Shoppers at a Hudson’s Bay store in Burlington, Ont., might be surprised to see the typical black typeface of their familiar department store give way to bright red signage — equally familiar to most Canadians who shopped for anything from housewares to hardware from the 1970s onward.
The name and logo of Zellers hang from the rafters on the upper floor of the Burlington Centre Bay store, hidden in a corner near the toy section just past a broken escalator.
It’s not a standalone, full Zellers in the style of decades past. It’s a pop-up store inside an existing store rather than a full outlet of the discount department store that had hundreds of locations across Canada until the early 2000s.
The Zellers pop-up had only a few items for sale when visited by CBC Radio’s The Cost of Living in late September.
There were fewer than 20 clothing items for adults, mostly labelled “Canada” with red and white styles. There was a small selection of wine glasses, pillows and bedsheets, and several toys up for grabs.
It was a far cry from the broad selection in a full discount department store such as Walmart or Giant Tiger.
Customers used to the famous “law of low prices” that Zellers commercials referenced in jingle form may have been surprised at the pricing. The items at the pop-up discount brand were priced identically to nearby HBC stores, such as the Sherway Gardens Hudson’s Bay in suburban Toronto.
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But while the lowest price was the law at Zellers in days gone by, the Hudson’s Bay Company said the point of this pop-up store is customers’ emotional response.
The new Zellers is “meant to delight our customers with a fun and nostalgic experience with one of HBC’s most beloved brands,” said Hudson’s Bay Company representative Tiffany Bourré in an emailed statement.
Trademark oddities some months before
The Zellers pop-up launched several months after the Hudson’s Bay Company trademark on the Zellers logo and design was “expunged” or removed from the federal government’s Canadian Trademarks Database.
Trademark expert and lawyer Julie MacDonell said this means the record no longer exists in the Registrar of Trademarks.
“Therefore you are not, from a registration standpoint, a recognized owner of that brand element, that name, logo, tagline,” said MacDonell.
Government records show the trademark office sent a renewal notice to HBC or its representatives for the trademark in December 2019. Months later, on Sept. 24, 2020, the trademark was “expunged” because of a “failure to renew.”
What happened next is unclear. Government records show a new application to register the Zellers name and logo design was filed in April 2021 by a “Zellers Inc.” based in La Trinité-Des-Monts, Que.
The new application to own the Zellers trademark does not appear to be affiliated with the Hudson’s Bay Company, despite the use of the name Zellers Inc.
In an emailed statement to CBC Radio, HBC confirmed it has nothing to do with the Quebec company, and said it remains the owner of all registered and unregistered rights to the Zellers mark.
Hudson’s Bay Company filed a new trademark application for Zellers on June 30, 2021.
“HBC is investigating the unauthorized use, or attempted use, of any Zellers trademarks and is prepared to take decisive action as necessary to avoid consumer confusion regarding our Zellers brand,” wrote HBC’s Bourré.
The Cost of Living was unable to contact the new applicant for the Zellers trademark at the address in question. Phone numbers associated with the address rang as out of service.
Another application for the rights to the name “Kmart” is also pending for a Kmart Canada Limited, based at the same address. Kmart Canada was purchased by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the late 1990s, with most stores converted to The Bay or Zellers at the time.
Trademark lawyer MacDonell theorized a new company could be trying to grab what it perceived as an abandoned logo or brand — but she cautioned this is unlikely to be a winning strategy.
“This is a brand that had substantial reputation, substantial profit associated with it and it just doesn’t work that you can go and grab that up and start a new business with it,” said MacDonell.
Both the new HBC application, and the unaffiliated “Zellers Inc.” application for trademark registration are in progress and have not been assigned to government examiners yet.
As for the store experience itself, the nostalgia HBC is looking for was felt by longtime Burlington resident N’gaire Lynn — at first.
She couldn’t hide the excitement in her Scottish brogue when telling CBC Radio’s The Cost of Living she phoned nearly half a dozen of her friends about the return of her favourite department store.
This is not Zellers. This is a second-hand part of The Bay. Sorry. Won’t wash with me.– N’gaire Lynn
“Guys, Zellers is back!” she said. “They said to me, I guess you’re going in the morning. Oh, I’m gonnae go.”
Lynn was less excited once she got to the Zellers.
LISTEN | Hear from shoppers at the Zellers pop-up store:
Cost of Living4:27Is the lowest price the law again? Zellers returns as a pop-up store
“This is not Zellers. This is a second-hand part of The Bay. Sorry. Won’t wash with me,” she said while browsing through some mini food processors priced at $69.99 and plaid shirts priced at more than $50.
Nostalgia — and a potential marketing test
According to retail experts, HBC could be testing out whether Zellers still has legs as a brand.
Janice Rudkowski, an assistant professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Retail Management in Toronto, has researched pop-up retail and theorized HBC could be using the retail experience at the Burlington Centre mall to research what comes next.
“Perhaps it will give them some insights into how much investment they want to put into the Zellers brand in the future,” said Rudkowski, who added the company can gather information and data while the pop-up is running. The company has said future Zellers shops may be introduced at other locations.
Rudkowski also pointed out that Zellers still resonates with Canadians as a brand, so leveraging nostalgia could be on point, if not Club Z points.
