Inside Zellers 2.0 and its Newly Secured In-House Brand ‘Anko’ [Photos/Analysis]


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The Zellers brand officially launches Thursday, and Retail Insider had the opportunity to visit and shop one of the stores earlier this week. The new Zellers shop-in-stores at Hudson’s Bay reference the interior design of the original chain while showcasing a range of brands that includes the exclusive distribution rights to Anko, a commercially successful line developed by Kmart Australia which is now expanding globally with Canada being its first international market.

The Zellers chain as we knew it shut in March of 2013 after US-based Target acquired many of the leases. Zellers stores at the time lacked investment and the product assortment for many was considered to be less than desirable — that included in-house brand ‘Truly’ which launched in 1999. The new Zellers concept stores, which generally span between 8,000 and 10,000 square feet within Hudson’s Bay stores, is quite different particularly given the design of its core exclusive brand Anko which offers reasonable prices for well-designed, modern and attractive goods across a range of categories. 

That includes a selection of clothing for men and women as well as clothing and toys for kids and babies, pet items, an extensive assortment of home goods, wellness, and Zellers-branded merchandise such as hoodies and t-shirts with variations of the Zellers logo. 

Zellers inside of Hudson’s Bay at Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto, March 21, 2023. Photo: Craig Patterson
Zellers inside of Hudson’s Bay at Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto, March 21, 2023. Photo: Craig Patterson

The new Zellers stores are bright and fresh, also housing a range of other brands such as Disney, Mattel, Polly Pocket, Mega Bloks, Crayola, Hoover, and others. The core Anko brand was designed to be simple and modern, with a product assortment that will likely be more attractive particularly to a younger urban consumer than what was in Zellers stores of the past. 

If Canadians are receptive to the newly introduced Anko brand in particular, the Zellers 2.0 relaunch could be a success. Zellers representatives told Retail Insider that more Hudson’s Bay stores could see Zellers shop-in-stores if the concept is initially successful. On Thursday, 12 of the 25 announced Zellers locations inside of Hudson’s Bay will open in Ontario and Alberta, and several food trucks will be in parking lots of Bay stores to help augment the buzz. 

Zellers will need to continue with its marketing efforts to get Canadians into its stores after the initial launch. The Zellers spaces could help prop up the overall sales per square foot in Hudson’s Bay stores if consumers come back repeatedly to shop. Zellers is being positioned as a destination within Bay stores — for example at Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto and at Erin Mills Town Centre in Mississauga, the Zellers shop-in-stores are located in second-floor spaces that might not otherwise be frequented by visitors. 

The Anko line in particular, if it takes off, could take market share from other retailers selling the same categories of goods. That includes home goods and kitchen items in particular — Anko’s designs are simple, modern and affordable, which means retailers such as Kitchen Stuff Plus in Ontario and even TJX brands and IKEA should take note. That also goes for retailers selling other categories such as pet goods and even Saje Natural Wellness — 100% essential oils at Zellers (by Anko) are priced at just five dollars.

Zellers inside of Hudson’s Bay at Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto, March 21, 2023. Photo: Craig Patterson
Zellers inside of Hudson’s Bay at Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto, March 21, 2023. Photo: Craig Patterson

Nostalgia may bring consumers into the new Zellers stores, and the success of the Anko line as well as other offerings will determine if consumers return. Given that there are plans to expand the assortment within Zellers, including Anko, new products could warrant repeat visits from shoppers when new things are added. Zellers could also bring younger shoppers into Hudson’s Bay stores, in theory, given the modern design of Anko products and the price point — so marketing to a younger demographic will be key. And at the same time, older shoppers familiar with Zellers, including those with higher incomes or why may have had an upscale past, may see a stigma with the Zellers name. Discovering the Anko line and its offerings could change that, however, if they look into the new Zellers further. 

Anko launched in 2018 by Kmart Australia as its in-house private-label brand. Some may already be familiar with the Anko brand which had also a handful of stores in Washington State from 2018 to 2020. That included an 18,000 square foot flagship store in the Seattle suburb of Lynwood. All stores shut after the pandemic disrupted operations.  

An Anko store manager told Seattle Magazine in 2018 that Anko wanted to “make shopping easy and affordable by providing products that are simply designed and easy to style.” To control costs, products are designed in-house and manufactured without a middleman, according to the article. 

