source: Toronto Star, November 7, 1931
On November 7, 1931 Schulte-United Limited announced it would be re-opening as Zellers Limited headed by Walter P. Zeller (a native of Kitchener, Ontario) on November 12, 1931. Zeller was a Canadian businessman offering customers quality merchandise for everyday needs as well as fashionably styled merchandise. He pledged to the buying and selling of Canadian-made goods. Walter Zeller died in 1957 and by 1959 the major intrest was held by American discounter W. T. Grant. By 1978 full ownership of Zellers was in the hands of the Hudson Bay Company (HBC).
HBC announced on January 13, 2011 that the US based discount department store chain Target Corporation has agreed to purchase the leases of up to 220 Zellers stores for a rumoured $1.82 billion. As many as 150 Target stores will open in 2013 or 2014 in locations currently occupied by Zellers. Target Corporation is not purchasing the Zellers chain outright, they have only purchased the leases. The remaining sold locations will be transferred to other retailers. Fifty to sixty locations will continue to operate as Zellers stores owned by HBC. So Zellers is not going to disappear entirely but the locations will be greatly reduced likely to larger urban centres.
From this Canadian's Perspective Zellers was never quite as good as the old K-mart or Woolco stores but it was still a good place to shop for a decent value. As a young mother we lived within walking distance of a Zellers so I would pack the kids into the buggy to do any necessary shopping for an occasional afternoon outing. There was a nice little booth style restaurant (the Skillet) at Zellers that sometimes I would meet up with a girlfriend along with her kids we'd enjoy a milkshake and fries. Our kids loved going to Zellers because they knew if they were good they would get a treat in the restaurant. Zellers came out with a rewards program called Z-club where they gave collectible points for your purchases. My very first reward cash-in was a Bissell steam cleaner that unfortunately we had to toss last year. My second cash-in was a huge Igloo cooler that is still in remarkably good condition for its age. Zellers had a lay-away plan that was perfect for young families planning for holiday gift giving. It was the first store in our area to install closed circuit video to guard against shop lifting. Zellers employed several from the community so when they announced they were closing the doors in our small community it was a huge deal. The store sat empty for awhile then was torn down to make way for a new Wal-Mart complete with a McDonald's instead of a cosy, booth restaurant. And so life went on. I miss the old Zellers as do many. The new Wal-Mart is too new, too bright, too clean and just too everything! I am saddened to once again see a Canadian icon taken over by an American company.
The writing has been on the wall for the demise of Zellers for quite sometime. They could no longer live up to the pledge of buying and selling Canadian-made goods when consumers were demanding cheaper imports. The stores had a reputation for being a bit on the dingy side especially compared to their newer counterparts of the Real Canadian Superstore and Wal-Mart. Zellers though was part of Canadiana, something to be held onto. In this day and age, business icons can only survive if they are profitable and Zellers was not.