Zellers is one of the largest discount retail chains in Canada, operating over 350 stores nationwide. It is owned and operated by the Hudson's Bay Company, who purchased it, along with the Simpsons chain of department stores, in the 1970s. HBC became the sole owner of Zellers in 1980.

1986 saw Zellers become somewhat of a pioneer in the retail field, developing a few notable strategies for improving customer retention and brand identity. The chain ran a series of ads featuring their mascot Zeddy, who touted the Law of Toyland: "Where the lowest price is the law." Zellers customers who found a toy advertised for less than Zellers' price received a cash rebate. Zellers' biggest success was Club Z (that's "Club Zed," remember folks, this is Canada), the forerunner to most of the retail "rewards programs" you see today. Club Z members would receive 50 to 100 points for every dollar spent at Zellers. After you amassed some 500,000 points, you might be able to exchange them for say a colander. Or a bag of diapers. Or Tupperware. You get the idea.

Zellers has faced much stiffer competition beginning in the 1990s, following Wal-Mart's 1994 purchase of rival Woolco (one of the last remaining vestiges of the Woolworths empire), and the proliferation of big box retailers, such as Future Shop, Home Depot and Staples.

Update: Zellers ceased to exist in 2013.

Hudson's Bay Company - http://www.hbc.com/zellers
About Woolworth - http://www.geocities.com/zayre88/R_wool.html
Memorable Moments in Ontario Retailing - http://www3.sympatico.ca/linda.winter/jw/1980s.htm

Zellers is a Canadian discount department store that was founded in 1931. They sold a wide variety of Atari games in the early 1980's. But they didn't bother getting their games from Atari themselves. Instead, all of their games were bootlegs manufactured in Taiwan and sold without any licensing from Atari. They came in very plain packages, usually a simple red box featuring some strange artwork, the name of the game, and the words "2600 Compatible" in big white letters. Zellers could have claimed ignorance in the matter, but they had their name printed in small letter in the price square on the top right corner of the box.

All the Zellers games were already released Atari 2600 games given new names and packaging, Radar is Cruise Missile, Busy Police is Keystone Kapers, etc. Some games did end up slightly altered graphics, and Zellers appeared to have few unique titles, but this is only because they bootlegged prototype games as well.

The cartridge labels themselves are also different with a very simple end label and the same artwork that is found on the box. Atari was eventually able put a stop to all of this and Zellers quit selling 2600 games. These games were only sold in Canada, and therefore they are quite hard to find in the United States, but they are not too difficult to locate in Canada. These games were once thought to be very rare, but people quickly learned otherwise when they found out that these title were all over in Canada. Games in the original box are still quite rare, even if the cartridges are easy to find. Since there were no Zellers catalogs back then, no one is entirely certain what their full lineup of games was.

Many people find it difficult to believe that a major corporation would engage in wholesale piracy, but Zellers did, and on a massive scale at that.

Zellers Games

You may have been wondering where the muzak played while you shop (and while I was working) comes from. I suspected it might be a big ol' cd changer full of all kinds of crap dictated by the Zellers head office. Wrongo Bub!

The music is broadcast from the studios of CHUM FM on a special FM channel for businesses that want to play music in their establishment. It's completely commercial and talk free broadcast that is encrypted when it gets sent out into the airwaves. To pick up the music, you must have a special decryption device which costs some amount of money to rent, the cost being determined by the level of crap the business wants its listeners to hear.

There are a few levels of service you can get. I only know about 2 right now...
The first level gets you that crap-ass wordless muzak that you hear in elevators.
The second level will have clients listening to the popular songs of the past few years as well as a few oldies. This is the service that Zellers #148 is using, and it costs them 40$ a month.

That's all I have for you today, but tomorrow the store manager is going to give me some numbers I can call, and I'll post some more goodies for you.

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