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OPINION: Could Zellers return bring back customer service, too?

With Zellers making a comeback, Wendy takes a trip down Memory Lane looking at other defunct stores, and a time when choice and customer service were in vogue
A Zellers store.

Do you remember Zeddy the Teddy? That was the mascot for the old Zellers stores.

There’s been some excitement recently about a comeback of the long-defunct store chain.

More than two dozen The Bay locations across Canada will soon become Zellers, both online and in actual brick-and-mortar stores. Ontario is expected to get nine of them and the closest to York Region would be in Scarborough or Mississauga.

According to the Globe and Mail, the chain was founded in London, Ont., by Walter Zeller. It was described as a store with something for everything where “the lowest price was the law”.

If memory serves, there was a good little restaurant inside called The Skillet with red vinyl seats. It was hard to beat their hotdog in a basket.

Zellers went the way of the dodo bird when Target made its entry into Canada. That attempt was worse than the changing the recipe of the original Coke. What a fiasco!

As an avid shopper, I remember being so excited about Target's arrival. Naïve as I was, I thought it was going to offer the same variety of merchandise and the same pricing as the ones in the United States. Boy, was I wrong. It never really got off the ground here. They had a sad amount of merchandise and the prices were anything but discount.

Anyway, I was somewhat excited by the reports of Zellers' return — not because it was such great quality, but because they are bringing back an actual store.

I am still a fan of the in-person shopping experience. I want to go into a building, stroll up and down the aisles with a shopping cart and touch stuff.

Online shopping has its benefits, but it doesn’t give me the same thrill as some good, old-fashioned retail therapy.

Maybe if this rollout works, we will get more stores of this brand and others.

It got me thinking about other stores from the past that we used to have. You might remember them, too, or had similar versions in your town. There were the big chains like Kmart, Woolco, Eatons, Simpsons, and Sears.

I didn’t fully appreciate it then, but what great choices and variety we had. The retail scene is so different now with so little choice.

Remember Towers? BiWay? Kresge’s?

Then there was Consumers Distributing, which was an odd concept. There were various banks of catalogues, pens and forms to fill out and if the product was in stock, an employee would go back to the warehouse and bring it out to you. It was always a thrill if a box appeared for you.

Looking back, it was almost what we do with Amazon — fill out a form and wait for arrival — but more instant.

It all seems so quaint now, doesn’t it?

I am already longing for a return to cashiers helping customers at the check-out. I long for the day when a helpful employee would actually bag my purchases for me. It was called full service and it was simply expected.

It was a kinder, simpler time about two years ago!

So, if the Zellers comeback is successful, maybe it will prompt some other brand returns. Maybe customer service could make a comeback.

I can appreciate a little nostalgia.

And if it brings with it a boost to the Canadian economy then I will send up a cheer: Give me a Z!