In the two weeks since the Hudson’s Bay Company said it would sell the leases on 220 Zellers stores to U.S. retail giant Target, one question has kept popping up among the bargain chain’s most devoted customers—when you collect loyalty points that are supposed to keep you coming back, what happens when it’s the store that goes away? As one regular shopper put it on an online consumer forum: “What’s going to happen to my Club Z points?”
Zellers was one of the first Canadian retailers to set up a points program to reward regular shoppers. Some diehard Zellers shoppers have racked up millions of points and fear their stash will be worthless if the chain disappears from the retail landscape.
Not so, says HBC spokeswoman Freda Colbourne. For one, Club Z points, like HBC Rewards points, are good at the company’s other chains—the Bay, Home Outfitters and Fields. After the handover, there will still be some Zellers stores left, too, though it’s not known right now which ones will survive. Besides, for at least the next year nothing will change. After that, Colbourne promises HBC will give six months notice before any Zellers stores are shut. “People can continue to accumulate and use all of their rewards points,” she says. “We’ll be looking at some approach that’s going to be very fair, should we need to.”
What are the options? For now HBC won’t say. Niraj Dawar, a marketing professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, says for HBC to retain customers after Target arrives it needs to stress that Club Z points are good at the company’s other chains. To do that, he says, HBC may choose to bolster the value of existing points.
Still, the changes at Zellers show why it doesn’t pay to hold points for long. People may enjoy accumulating millions of points as a “status symbol,” says Dawar. But points tend to be devalued over time. “There are risks customers bear by sitting on them,” he says. “The currency could be revalued at any time, and, as with Zellers, there’s no guarantee the company is going to be around forever.” In other words, get out there and redeem.
[Photo by racineur]