Anyone who grew up in Canada before 2013 has probably been to Zellers at least once in their life. In my family anytime we needed new clothes or shoes, or when back-to-school season rolled around the local Zellers was our first stop. Then, of course, that fateful day came in 2013 when we all found out in Zellers was closing forever. However, not all the Zellers in Canada seemed to meet that same fate. In fact, just this past week I went to one of the Last Zellers in Canada but it wasn't the nostalgic shopping trip I had hoped for.
My trip to one of the last Zellers locations in the country was inspired by the recent news that these stores would soon be following in the way of their predecessors and closing their doors forever. It was announced in early August that these last two surviving locations, located in Etobicoke and Ottawa, will be closed as early as January 2020.
Wanting to relive the childhood joy of Zellers one last time before the official end of an era, I decided to visit their location in Ottawa. However, when I got there it was not at all what I had expected. In fact, at this particular Zellers location, the end of the era has already come and gone.
By that, I don't mean that the store was already closed. In fact, it was open and seemed pretty busy. What I mean is that this wasn't the Zellers we all knew and loved. In fact, without the big Zellers sign outside the building, I wouldn't know that this was a Zellers at all.
First of all, there was no iconic Zellers restaurant that was located in most of the stores. There was also no sign of that random, red Ferris wheel-esque kid's ride. To make matters worse there weren't even aisles for toys, food, school supplies, or beauty and pharmacy. All it had was seemingly endless racks of clothes and shoes with "Store Closing" sale signs everywhere.
As someone who appreciates a good shoe sale, I wasn't completely deterred by the lack of Zellers vibes here. However, when I got to the shoe racks I noticed immediately that we weren't in Kansas anymore, so to speak.
Rather than the generic brand Zellers products I grew up wearing, this location was selling designer brands like Steve Madden, Karl Lagerfield, Sperry, and more. They had some pretty hefty prices too with many over $100.
It didn't take long to realize that this Zellers, which is owned by HBC is basically just a Bay clearance store. Based on what I saw, merchandise that they can't sell before the end of the season at the Bay is sent here and sold at a slightly discounted rate. This was later confirmed when my receipt listed the store name as "Zeller Clearance."
In fact, this new structure was also outlined when the store officially re-opened in 2014. At the time CTV reported that the re-imagined Zellers location was a lot more like a Winners, which I think is accurate.
Not that there is anything wrong with Winners but when you go there expecting to relive the childhood joys of going to Zellers, it's fair to say I left a little disappointed.
So if you were planning to make the trip and visit the Last Zellers in Canada one last time, be prepared because it's nothing like the Zellers I'd remembered.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.