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Bring on the nostalgia: Zellers celebrates grand re-opening in Calgary

Dozens of Calgarians lined up in excitement Thursday morning at Sunridge Mall to be among the first to experience the grand re-opening of Zellers.

The new store, located within the top floor of the Hudson’s Bay, is one of 25 new Zellers shops popping up across Canada.

In honour of the event, customers were given the chance to win prizes while being entertained by a DJ playing nostalgic songs.

It’s a moment that many Calgarians like Jean Weiss have been waiting for since the last Zellers closed back in 2013.

“We need more store like this in the city the way the economy is and today by the look of this lineup, I think they’ll get the message,” she said.

Others shoppers like Trish Plant agree that the price point of a store like Zellers is favourable to many consumers looking to save a little extra cash.

“Zellers used to have a really great price on everything and a great selection, I used to buy my kids clothes here all the time because of it,” said Plant.

“Now mostly with inflation it’s these really great deals that are important and it’s something from the past that makes it fun."

Zellers staff at Calgary's Sunridge Mall, Thursday March 23, 2023

FOOD TRUCK FAVOURITES

The Calgary Zellers location at Hudson's Bay in Sunridge Mall featured food from Zellers Diner on Wheels on March 23, 2023. Speaking of old favourites, shoppers also had the opportunity to choose from a variety of classic food items at the Zellers Food Truck outside Sunridge Mall’s entrance open from noon to 5:30 p.m.

Clarence Redden was the very first one in line and couldn’t wait to relive an old experience.

“It’s the nostalgia," he said. "Me and my daughter and my family used to go to the restaurant at Zellers every Sunday, we’d meet the same people and the waitresses knew us by name."

“It was a time to remember all those times back in the 80s and today I’ll be ordering one of everything on the menu.”

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

The Calgary Zellers location at Hudson's Bay in Sunridge Mall featured food from Zellers Diner on Wheels on March 23, 2023. The chain’s Zeddy mascot is also expected to make a return soon.

Additional Zellers store openings will be phased in over time and the retailer says it isn’t ruling out the potential for stand-alone locations, according to Hudson’s Bay Co. spokeswoman Tiffany Bourré.

She adds that private label products are exclusive to Zellers within Canada and there is no crossover between Hudson’s Bay and Zellers stores.

"IT’S GOING TO BE A CHALLENGE": MARKETING EXPERT 

Despite the nostalgic feel and experience for Zellers shoppers, some retail experts suggest that the re-brand may not prove succesful in the long-term.

David Finch, marketing professor at Mount Royal University’s Bissett School of Business, says the retail landscape has changed dramatically since Zellers closed its doors nearly a decade ago.

"It’s going to be a challenge given the dominance of Walmart and Amazon and the heavy shift towards e-commerce," Finch said.

"So Hudson’s Bay is trying essentially to leverage an existing asset which is the Zellers brand to drive incremental traffic and revenue."

Finch adds that the past Zellers slogan of "where the lowest price is the law" also no longer applies.

"The global purchasing power of Amazon, and Walmart too, now live by the strategy of the lowest ‘cost’ is the law, not the lowest price," he said.

"This is where Zellers is going to be challenged, they just won't be able to have the purchasing power, the influence to be able to lower their costs enough to be able to compete effectively on price as a single dimension."

The COVID-19 pandemic has also been noted as a major turning point that fast-tracked e-commerce sales, with Finch pointing to roughly 85 per cent of Canadians who purchased items last year from Amazon and 35 per cent who bought from Walmart.

It means the nostalgia of a brick and mortar store could wear off faster.

"So there's going to be a very specific group of people of a certain age and socio-economic capacity that the Zellers brand appeals to, but the challenge is, those are likely the same people that also see Walmart as a nostalgic brand because they entered Canada in the early 1990s,” Finch said.

"That group will also be highly sensitive to price. This is where Zellers, just frankly, can't compete."

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