Here's what the first new Zellers stores in Ontario look like
The first of Canada's newly-resurrected Zellers locations are finally opening to the public this Thursday, March 23, in Ontario and Alberta, after months of hype — and after seeing one of the first-to-launch shops in Toronto this week, I'd venture to say "don't call it a comeback." It's so much more.
blogTO was able to get a sneak peek of the brand's new shop-in-shop format inside The Bay on Tuesday evening at Scarborough Town Centre, which is the only Toronto mall selected to get its own Zellers 2.0, at least for now.
I can wholeheartedly confirm that the location is stacked and ready to welcome shippers, not as a pop-up, but as its own distinct, substantial retail experience on the department store's third floor.
With only vague expectations based on press release buzz-terms like "design-led" and "value-driven," I had little idea of what to expect from new Zellers, especially after arriving at The Bay to find the whole section off by black curtains, surrounded by adorable red footprints meant to be those of the brand's longtime teddy bear mascot, Zeddy.
The last time I visited an open Zellers store was in elementary school, when I still had to beg my parents for quarters to ride the Zeddy Wheel.
Things have changed a lot since then.
While we did get to sample menu items from the Zellers Diner on Wheels food truck on Tuesday night, new Zellers won't have the beloved in-house restaurants they were known for back in the 90s.
Ditto for the aforementioned kids' ride, though there were plenty of cute kids toys, and even cuter pet toys, available to buy. Below is a cat-scratcher shaped like a mushroom that retails for just under $50.
Also cute in Z's (surprisingly large) pet department is this plush dog in a hot dog bun, ready for your own pup to practice adorable (and affordable!) cannibalism.
HBC's resurrected version of the once-defunct Canadian discount retailer is not the Zellers you might remember from childhood, but you'll appreciate it as an adult who needs to buy things for your home that are well made and design-forward, but not stupid expensive.
Much of what can be found inside the Scarborough Zellers comes from a newly-launched house brand called Anko.
The prices are low, for the most part, the products are stylish and the space itself is quite welcoming with its bold colours, clean white lines and Zeddy Warhol motifs.
If old Zellers can be thought of along the lines of a BiWay or a Walmart, I'd say that new Zellers feels more like an American Target, or even an IKEA.
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."
The product selection at Scarborough's new Zellers fall largely into the categories of housewares...
and giftable items like toys or this expensive-looking $20 charcuterie board...
... or this chic $65 arch mirror.
Clothing for both kids and adults, some of it Zellers-branded, if you're feeling nostalgic to the point of wearing "hot chicken sandwich" across your chest.
There's also a small exercise and fitness section where you can score a bag of like 12 tennis balls for just $15.
It's clear that The Hudson's Bay Company (which has owned Zellers since 1981) put a lot of thought, work and research into this relaunch, which comes just a few years after the last remaining standalone Zellers store in Canada was shuttered.
While HBC announced that it would sell the leases for some 220 Zellers stores to the (now-defunct) Target Canada back in 2011, and went on to liquidate 64 more by 2013, the company still had one store in operation until 2020, in Etobicoke, Ontario.
Zellers at The Bay is a whole new word compared to the big old strip mall box stores, but that's not a bad thing. Quite the opposite, in fact, and I'm not only saying that because of the showstopping cat mushroom (which I bought, obviously. How could I not?)
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