Hudson's Bay Co has launched websites for its Bay and discount Zellers chains in what company officials call a "low profile" start-up.

Hudson's Bay has an edge because hbc.com allows shoppers to find goods from both its traditional store - the Bay - and Zellers that would not otherwise be available at both the bricks-and-mortar banners, president George Heller said. For example, the Bay sells furniture, while Zellers does not.

The website reaches customers who don't have regular access to the stores themselves, he said. The company has dozens of locations that have a Zellers outlet, but no Bay. The company runs 328 Zellers and 101 Bay stores.

Wal-Mart Canada Inc now remains the only major Canadian department store chain to be without an online shopping presence during the holiday season.

Hudson's Bay is holding back from spending money on separate advertising for the website in the weeks leading up to Christmas, said David Alves, general manger of marketing and merchandising. "We've taken a low-key approach," he told reporters before giving them a tour of the company's giant remodelled on-line distribution centre. "We really want to deliver on our promise."

He pointed to the string of dot-coms that are failing, noting that Hudson's Bay saved a lot of money by tapping into resources already within the company - such as the warehouse and call centre. Hudson's Bay invested up to $15m on its e-commerce venture, a fraction of what pure dot-coms have had to spend, officials said.

Michael Szego, a consultant with J.C. Williams Group Ltd, said he was impressed with the Hudson's Bay site and distribution centre, but he questioned the choice of hbc.com as the site's name, rather than thebay.com and zellers.com. "Nobody knows what hbc.com means," Mr. Szego said.