Zellers opens a dozen stores in Canada amid wave of nostalgia and price sensitivity

Zellers comeback begins

The comeback of Canadian retail chain Zellers officially kicks off today, with the first 12 of 25 planned locations opening in Ontario and Quebec.

The 10,000 square foot stores will be located within Hudson's Bay department stores and feature an assortment of private-label products, including clothing, toys and home and living items.

Tiffany Bourré, a spokeswoman for Hudson’s Bay Co., says the products are exclusive to Zellers and there is no crossover of product with Hudson's Bay stores.

The company has also launched a new Zellers e-commerce website, with all items online and in-store featuring so-called rounded pricing, so for example $5 rather than $4.99 or $5.49.

Bourré says it's about offering customers a "simplified and easy" shopping experience with low prices and quality products.

The relaunch of Zellers comes a decade after the discount department store closed most locations.

It comes at a time when Canadians are seeking relief from the highest inflation in nearly 40 years, offering more competition in a discount market largely dominated by Walmart, Giant Tiger and Dollarama.

The resurrection of the retailer also taps into the nostalgia of the Zellers brand, evoking memories of its popular diner and its teddy bear mascot Zeddy.

While the footprint of the new Zellers stores — within the existing Hudson's Bay department stores — does not accommodate a restaurant, the company will have food trucks at some locations offering the top menu items, Bourré said.

The five menu items are the big "Z" burger, hot chicken sandwich, grilled cheese, chicken fingers and fries with gravy.

The chain's Zeddy mascot — which arguably evoked some of the greatest sentimentality among some former shoppers — is expected to make a return soon, Bourré said.

The mascot was adopted by a charity after Zellers winded down operations, she said.

"Zeddy has been in active service since Zellers closed," she said. "He's working hard in the background."

The store is hoping to bring Zeddy back into stores soon with a charity component, Bourré said.

In B.C., Zellers stores are planned in Vancouver, Kamloops, Surrey, and Abbotsford.

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