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Opinion: Who, exactly, wants to see the return of Zellers?

Saskatchewan real estate professional is skeptical about HBC bid to bring Zellers back to life
HBC plans to open 25 Zellers stores within Hudson Bay properties. |Submitted

News dropped this week that Hudson’s Bay (HBC, The Bay) department stores will feature restored Zellers stores within their existing footprints.

This news isn’t a complete surprise as the Bay has been dropping tidbits of this brand within a brand for the past year.

I may be out of line here, but who exactly is crying to see the return of Zellers?

Zellers by its own admission was a Canadian discount retail chain.

It was founded in 1931 by Walter Zeller and obtained by HBC in 1978.

They peaked during the 90s with approximately 350 stores nationwide.

'Walmart came to town, however, and swiftly took a large bite out of Zellers' bottom line.

Some locations were converted to Targets in a lease sell off by HBC for approximately $1.82 billion in January 2011.

All remaining branded Zellers stores were liquidated and closed by Spring 2013.

And we all know what happened to those short-lived Targets.

Testing the waters

Since then, a fierce letter writing campaign of concerned Canadian citizens to bring back the beloved brand caused HBC to rethink their priorities to the Canadian discount retail shopping public.

Okay, not quite.

But in August of 2021, HBC launched a Zellers pop-up inside a singular Bay store situated in Burlington, Ontario.

I’ve not read of any hard figures to justify the re-launch of the Zellers brand but it’s safe to say HBC executives deemed the test balloon in Burlington enough to expand the idea further.

HBC has announced 25 Bay stores across Canada will feature 8,000- to 10,000-square-foot Zellers within them.

Saskatoon’s Midtown Plaza is on the list. With three floors of prime real estate in Saskatoon’s premiere shopping centre, the Bay here certainly has room to house this suspect retail experiment.

Sorry, maybe next time, Regina.

Does Zellers deserve a second chance?

Depends on who you ask.

I frequented the Zellers closest to me in North Battleford at the Territorial Mall as a kid and was later a patron of Market Mall’s here in Saskatoon.

But I wouldn’t say I miss Zellers.

Giant Tiger and Dollarama have both filled the gap in my neighbourhood.

I’m worried this retro throwback is coming with a little too much hype to really be able to capture what Zellers was.

And if we’re being fair, it wasn’t overly special.

They are touting a brand spankin’ new and opening 25 locations (to start!) within select Hudson’s Bay stores across the country – so you can see for yourself what all the excitement’s about.

Forgive me if I’m skeptical.

- Kelly Macsymic, is a sales associate with  ICR Commercial Real Estate and business manager of Stuart Commercial Inc., Saskatoon.