Zellers returns to Portage Avenue

New concept store moves into basement of The Bay downtown

The Bay Downtown’s basement is being renovated before the new concept Zellers store moves in this November. David Seburn

Months after cutting several hundred management jobs, Zellers is reasserting itself in Canada, starting with a new store in the basement of Winnipeg’s historic downtown Hudson’s Bay Co. building.

The new downtown Zellers store, slated to open in November, is the first concept store of its kind in Canada. It will feature a fresh and frozen grocery, wider aisles, expanded clothing and toy departments and environmentally-friendly upgrades like LED lights.

According to media reports, the city was chosen as the first test market for this new layout because Winnipeg consumers are considered to be thrifty and economical. 

“It’s one more brick in the wall of making downtown an exciting place to live, work and shop,” said St. James Coun. Grant Nordman. “I’m happy to see another version of a retailer which was actually on Portage Avenue for years until it closed down in the 1960s.” 

Zellers was originally located at 275 Portage Ave., where the University of Winnipeg’s continuing education office currently resides.

Manitoba has eight Zellers locations and three Bay stores. With 279 stores across Canada, Zellers currently has three times as many locations as The Bay nationally. The number of Zellers stores in Canada has declined since 2003, when there were roughly 320 stores. 

If The Bay were downsizing, Nordman noted, why not put one of the other HBC brands, like Home Outfitters or Zellers, in The Bay building? 

Zellers representatives were unavailable for comment on whether this is a sign of The Bay’s demise.

Some West End residents agree that a new Zellers location would attract them back downtown. 

“I rarely shop at The Bay Downtown,” said Gloria Kowbel, a West End resident. “It is often too expensive for me. Now that Zellers is going into the basement of The Bay, I would consider coming downtown more often to shop.”

The $20 million investment by Zellers in seven stores across Winnipeg, including the downtown location, comes at the same time as an announcement of a three-year $300,000 donation to the Spence Neighbourhood Association’s Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre (MERC) in partnership with Sponsor Winnipeg, the city’s naming rights initiative.

This first-ever donation through the newly-created Zellers Community Project (ZCP) will help the MERC create 1,700 new programming hours, offer field trips for children who use the recreation centre, and provide transportation to essential appointments for Winnipeg families.

“This donation could make a huge impact,” said Jamil Mahmood, youth co-ordinator for the Spence Neighbourhood Association. “Right now we see 100 kids a day at the centre. This donation could help us meet our goal of providing as many programming hours as possible.”

Apart from the $300,000 donation though the ZCP, Zellers hopes to raise an additional $100,000 for the ZCP in specific product sales across the Winnipeg stores. 

“The fact that Zellers is moving downtown is not related directly to funding provided to the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre,” Nordman said.

Five other renovated Zellers stores were reopened on Aug. 20, including Polo Park, Northgate, Kildonan Place, Southdale Mall and Grant Park.

Published in Volume 65, Number 1 of The Uniter (September 2, 2010)

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