Zellers to Launch Food Trucks in Effort to Drive Traffic to Bay Stores

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The relaunch of the Zellers brand by the Hudson’s Bay Company this spring in Canada will drive foot traffic to Hudson’s Bay stores that desperately need it. The buzz on social media clearly indicates that there is interest in the Zellers brand which effectively disappeared about a decade ago. Many Canadians had requested the return of the nostalgic Zellers restaurant concept as part of the retailer’s relaunch and now it’s confirmed that a version of that will return in the form of food trucks. 

The Hudson’s Bay Company is taking advantage of the nostalgia factor of the Zellers brand which many in the country still remember, and many fondly. With that, HBC is launching a fleet of Zellers-branded food trucks that will become part of the retail mix in an effort to create buzz and attract consumers to Hudson’s Bay stores. It’s noted that given the size of the Zellers shop-in-stores at Hudson’s Bay, there simply wasn’t enough room in the 8,000-10,000 square foot stores to create full-sized restaurants as many remember in the Zellers locations of the past. The Zellers shops will begin to open within selected Hudson’s Bay stores this spring, featuring dedicated fixtures with eye-catching red signage. 

A cross-Canada tour is planned. “Set to appear over a series of days, the Zellers Diner on wheels will pull into various locations and serve shoppers with some fan favourites from the fondly remembered Zellers Family Restaurant,” the retailer said in a statement. 

[See also: Zellers Announces 25 Shop-in-Shop Hudson’s Bay Locations Including Details on Store Sizes]

Zellers Hot Chicken Sandwich (Via Flickr / My TVC 15)

With the announcement on Friday, Zellers social media hosted a poll asking Canadians what they’d like to see on the menu. A total of 10 menu items were presented, nine of which were part of the original store as well as the addition of a vegetarian option. For a week, Canadians can vote and the top five winners will become part of the food truck menu as part of the spring launch. 

Those food options include: 

  1. Big Z Burger
  2. Fries and Gravy
  3. Hot Chicken Sandwich
  4. Grilled Cheese Sandwich
  5. Onion Rings
  6. Quesadilla
  7. Poutine
  8. Hot Dog
  9. Chicken Fingers
  10. Veggie Burger

More than 500 comments on one post on Instagram alone shows interest in the Zellers foodservice business that will be developed as part of the re-introduction of the brand in Canada. 

The retailer’s Instagram account notes that the Zellers-branded food trucks will be launched as part of a ‘Throwback event’ which will be followed by the vehicles “hitting the open road” as part of a tour. This will indeed create buzz as well as crowds wherever these land — and if done at Hudson’s Bay stores, these will create new foot traffic that otherwise wasn’t present at these locations. 

Zellers Restaurant (Image: Dave Scott / Flickr)

The Zellers Instagram account notes that the popular ‘3D club sandwich’ will not be part of the relaunch, which caused some disappointment among those commenting on posts. 

It also appears from social media posts, including comments by the official Zellers account on social media, that teddy bear mascot ‘Zeddy’ will be returning as part of the relaunch of Zellers 2.0. The retailer’s Instagram account repeatedly told commenters that it is taking things ‘one Zeddy step at a time’. In 2012, Zeddy was ‘adopted’ by Camp Trillium and we’re awaiting further details on how Zeddy will be returning, and if Camp Trillium will be receiving funds in return for the bear. 

There’s a possibility that Zellers will launch “official merchandise” as part of its re-introduction according to an Instagram comment by Zellers, noting that it would neither confirm nor deny that this will be part of the merchandise mix as stores prepare to open. 

The 25 Zellers stores are already being built inside of Hudson’s Bay stores, with some appearing to be closer to completion than others. Retail Insider was recently in Vancouver and noticed construction for a new Zellers space on the basement level of the downtown Vancouver Hudson’s Bay flagship store. Others have posted photos on social media of the soon-to-open Zellers stores. 

The buzz around Zellers is a dream for Hudson’s Bay — most of its stores are otherwise quiet and lacking in updated aesthetics, interesting merchandise or customer service. Most of the 25 Zellers locations will be within Hudson’s Bay stores that might be considered ‘secondary’ locations, and these will at least initially see a boost in foot traffic given the excitement already seen online. 

More Zellers locations could open within Hudson’s Bay stores following the launch of the first 25. It hasn’t yet been announced where these will go. At the same time, Hudson’s Bay will be reducing its footprint slightly this year as we’ve confirmed the closure of at least two Hudson’s Bay stores in Canada, with more details to follow. 

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Publisher & CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Advisor at the University of Alberta School Centre for Cities and Communities in Edmonton, former lawyer and a public speaker. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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