HUNTSVILLE - The fate of the two Muskoka Zellers stores has not been sealed as of yet.
Tiffany Bourré, the external communications manager for the parent company Hudson Bay Co., confirmed Monday that some of the 64 stores – including the ones in Huntsville and Bracebridge – may be reopened at a later date as a rebranded store under the company’s corporate umbrella.
“We are looking at certain locations … we are considering options that could potentially mean rebranding some stores, but that is yet to be determined.”
She said that it is too early to consider what the new stores could be reopened as, but Bourré did say that some stores could come back under brands such as The Bay and Home Outfitters.
The two Muskoka stores and the other 62 Zellers that were not part of the $1.83-billion sale of the 279 stores last year to Target Corp. are expected to close next March, according to a news release sent out last week by the Hudson Bay Co.
The move comes weeks after it was learned that two international real estate companies had posted information on their websites, listing the 50,470 square-foot Bracebridge store and the 86,683 square-foot Huntsville operation as “available for sublease or assignment.”
Bourré said in mid-July there were no planned closures for the two stores and that it was “business as usual,” stating that the company was “exploring all possible options for our Zellers store that were not acquired by Target.”
When asked why the company went from a statement of no planned closure to announcing the shutting down of the remaining stores in a few weeks, Bourré would only say that the decision was made during that time not to operate most of the remaining stores beyond next March.
Zellers was one of the last remaining large Canadian discount retailers after the Woolco, BiWay and Bargain Harold’s chains closed down operations years ago.
While Bourré would not say how many employees work at either the Huntsville or Bracebridge stores, she did say that the average Zellers store employs about 100 associates.
Bourré said the company would provide “significant career transition support” to the associates who will be out of work when the stores officially close their doors on March 14.
“We have a proprietary state-of-the-art program that would provide our associates with future job opportunities, like resumé writing, interview skills and social networking courses.”
When told there are already programs in place to help laid off workers at the local employment centres, Bourré said that she didn’t believe there was anything that exists “like the program we provide our associates.”
Bourré would not say if the employees would be receiving any severance for the closing of the two stores.
“We don’t disclose anything financial.”