Zellers Inc. is Canada's second-largest chain of mass merchandise department stores, with 282 locations in communities across Canada. Zellers is headquartered in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, Ontario, and is a subsidiary of Hudson's Bay Company ("Hbc").
In recent years, Zellers has been moving slowly away from the discount department store model, and has introduced better quality merchandise and different customer service concepts. New and remodelled Zellers stores are often compared to that of Target Corporation in the United States.
In 1993, HBC purchased the assets of the bankrupt Woodward's chain, including 21 store locations. These were converted into both Zellers and Bay stores, and greatly expanded the Company's presence in Western Canada.
In 1998, Hudson's Bay Company acquired Kmart's Canadian division, and merged it with the Zellers division to create a larger combined chain under the Zellers name. Many Kmart locations were closed, and some sites became full Zellers outlets. The Barrie, Ontario location was closed and re-opened as a Bay store. Zellers also took over Kmart's Canadian head office in Brampton, Ontario at this time.
On February 28, 2006, Zellers was taken private when South Carolina businessman Jerry Zucker finalized a takeover bid on the Hudson's Bay Company. Following his death, Zellers came under the ownership of a New York-based company, NRDC Equity Partners, the owner of the Lord & Taylor and Fortunoff brands.
Today, Zellers operates stores from St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, to Victoria, British Columbia, and employs over 35,000 people. The average store size is 94,000 square feet (8,700 m²). Zellers Select stores are designed for smaller markets with populations under 25,000, with stores averaging 45,000 square feet (4,200 m²). Almost every Zellers location features a pharmacy and an in-store restaurant, the 1950s themed Zellers Family Diner. Newer locations are typically larger than 100,000 square feet(9,290 m²), and also feature a hair salon, refrigerated groceries, major appliances, mattresses, and expanded electronics and cosmetics departments. Multi-level stores are gradually being equipped with a new, state-of-the-art shopping cart system known as the "Cartveyor", which is designed to transport carts between floors next to a standard escalator.
In the past several years, Zellers has made a notable push to drive sales through use of exclusive, private label merchandise. In a strategy similar to Target's, Zellers sells Big Star, Cherokee, Sportek, "Stuff by Duff", Homestyles, Nest by House & Home, Wabasso "Design Ideas", Alfred Sung Home, Truly, MarketSquare, Beaumark, Home Studio, and many other labels that can only be found in their stores in Canada. Private brands now represent over 30% of Zellers sales.
The Neighbourhood Market is Zellers' expanded section of grocery items that goes beyond just selling dry snacks and other food. Frozen and dairy aisles, including ice cream, and frozen pizza, have been added to create an easy one-stop shopping experience. This may seem unusual to many customers, and was practically unheard of in a mass merchandiser in Canada until recently. In these stores, the food assortment has been expanded by 50%. Whenever a new store is built, or an old one renovated, Zellers will make Neighbourhood Market part of it. In spite of all of this, Zellers says it doesn't expect to take things to the point where it has all of the same products as a full grocery.
HBC announced in late May 2005 that as part of their sales growth plan, "The Big Ticket strategy" will be expanded to 97 Zellers stores across the country, after being piloted at select locations in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. Nine stores will offer a small assortment of appliances, 83 will offer appliances and mattress sets, and five will offer a full assortment of appliances, mattress sets and furniture. HBC is also expanding brands previously only sold at the Bay to Zellers, such as Jockey International and London Fog.
Several new Zellers stores will be opened in 2008.
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