Hudson's Bay to revive the Zellers brand

The iconic Hudson's Bay Co. storefront in downtown Vancouver is at the corner of Granville and West Georgia streets | Glen Korstrom

Venerable Canadian retailer Hudson's Bay Co. plans to revive the well-known Zellers brand by launching an e-commerce website and shop-in-shops within Hudson's Bay stores, the company said August 17.

The news comes a day after the Hudson's Bay announced plans to have Mountain Equipment Co. (MEC) shop-in-shops within some of its department stores.

The Zellers areas of Hudson's Bay stores are expected to include housewares and home décor, furniture, small appliances, toys, pet accessories and apparel. 

"Zellers and will deliver a digital-first shopping journey that taps into the nostalgia of the brand Canadians know and love, while introducing a refreshed identity and a unique and exciting product assortment for families at everyday value," Hudson's Bay said in a release. 

Zellers was known for decades for being a chain of large discount stores that advertised itself under the tagline, "where the lowest price is the law."

Vancouver entrepreneur Joe Segal's 100-store Fields chain bought the then-45-year-old Zellers in 1976, after bankers lent him $50 million. He then turned around the chain and sold it to Hudson's Bay in 1978. Segal, who died earlier this year, described his takeover of Zellers as “a case of the mouse swallowing the elephant” because Zellers was then so much bigger than his Fields chain.

The company was floundering by 2011, when the Hudson's Bay sold 220 Zellers lease agreements to U.S.-based retail giant Target for up to $1.825 billion. 

Target then opened its own stores in former Zellers locations starting in 2013. By January 2015, Target realized that it had botched its Canadian roll-out so it announced that it would close all of its 133 Canadian stores and lay off 18,000 employees.

There was some speculation that the Hudson's Bay wanted to revive the Zellers brand because it opened a Zellers kiosk witihn a Hudson's Bay store in Ontario, as well as one in Quebec last year.

The trademark to use Zellers also fell into dispute as Robert Moniz and his family opened a Zellers-branded store in Sorel-Tracy Quebec. Litigation followed and the family argued that the Hudson's Bay had let the trademark for Zellers lapse so they were entitled to buy it.