Zellers inside of Hudson’s Bay at Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto, March 21, 2022. Photo: Craig Patterson
Zellers inside of Hudson’s Bay at Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto, March 21, 2023. Photo: Craig Patterson

Anko’s brand name references Kmart itself. Prior to 2018, Kmart Australia had a range of items under several @Co brands — that included names such as ‘Clothing&Co’, ‘Home&Co’, ‘Kids&Co’ and ‘Active&Co’, for example. To simplify things, Kmart Australia modified the ‘&Co’ to Anko about five years ago by replacing the letter ‘c’ with ‘k’ (for Kmart). Until last week, Kmart Australia’s website explained what the brand was about but now that website page has vanished. 

As part of a global expansion for the Anko brand, Kmart Australia chose Canada as its first market for wholesale distribution. Kmart Group managing director Ian Bailey told the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this month that wholesale partnerships were the best way for the retailer to get Anko products out in the global market, rather than it setting up bricks-and-mortar stores as it had done in the US before the pandemic. 

“Our product has got to a level where we think it’s now globally competitive,” Bailey told the Sydney Morning Herald, going on to say that Kmart was also talking to retailers in Europe, Africa, Asia and the US about selling Anko products in their stores.

“The quality, the style, and the price we think is globally competitive. If you look at our toys, you would say that’s the same,” Bailey said in an interview with the publication.

Zellers inside of Hudson’s Bay at Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto, March 21, 2023. Photo: Craig Patterson
Zellers inside of Hudson’s Bay at Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto, March 21, 2023. Photo: Craig Patterson
Zellers inside of Hudson’s Bay at Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto, March 21, 2023. Photo: Craig Patterson

Social media helped propel the Anko brand in Australia, with enthusiastic shoppers routinely sharing their favourite pics on social media channels such as Instagram and TikTok. The same is likely to start happening in Canada this week as Canadians discover the brand. 

Retail Insider had the opportunity to speak to decision makers involved with the Zellers rollout this week, and they said that more locations are expected within Hudson’s Bay stores. No further locations were specifically confirmed. The Bay president Sophia Hwang-Judiesch told the Globe & Mail earlier this month that standalone Zellers stores could eventually be part of the plan. 

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.


  1. Nothing here screams Zellers to me. In fact this is what a store would look like if Winners and Dollarama had a baby.

    It will bring people in the short term but this isn’t a destination and HBC doesn’t have the money to build stand alone stores. Maybe in six months they will bring back KMart.

  2. It’s sad to see how they just put a Zellers pop-up inside a corner of a Bay store and “hope for the best” They don’t even focus on esthetics once again. Looking at the lighting fixtures you will see some fluorecent lighting covers missing, stained ceiling tiles, lights that are burnt out, stained carpet, shelves with little merchandise… once they sell out of some items, there is going to be a lot of bare spaces in these areas which will look uninviting and unappealing to customers. Hope they have people ready to keep replenishing stock. I will definitely support the launch. I just think it was made with llttle effort. Again, not thinking what the customer needs and wants… just, what HBC thinks is fine. People ask to bring back the restaurants… a food truck is not the same experience either.
    I am so glad media is sending positive hype and vibes and anticipation for a successful launch. I just wish HBC did more and put a lot of effort in a total redo of a section of the department store, or lease an area in a regional shopping centre or Power Centre with the 8,000-10,000 plus sq ft they need for a Zellers Store.

  3. No consistency among the different Bay stores in the Greater Toronto Area and around the country, in fact no consistency in fixtures and product presentation of the different levels in the the same store, with the main entrance often blocked by cosmetic counters. Replacing the full level of some of the Bay stores with a Zellers store would have been more effective. A 10,000 SF corner within a Bay store is not going to make it; it will be another concession struggling to perform within the struggling performance and poor traffic of a Bay store.

  4. How about HBC just convert all the Hudson Bay stores to Zellers, with a little HBC pop-up in the corner? I would definitely shop there! We need a non-Walmart option in Canada.

  5. It looks nothing like the old Zellers. And unfortunately that’s what I really want. It actually reminds me of Target and we all know how that ended. But hey, I do wish them success!

    • Check out the products in the new Zellers when you get a chance — for me the Anko line is much better than the Zellers of a decade ago. It’s not the same store but the design is inspired by the original.

  6. We need more Canadian Department store options. Housewares, toys, affordable everyday clothing, basics, a few packaged food goods and seasonal stuff would be nice. The website will continue to populate. Looking forward to seeing where it goes. HBC should make a conscious effort to care about the presentation of these stores. Now is the time to make a lasting impression.

  7. I was in store management for 27 years with Zellers. Zellers motto was “ the lowest price is the law”. If the new Zellers doesn’t challenge Walmart on price – you are wasting your time.


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