Walter P. Zeller is the founder of this discount store chain. He founded Zellers in 1931, with the goal of offering “stores for thrifty Canadians.” Zeller started his store chain by buying 14 Schulte-United stores, an American-owned chain. These stores were located in the southeastern part of Ontario.
In a span of 25 years, Zeller’s had 60 stores and had about 3,000 employees. In 1952, Zeller’s bought a variety-store chain owned by Federal Stores. With this acquisition, Zeller’s was able to expand to Atlantic Canada. In 1956, Zeller’s opened its first self-service store inside Norgate Shopping Centre. In 1959, American company W.T. Grant was able to acquire 51% ownership of Zeller’s. A year after, new Zeller’s stores that were opened contained innovations, such as an in-store restaurant (the first of its kind in the country) and an auto centre. In 1975, Zeller’s changed its logo to what it is now currently using. By 1976, there were a total of 155 Zeller’s stores and the company was achieving yearly sales of $407M.
In 1981, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) acquired Zeller’s. In 1990, HBC bought 51 Towers/Bonimart stores and converted these to the Zeller’s format. Three years later, HBC purchased 21 Woodward’s stores and converted these into Zeller’s stores, as well. These additional stores established Zeller’s expansion into Western Canada. In 1998, HBC was able to acquire the Canadian Division of Kmart and combined it with Zeller’s to create a bigger chain under the Zeller’s banner. In 2006, HBC was taken over by a new owner, Jerry Zucker. In 2008, Hudson’s Bay Company, including Zeller’s, was acquired by new owner NRDC Equity Partners, a New York-based company.
Today, Zeller’s is considered as one of the biggest mass merchandise discount chains in the country. It currently has 273 stores throughout Canada. Recently, Target Corporation was able to acquire leaseholds of about 189 Zeller locations. This is one of Target’s preparations for its planned expansion to Canada by 2013 to 2014. Hudson’s Bay will continue to operate these stores however, until the early part of 2012. After that, the stores will be closed for renovations.
Headquarters: Brampton, Ontario
Ownership Type: A subsidiary of Hudson’s Bay Company
Employees: About 35,000
Demography: Discount retail products