Zellers Returns — Kind of — but the Lowest Price Isn’t Quite the Law

Shoppers at a Hudson’s Bay store in Burlington, Ont., might be surprised to see the typical black typeface of their familiar department store give way to bright red signage — equally familiar to most Canadians. The name and logo of Zellers hang from the rafters on the upper floor of the Burlington Centre Bay store, hidden in a corner near the toy section just past a broken escalator.

It’s not a standalone, full Zellers in the style of decades past. It’s a pop-up store inside an existing store rather than a full outlet of the discount department store. The Zellers pop-up had only a few items for sale when visited by CBC Radio’s The Cost of Living in late September.

There were fewer than 20 clothing items for adults, mostly labelled “Canada” with red and white styles. There was a small selection of wine glasses, pillows and bedsheets, and several toys up for grabs. It was a far cry from the broad selection in a full discount department store such as Walmart or Giant Tiger.

Customers used to the famous “law of low prices” that Zellers commercials referenced in jingle form may have been surprised at the pricing. The items at the pop-up discount brand were priced identically to nearby HBC stores. But while the lowest price was the law at Zellers in days gone by, the Hudson’s Bay Company said the point of this pop-up store is customers’ emotional response. The new Zellers is “meant to delight our customers with a fun and nostalgic experience with one of HBC’s most beloved brands,” said Hudson’s Bay Company representative Tiffany Bourré in an emailed statement.

Trademark oddities some months before

The Zellers pop-up launched several months after the Hudson’s Bay Company trademark on the Zellers logo and design was “expunged” or removed from the federal government’s Canadian Trademarks Database. Trademark expert and lawyer Julie MacDonell said this means the record no longer exists in the Registrar of Trademarks.

Government records show the trademark office sent a renewal notice to HBC or its representatives for the trademark in December 2019. Months later, on Sept. 24, 2020, the trademark was “expunged” because of a “failure to renew.”

What happened next is unclear. Government records show a new application to register the Zellers name and logo design was filed in April 2021 by a “Zellers Inc.” based in La Trinité-Des-Monts, Que. In an emailed statement to CBC Radio, HBC confirmed it has nothing to do with the Quebec company, and said it remains the owner of all registered and unregistered rights to the Zellers mark. Hudson’s Bay Company filed a new trademark application for Zellers on June 30, 2021. 

Nostalgia — and a potential marketing test

As for the store experience itself, the nostalgia HBC is looking for was felt by longtime Burlington resident N’gaire Lynn — at first. She couldn’t hide the excitement when telling CBC Radio’s The Cost of Living she phoned nearly half a dozen of her friends about the return of her favourite department store. Lynn was less excited once she got to the Zellers. “This is not Zellers. This is a second-hand part of The Bay. Sorry. Won’t wash with me,” she said while browsing through some mini food processors priced at $69.99 and plaid shirts priced at more than $50.

According to retail experts, HBC could be testing out whether Zellers still has legs as a brand. Janice Rudkowski, an assistant professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Retail Management in Toronto, has researched pop-up retail and theorized HBC could be using the retail experience at the Burlington Centre mall to research what comes next.

“Perhaps it will give them some insights into how much investment they want to put into the Zellers brand in the future,” said Rudkowski, who added the company can gather information and data while the pop-up is running. The company has said future Zellers shops may be introduced at other locations. Rudkowski also pointed out that Zellers still resonates with Canadians as a brand, so leveraging nostalgia could be on point.

Customers walking through the Zellers section of the Bay in Burlington definitely described feeling nostalgic as they saw the familiar logo on the walls. However, shoppers said they’d be unlikely to come back just because of those Zellers signs.

Source: CBC
Source: CTV News

Hudson’s Bay Sues Quebec Retailer Alleging Trademark Infringement of Zellers Brand

Members of a Quebec family behind the recent trademark applications for companies bearing the name Zellers are the focus of a lawsuit by Hudson’s Bay Co. ULC, which owns the defunct retail brand. In a statement of claim filed in Federal Court, the company accuses members of the Moniz family of trademark infringement, depreciation of goodwill and so-called passing off — the deceptive marketing or misrepresentation of goods. The Moniz family is behind various recent trademark applications and corporate registries, including Zellers Inc., Zellers Convenience Store Inc. and Zellers Restaurant Inc.

“The personal defendants’ intention was to either confuse Canadians or recover a payment from HBC,” the statement of claim filed Oct. 5 said. The Zellers brand is being used to intentionally “mislead Canadian consumers” and “trade on the valuable goodwill owned by HBC,” the retailer said in court documents. The defendants could not be reached for comment and a response to the claim has not yet been filed in court.

HBC claims the defendants acted in bad faith and are “not authorized to use Zellers trade names or trademarks. The corporate defendants’ good opportunistic and flagrant adopting and use of Zellers-formative trade names and trademarks is deliberate and outrageous,” the statement of claim said.

Meanwhile, the sole director listed for Zellers Canada Inc. — Maria Almerinda Moniz Sousa — is also listed as the sole director for Kmart Canada Ltd. The two corporate names were registered within about a month of each other in May and June 2020.

The statement of claim said Zellers Inc. has a location in the city of Sorel-Tracy, about 80 kilometres from Montreal, and that members of the public are being told that a Zellers/Kmart store will open in the future. The claim added that a second location in Sorel-Tracy has signs indicating that the building is under the management of Zellers Canada Inc. HBC alleges that the defendants have refused to comply with the company’s demands to cease and desist.

The Zellers department store was founded in 1931. It was acquired by HBC in 1978 and operated as the discount division of its flagship Hudson’s Bay department stores. The retailer closed the last of its stand-alone brick-and-mortar Zellers stores in 2020, but continued to have plans for the brand and did not abandon the Zellers trademarks and logos, according to court documents. The company launched a pop-up Zellers shop inside a Hudson’s Bay store in Burlington, Ontario, and according to HBC spokeswoman Tiffany Bourre the company is planning a second pop-up Zellers shop at its department store in Anjou, Quebec.

Bourre added that the company filed the claim to protect its Zellers brand and avoid consumer confusion. “The allegations in the claim relate to planned unauthorized third-party Zellers stores, among other unauthorized uses of the Zellers brand,” she said in an email. “HBC intends to pursue this claim vigorously.”

Source: Globe and Mail
Source: The Star