Stepping into the Burbank Town Center feels a lot like visiting your typical shopping mall in 2023. There’s a bustling food court, some department stores, large footprint spaces reconfigured as a gym and batting cages and several vacant storefronts.

But as of this week, a familiar sight now welcomes shoppers: Sears.

Once a titan of brick-and-mortar industry with hundreds of locations across the globe, Sears has fallen on hard times with the vast majority of its stores closing up shop and shuttering doors for good. The company filed for bankruptcy and liquidated most of its assets, coming out of bankruptcy with fewer than 25 stores remaining, and that number has continued to dwindle.

As of May 2023, there were only 11 Sears locations left in the world.

Just last year, Sears bid adieu to the Burbank Town Center, leaving the mall with an anchor store-sized hole to fill. Despite the closure, the presence of Sears still loomed, with intact signage and storefront still visible across its three-story former home.

Rumors and hints of a Sears comeback were talked about openly, but nothing concrete was ever announced – until now.

On Sunday, the once-mighty big box chain returned, hosting a “soft opening” and welcoming shoppers back inside to see what Sears for the modern day might look like.

The verdict? Not much has changed, according to those who visited.

Multiple Reddit threads on both the Los Angeles and Burbank subreddits – the name for the mini-forums dedicated to specific topics – show images from the interior of the store, as well as some analysis from longtime Burbank residents and Sears shoppers.

Exterior image of the newly reopened Sears store at the Burbank Town Center shown on Oct. 22, 2023. (Brandon Peeples)

Photos shared by user RedRedditRedemption2 showed the familiar illuminated signs welcoming shoppers back into the once-beloved department store. Racks of clothes and endcaps with toys were among the first items to be seen in the reopened storefront.

But much of the post was dedicated to what wasn’t in the store. Several bookshelves and displays sat empty, empty hallways were blocked off and the once-sprawling store was sparsely populated with merchandise.

Empty shelves seen in the newly reopened Sears store in Burbank shown on Oct. 22, 2023. (Brandon Peeples)
Empty shelves seen in the newly reopened Sears store in Burbank shown on Oct. 22, 2023. (Brandon Peeples)

The user called the reopening event “the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“It looks like it’s about to close up, not like it just reopened,” one commenter wrote.

Another review by user BeerNTacos went into greater detail to describe what the “new” Sears store looks like and what shoppers can expect to find inside.

Photos from the interior of the newly opened Sears store at Burbank Town Center on Oct. 22, 2023.
Photos from the interior of the newly opened Sears store at Burbank Town Center on Oct. 22, 2023. (Brandon Peeples)

For one, only two of the three stories are being used by Sears as retail space. The third is being used as storage for things like mannequins and empty racks. Gone are the former businesses within the Sears footprint, like Sears Optical, although some outdated signage remains.

The user described the clothing section as being surprisingly robust, although lacking major brands.

Burbank Sears Soft Reopening
Rows of clothes in the interior of the new Sears location in Burbank on Oct. 22, 2023. (Brandon Peeples)

“Footwear was kind of decent, though they have far more shoe racks than shoe stock. Outside of a couple of Sears brands, most were generic shoes for various purposes,” the user wrote.

Jewelry, toys and tools sections were well-stocked, and the appliance section was mostly comprised of Kenmore products.

Ultimately, the store was mostly bare and devoid of name brands. That Reddit user concluded that the store shows promise but needs more products to fill the available space. Pricing is standard for similar stores, but this store might be able to attract a local niche market, especially for those in closer proximity to the Burbank Town Center than other shopping centers.

Others might be inclined to visit simply to take a walk down memory lane.

“I might stop by, even though I have no real reason to. Just to reminisce about easier times,” another user wrote.

For the retail store’s part, the opening was described simply as a “soft reopening.” It’s unclear if what you see now is what you’ll ultimately get.