In an age of empty malls and department stores trying to be tech-forward or risk going bankrupt, there are very few major stores that conjure up nostalgic family memories of family shopping trips or hiding from a parent in the racks.
North of the border, there was once such a low-cost department store known as Zellers. The retail chain has been around since the 1930s and was known for everything from its red shopping carts and a teddy bear mascot named Zeddy to its adjacent 1950s-style diner called "The Skillet."
Selling everything from food and discount clothing to children's toys and home appliances, Zellers was a place where many sought affordable items. The Zellers motto was "Where The Lowest Price Is The Law."
"I have vivid memories of being a young child and sitting in the large part of the shopping cart as my mother took me around the store," Halifax resident Dong Ngo told Canadian news outlet CTV News. "From the food to being chauffeured around the store, Zellers was the childhood place to be."
Many also called Zellers their mom's favorite store.
Zellers and a Long History With the Hudson Bay Company
But in a fate known to thousands of both big and small department stores, the tide turned and Zellers stopped being profitable. HBC itself was taken private between 2006 and 2012 and new Zellers management struggled to hit a balance between low prices and profitability.
As American retail giant Target (TGT) prepared to enter the Canadian market at the start of the 2010s, it purchased the lease on the remaining 200-plus Zellers locations and started closing some, renovating others, and converting many into Targets.
By 2011, the decision was made to liquidate the remaining Zellers stores.
Sometimes Department Stores Do Come Back
Canadians entered the new age of American retail giants but never truly forgot or got over not having Zellers -- over the next decade, hardly a month would go by without Zellers appearing on some "remember when" post or round-up.
The good news is that, on Wednesday, HBC announced that it is planning to reopen Zellers both as a regular department store and Zellers.ca online store by 2023.
Even after the last Zellers stores closed in 2012, the HBC retained the rights to the Zellers name and occasionally played around with nostalgic pop-ups in some Canadian cities.
"Zellers is a brand deeply rooted in the Canadian experience," Zellers Chief Business Officer Adam Powell said in a statement. "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."
While the HBC has not released information where and how many Zellers stores will open, it said that it plans to stay loyal to the original low-price and anything-you-can-think-of shopping experience. Item categories will include home appliances and hardware, toys, food, pet accessories, and décor.
Clothing, as well as a private label brand available in stores like Walmart (WMT) and Target, will come a bit after the first stores reopen.
Canadians, meanwhile, celebrated the return of Zellers on social media while some pointed out that Zellers would not be Zellers without HBC also committing to reopening the famous diner.