Nfld. & Labrador

It's a Zellers market: St. John's shoppers hope to see defunct discount chain return

The potential resurrection of Zellers in Canada has shoppers in St. John's talking.

Newfoundland and Labrador's last Zellers closed a decade ago

Zellers is preparing to remerge as a e-commerce website with possible physical stores in 2023, a decade after the final store closed. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

The potential resurrection of Zellers in Canada has got shoppers in Newfoundland talking, and hoping that — to quote the onetime retail giant's longtime slogan — the lowest prices will remain the law.

The Hudson's Bay Co. announced Wednesday that the brand will return as an e-commerce website and expand its brick-and-mortar footprint next year, a decade after the final stores closed. HBC didn't say where any physical stores would be located.

Newfoundland and Labrador's last Zellers location, on Stavanger Drive in St. John's, closed in 2012. Shoppers who spoke to CBC News on Friday definitely want to see it come back.

"I think it's a good idea. You can't get enough bargain retail stores, honestly," said Aiden Langer in downtown St. John's. "I know a few Walmarts have shut down around the city recently.… I know they're not coming here as a physical location, but yeah, it's nice. Can't get enough Zellers."

Misty Misener remembers trips to Zellers as part of her childhood in Nova Scotia — especially the trips to the in-store restaurant after a long day of bargain hunting.

WATCH: The CBC's Sarah Antle speaks with shoppers about the potential return of Zellers:

Zellers fans in St. John's are ready to see the discount giant return

2 months ago
Duration 2:17
Zellers stores could be returning to Canada by next year, and shoppers in Newfoundland and Labrador hope the deals will come to this province. The CBC's Sarah Antle reports.

"It was like a full day out. So I think that's a good, friendly feel," she said.

The nostalgia aspect of Zellers returning will be key for early success for the brand's return, according to Memorial University business professor Tom Cooper, who says Zellers could have a real shot at disrupting larger box stores if it plays its cards right.

"If you're the Hudson's Bay Company, which struggles in this kind of retail [market]," Cooper said, "and has closed stores and brick and mortar stores, there may be opportunity to go online, create that brand, create that nostalgia, create that demand and see how it goes."

A man stands in the lobby of the CBC building with a smile on his face.
Tom Cooper, a business professor at Memorial University in St. John's, says Zellers has the potential to disrupt the local market if it can find a niche. (Jonny Hodder/CBC)

"I'm not sure how you replicate the smell of french fries and hot turkey sandwiches as you walk by their cafés … but you can kind of appeal and say, 'Look, there is opportunities."

The fact Newfoundland and Labrador doesn't have a Hudson's Bay location, Cooper said, could be a reason for the company to establish a physical Zellers store in the province.

Shoppers could also see the store in the form of a pop-up location, as has been seen in other provinces in recent months.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Sarah Antle and The St. John's Morning Show

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