Zellers is dropping all kinds of hints about its Canadian comeback

Jan 17 2023, 9:32 pm

Nostalgia-worshipping Canadians have been foaming at the mouth (metaphorically speaking… I think) for hot chicken sandwiches and Zeddy Wheel rides since learning this summer that the once-ubiquitous discount retailer Zellers would make a comeback in 2023.

The brand, which is owned by The Hudson’s Bay Company, really got tongues wagging when the new year hit a few weeks ago by launching an official website and several social media profiles, including a cryptic Instagram account that is more than meets the eye.

“NEW YEAR, NEW US,” reads a banner image on the recently launched zellers.ca, which contains little information aside from a few blurbs about how the team is “hard at work” getting ready to “deliver a playful, helpful shopping experience; from lifestyle to home and almost everything in between.”

The site also confirms that 25 locations will open across Canada sometime this year, all of them within existing Hudson’s Bay stores. That’s right — the new Zellers will not come back to us in the form of those big stores that used to anchor shopping plazas.

As revealed by HBC when it announced the reboot in August, new Zellers will exist as a store-in-store model and “online shopping experience” that “taps into the nostalgia of the brand Canadians know and love” with “a refreshed identity and a unique and exciting product assortment for families at everyday value.”

That release promised such product categories as housewares, home decor, furniture, small appliances, toys, pet accessories and even a new “design-led, value-driven private brand,” but held no word of what the collective population of Canada is still dying to know: What about the restaurant?

Despite rampant demand, Big Z has yet to announce anything about bringing hot dogs into The Bay — but the company’s newly created social media channels reveal, among other things, that it’s not completely out of the picture.

When asked directly about a Facebook Stories post containing graphics of a bear (presumed to be the new version of Zellers’ beloved mascot Zeddy) and a chef’s hat, the company replied coyly on Twitter that shoppers would have to “wait and watch” to see if the brand’s big comeback will involve any diners.

Over on Instagram, Zellers all but confirmed that Zeddy would make his triumphant return as the brand’s mascot by including a beige teddy bear paw in a “coming soon” video.

Zellers also confirmed to one Twitter user last week that it had indeed changed its logo slightly (much to the chagrin of some brand purists.)

“We love our old look, but it is so early 2000s. New year, new us, new logo,” wrote Zellers on Twitter in response to the assertion that it “can’t get the Zellers logo correct on Instagram.”

Of all the social media platforms linked on the new Zellers website, only a few actually contain content; The company has yet to post anything to its Pinterest, Spotify, Reddit, or TikTok accounts.

It has, however, been using LinkedIn, of all sites, to recruit employees.

Zellers posted one job listing, for an assistant planner, to LinkedIn on Monday, promising candidates that the company cares about “helping Associates achieve a healthy work-life balance” through various perks, benefits and a hybrid office arrangement.

A few more job openings (all managerial) can be found on The Bay’s career website with the locations listed as “1825, 401 Bay Street.” in Toronto, suggesting that new Zellers will be headquartered in the historic Simpson Tower, right across from the Eaton Centre and next to The Bay’s Queen Street West flagship store.

It has not been confirmed that this particular Toronto HBC location will be getting a mini-Zellers, but it would be weird for it not to, given the department store’s size and prominence.

One might also assume that The Bay at Burlington Centre Mall will contain its own store-in-store Zellers, as the company piloted this very concept there back in 2021.

Sadly, my sleuthing did not turn up any responses to queries about the potential of Zeddy wheels being installed within HBC’s new store-in-stores.

I guess we’ll “have to wait and see,” as Zellers keeps putting it on Twitter… but I’m not getting my hopes up. Things have changed a lot since the 90s in terms of how much corporations are willing to risk, legally, in the pursuit of making kids less bored while their parents shop for towels.

Lauren O'NeilLauren O'Neil

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