Walmart may take aim at Target

Walmart, the largest retailer in the world, has set its sights on Burbank.

Walmart Real Estate Business Trust last month acquired a 12-acre property that houses the Great Indoors store at the Empire Center, which is already home to a Target store and other “big box” retailers.

Sears, which owns Great Indoors, plans to shutter the store in August, according to a company spokeswoman. The property is adjacent to the Empire Center, but is owned and managed separately.

Steven Restivo, a Walmart spokesman, declined to say whether the company plans a supercenter, which typically operates 24 hours a day and employs roughly 350 people, or a smaller store.


“While we are still determining our options in Burbank,” Restivo said. “Our experience at our other Los Angeles stores tells us that city residents need more options for quality jobs and affordable groceries.”

The terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Mary Hamzoian, economic development director for the city, said Walmart has yet to reveal its plans for the site to city officials.

“We’ve known for some time that Walmart has been wanting to come to Burbank,” she said. “We don’t know if they acquired (the site) for that purpose or another purpose.”


Opening a Walmart in Burbank would expand the company’s reach in the area north of Los Angeles, where it has a minimal presence. There is one Walmart in Panorama City and another in West Hills, compared to roughly 20 stores east of the Pasadena (110) Freeway.

For Burbank, a high-volume store like Walmart would bring an influx of tax revenue, but could end up poaching customers from other retailers, especially at the Empire Center, home to a Target, Best Buy and Lowe’s.

A Costco is located just across the railroad tracks from the Empire Center, where Victory Place meets Burbank Boulevard.

“On the one hand, it is a great generator for revenue,” Hamzoian said. “On the other hand, in the Empire Center we already have a Target, and we don’t want there to be a direct competition for the businesses there.”

Gary Olson, executive director of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, said local businesses will worry about the Walmart effect.

“I think merchants are going to be concerned to see what the impact might possibly be,” he said.

Through a spokeswoman Tuesday, Target issued a statement: “While we don’t have any information about Walmart’s plans in Burbank, we believe we’re competitive in a number of markets, including the Burbank area.”

Earlier this month, Walmart executives told shareholders that sales have bogged down as the effects of the recession linger, but that the company is embarking on an ambitious global growth plan with hopes of hiring as many as 500,000 people in the next five years.


Meanwhile, Sears spokeswoman Kimberly Freely said Great Indoors is closing its two California stores — one each in Irvine and Burbank — by the end of August. Liquidation sales started last week. Great Indoors expects to vacate the Burbank site by mid-September, Freely said.

The chain continues to operate 10 other stores in the United States.

The 87 employees at the Burbank store will be invited to apply for jobs at nearby Sears stores, Freely added.