Big box discount stores are generally glum places by nature. The more aesthetically pleasing the environment, after all, the more it feeds the perception that the cost is being handed down.
Walmart just pushed this cheap philosophy so far that it provided room in the U.S. for a fashion-conscious alternative.
The positioning of Target was further validated when it secured its first 105 locations across Canada. No longer would the country be stuck with so many of those bleak Zellers stores that the Hudson's Bay Company never quite knew what to do with.
And, in the run-up to the $1.8 billion handover of about half of its 273 stores from one U.S.-based owner to another — Walmart will get 39 of them, actually — Zellers has seized permission to publicly admit that it became the last place Canadians wanted to shop at.
The lack of need for traditional advertising in the two-year transition period has reportedly helped HBC make more money off the dying stores. Now, the company has accelerated its use of social media to entice customers through irony.
Commercials for "Zellers' Festive Finale" were obviously produced with high viral hopes — bumbling employees are portrayed in a terminal state of deadpan desperation. What do the stores have to lose when a new proprietor is geared to get things right?
Well, some reaction on Twitter suggests not all the employees are so sanguine about this switchover. An anchor for CTV in Montreal tweeted as much, even if no reporter was sent to ask. The real estate reporter for The Globe and Mail further affirmed that his Zellers cashier mom is "not quite as glib about the whole closing-and-out-of-work thing."
Could the campaign backfire if it turned out that Target wasn't going to keep the same staff around? Moreover, fears have increasingly been expressed over the staunch anti-union stance of these new retail overlords.
So, while the fictional "Zellers Exec" is tenaciously tweeting about counting the tiles on the ceiling and having pillow fights at board meetings, the real ones would presumably tell a different story.
And maybe they'd still be in business if some actual candour toward those stuck shopping there was encouraged all along.