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Going, going, gone: Ottawa's last Zellers closing its doors

Stu Mills/CBC
Stu Mills/CBC

Wait, there's still a Zellers in Ottawa?

Yes, but not for long.

The Bells Corners Zellers is one of just two remaining stores in Canada. The other is in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke. Both stores, which are stocked with discounted merchandise from the Bay, are set to close by the end of January.

Stu Mills/CBC
Stu Mills/CBC

Zed's dead, baby

One shopper browsing the aisles of the Bells Corners Zellers last week described the store as a hidden gem.

"I don't think they advertised it enough, and maybe they're trying to protect the sales at the Bay," the shopper ventured.

Stu Mills/CBC
Stu Mills/CBC

Zellers, the once-mighty discount department store chain where "the lowest price [was] the law," was established in London, Ont., in 1931. In 1978, the retailer was purchased by Hudson's Bay Company. At the chain's peak in 1999, there were 350 Zellers stores across Canada.

Many Canadians will recall the chain's earworm jingles and slogans — "Only you'll know how little you paid!" — its teddy bear mascot, Zeddy, and collecting Club Z points — always zed, never zee.

But pressure from Walmart sent Zellers into the red by 2006. In 2011, the Bay sold most of its remaining Zellers stores to Target, which abruptly shuttered its new Canadian outlets in 2015. All but a handful of the remaining 64 Zellers locations closed in 2013.

Stu Mills/CBC
Stu Mills/CBC

At the Bells Corners location, where remaining merchandise is being sold off at up to 90 per cent off the lowest ticketed price, another bargain hunter blamed poor management for the chain's demise.

"I used to love to shop here before it was messed.... It was total mismanagement from the very, very beginning."

Shoppers looking to make a final stop at Zellers this month should try to get the store before 10 a.m.

An employee told CBC News on Monday the store starts turning away customers after it reaches capacity shortly after opening.

CBC asked the Hudson's Bay Company how many employees in Ottawa are affected by the Zellers closure. Spokesperson Tiffany Bourré said it is company policy not to reveal staffing levels at individual stores.

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