chain closed most of its stores.

Hudson’s Bay Company said Zellers will launch a new e-commerce website and expand its physical presence in select Hudson’s Bay department stores across the country in early 2023.

The company said the relaunched Zellers will offer « a digital-first shopping journey that taps into the brand’s nostalgia. »

Zellers’ return comes as soaring inflation pushes consumers to buy discounts from retailers looking for lower prices and fierce competition from existing stores like Walmart, Dollarama and Giant Tiger.

It also comes amid an ongoing lawsuit over the use of the Zellers brand by a Quebec family.

The Moniz family is behind a variety of recent trademark and business registry applications, including Zellers Inc., Zellers Convenience Store Inc., and Zellers Restaurant Inc.

In a statement filed last fall, HBC accused the Moniz family of trademark infringement, impairing goodwill and allegedly misleading or misrepresenting goods.

Retail analyst Bruce Winder said Zellers’ reintroduction likely stems in part from the lawsuit.

« It’s probably related to the trademark legal issue, » he said. « For Zellers to really say, ‘This is ours,’ they have to show they’re using it. »

Zellers will face an uphill battle from well-established competitors in the discount retail market, he said.

« It could be a niche opportunity and hopefully it works out, but I just don’t see it coming back successfully in droves. »

Zellers department store was founded in 1931 and acquired by HBC in 1978.

It operated as the discount division of its flagship Hudson’s Bay department stores, with the slogan « Where the lowest price is the law ».

The store reached its peak of around 350 locations in the late 1990s before losing ground to big box competitors such as Walmart.

In 2011, HBC announced plans to sell the majority of its remaining Zellers leases to Target Corp., closing most stores by 2013.

The retailer has kept a handful of Zellers stores open as liquidation outlets through 2020.

The company recently launched Zellers pop-up stores in Hudson’s Bay department stores in Burlington, Ontario, and Anjou, Quebec.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 17, 2022.



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