“Maybe that national pride will drive them, but I wouldn’t bet my business on it,” says the marketing professor

There’s something uniquely Canadian about a Zellers that shows up in The Bay.

But will national pride and nostalgia be enough to attract customers and make them sustainable? Rob McLean, a marketing professor at the University of Guelph, isn’t so sure.

“It’s interesting,” McLean said of the brand’s resurgence.

“Maybe that national pride drives them, but I wouldn’t bet my business on it. I wasn’t expecting much nostalgia, but there was a lot of it. University students also have memories of their shops. In the context of The Bay and Zellers, they are the two most Canadian retailers and that is what draws people’s hearts.”

It wasn’t all that long ago that Zellers was a go-to place for affordable shopping.

It wasn’t all that long ago, either, that the store closed its doors for what it held for good. The Hudson’s Bay Company closed nearly all Zellers stores by 2013.

Known for items “from lifestyle to home and just about everything in between” and providing “the best deals possible,” it’s a business plan the company will try again to execute, and it may well given the current economic situation many are facing are, be successful, says McLean.

“The current economic climate could help them,” he said.

“I think the only thing about Zellers is that it has to do with family products. Moments in people’s lives were wrapped around the brand. People went there after the wedding to get their first set of dishes or towels.”

One of the problems with low-priced items is that they don’t typically bring in much profit, meaning a store must move its inventory quickly to be successful, McLean says.

The other issue, and possibly more problematic for the brand, is that people’s shopping habits have changed over the past decade while Zellers has been out of business.

“When Zellers left, Dollarama wasn’t really a thing,” McLean said.

“Walmart also took over. People’s habits when it comes to buying low-priced items have moved elsewhere. The other part of this is e-commerce. If people are shopping online at lower prices, they’re probably already doing so through a place like Amazon.”

Despite some issues that could hamper the relaunch’s success, McLean says it should at least increase foot traffic through The Bay

He also believes the markets chosen for the Zellers were strategic.

“I think there will be a lot of research going on at this site because Cambridge will be almost like a test market,” McLean said.

“For your part, there will be a strategic focus on working-class families who can feel comfortable with the products they buy. Short-term success is good for The Bay and increases efficiency in their business. If it works as a sub-department it could be a big hit for both of them, it’s like building two stores at the same time.”

Regardless of the success rate, McLean is interested in seeing how the two market their products and try to unite Canadians.

“I think the timing is also strategic,” he said.

“I’m excited to see what they’re going to do around Canada Day. I have a feeling they will launch a Canadian themed ad campaign that will tie the two together as Canada’s Superstore. There could be a big promotional push in May and June to solidify this.”


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