Walmart’s Secret Weapon to Fight Off Amazon

After years of internal debate about how to compete with Amazon.com Inc., AMZN -0.03% Walmart Inc. WMT -2.46% boss Doug McMillon took the stage at a recent strategy meeting and revealed the centerpiece of his plan to thrive in an e-commerce era: giant stores.

Walmart, he told executives at the meeting, wasn’t going to win by building an unprofitable e-commerce operation or other stand-alone ventures. Instead, its supercenters could be the heart of a web of businesses all working together to attract shoppers and drive profits.

The supercenters are sprawling stores of around 180,000 square feet offering 100,000 products, bathed under LED lights. Groceries, clothes, camping gear and televisions are for sale; customers can also fill medical prescriptions, transfer money or get their hair done. They’re often open 24 hours and are community gathering spots, becoming backdrops for videos of teenage pranks that pop up on YouTube, or a place for senior citizens to take a walk in cold weather.

The re-emphasis on the giant outlets Walmart started building in the 1980s was a change from a strategy laid out just a year ago. Then, at an investor meeting, Mr. McMillon showed an image with stores, e-commerce and other businesses as equal parts of a circle, serving the Walmart customer. 

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