“I’m sure a lot of people think back to their own childhoods and remember Zellers as being a really important part of that childhood so it taps into nostalgia, and that’s quite powerful,” said Rudkowski.
‘A lot of memories come back’
Customers walking through the Zellers section of the Bay in Burlington definitely described feeling nostalgic as they saw the familiar logo on the walls.
“You just kind of see the name and it pops and a lot of memories come back,” said Jennifer Morris, who was shopping along with Katie Bennink late on a Tuesday morning.
Both shoppers said they’d be unlikely to come back just because of those Zellers signs.
“It looks like the Bay with some Zellers signs in it,” said Bennink.
Listen to The Cost of Living on CBC Radio One, Sundays at 12 p.m. (12:30 NT) or download the podcast every Friday night.
Canada competition watchdog may have to rely more on litigation – top official
Competition Bureau Canada watchdog may have to rely more on litigation after its proposed veto of a takeover was overturned, and this could make life harder for companies seeking to merge, the agency head said on Wednesday.
Matthew Boswell, commissioner of competition, noted his bureau had tried this year to block western Canadian oil and gas waste firm Secure Energy Services Inc from buying rival Tervita Corp.
Secure then turned to the independent Competition Tribunal, which denied the bureau’s injunction and underscored “the high bar that needs to be met to prevent mergers … that we allege are anti-competitive,” he said.
The tribunal, he said, had acted so quickly that the bureau had not had time to present all its evidence, raising valid questions about the state of competition laws in Canada.
“This decision has significant implications for how we conduct future merger reviews, particularly in cases where there are competition concerns,” Boswell said in a speech to the Canadian Bar Association.
“This may mean that we must pursue a litigation-focused approach that is costly and less predictable for merging parties,” he added.
Secure relied on the so-called efficiencies defense, which is unique to Canada. Boswell said this procedure allowed the tribunal to allow an anti-competitive merger to proceed if the transaction was deemed to produce efficiency gains that were greater than its anti-competitive effects.
“The efficiencies defense raises significant practical
challenges for the Bureau to estimate and measure anti-competitive harm,” he said. “(We should) ask ourselves whether our competition laws are really working in the best interest of all Canadians.”
The bureau is an independent law enforcement agency set up to ensure fair competition. It investigates price fixing, bid-rigging and mergers, among other matters.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Canadian home price growth slows to near standstill in September
Canadian home prices barely rose in September from August as a recent slowdown in housing sales weighed, data showed on Wednesday.
The Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index, which tracks repeat sales of single-family homes in 11 major Canadian markets, rose 0.1% in September from August, marking the fourth consecutive month in which the monthly price increase was lower than the previous month.
“The slowdown in price growth can be linked to the slowdown in housing sales reported in recent months by the Canadian Real Estate Association,” Daren King, an economist at National Bank of Canada, said in a statement.
Eight of the 11 major markets rose, led by a 1% gain for Winnipeg, while prices were stable in Montreal and fell in Vancouver as well as in Ottawa-Gatineau. It was the first time in seven months that gains were not seen in all 11 regions.
On an annual basis, the index was up 17.3%, decelerating after it notched record annual growth in August. It was paced by a 31.7% gain in Halifax and a 28.0% gain in Hamilton.
(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
Oil rallies as U.S. crude stocks decline in tight market
Oil prices rallied on Wednesday after U.S. Crude Inventories at the nation’s largest storage site hit their lowest level in three years and nationwide fuel stocks fell sharply, a signal of rising demand.
Brent crude futures settled at $85.82 a barrel, a gain of 0.9% or 74 cents and the highest since October 2018.
November U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude, which expires on Wednesday, settled at $83.87, up 91 cents, or 1.1%. The more active WTI contract for December settled up 98 cents to $83.42 a barrel.
Crude prices have risen as supply has tightened, with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries maintaining a slow increase in supply rather than intervening to add more barrels to the market, and as U.S. demand has ramped up.
Globally, refiners have been boosting output thanks to high margins, one that can only be restrained by maintenance. U.S. refining capacity use dropped in the most recent week, but analysts noted that supply may continue to tighten if U.S. refiners also pick up processing again.
“Stronger demand and concerns about a drop in inventories when refiners were already running a low rate during maintenance season is making people concerned about what will happen when refiners have to ramp up production to meet what is very strong demand for gasoline and distillate,” said Phil Flynn, senior energy analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.
U.S. crude stocks fell by 431,000 barrels in the most recent week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said, against expectations for an increase, and gasoline stocks plunged by more than 5 million barrels as refiners cut processing due to maintenance. [EIA/S]
U.S. stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery hub hit their lowest level since October 2018. Gasoline stocks are now at their lowest since November 2019, the EIA said, while distillate stocks fell to levels not seen since early 2020.
Oil prices have also been swept up in surging natural gas and coal prices worldwide in anticipation that power generators may switch to oil to provide electricity.
Saudi Arabia’s minister of energy said users switching from gas to oil could account for demand of 500,000-600,000 barrels per day, depending on winter weather and prices of other sources of energy.
(Additional reporting by Sonali Paul in Melbourne and Koustav Samanta in Singapore; Editing by Andrea Ricci, Kirsten Donovan and David Gregorio)
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