But now McMillon is ready to play some offense. The Walmart he is building plans to be a different company, more ubiquitous, and a better bargain.
First, and perhaps most important, is that Walmart is no longer willing to be only that darkness on the edge of town. The company, which developed as the one choice for bargains in small towns, and expanded into an all-in-one retailer whose Supercenters replaced small town centers, is now moving in many different directions, all at once.
Walmart now has six different store formats it can place anywhere, including convenience store-gas stations that compete with Chevron (CVX) and Exxon-Mobil (XOM), Sam's Club warehouses to compete with Costco (COST), Neighborhood Market stores that compete with Kroger (KR), Walmart Express stores that compete with Family Dollar (FDO), alongside the traditional Walmart Supercenters and its original discount stores.
This brings Walmart into every major niche in retailing, including areas without a single national competitor. The convenience store market, for instance, is highly dispersed, with 7-Eleven being just the largest among hundreds of players, and formats ranging from just a few pumps to the giant Buc-ees in Texas, which can be more than 60,000 square feet.
Online efforts represent a seventh channel, or they could represent an eighth as the company looks to add pick-up windows for online shoppers to some of its existing outlets, in an effort to compete with Amazon.com (AMZN).
Walmart has often run price comparison ads in various markets. Now it's taking that online through an app it calls the Savings Catcher, collecting customer receipt numbers and comparing what was paid with what other stores in the area charged for the same goods.
The company's mobile apps also list specials, show where they are when you're in the store, check product availability and handle customer shopping lists.
Walmart is also aiming to get high-income customers back into its Supercenters with irresistible bargains.
Although most reporters are focused on Walmart's trade-in service for used games, which is aimed at GameStop (GME), its Black Friday pricing on outdoor goods could make it a stronger rival to Home Depot (HD) and Lowe's (LOW).
The company's advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, is also bringing in new ads aimed at packing an emotional wallop, like one about a factory worker with Down syndrome, and another about a promised investment in American goods.
It all makes for great distractions from Walmart's low-wage problem and the low staffing levels at its Supercenters. It could give the retailer time to clean up those problems while it launches its new store formats that challenge everyone else in the retailing space.
It could give the stock a boost at a time where it needs one. The stock, currently trading at about $76.35, is down since the beginning of the year, but it is up from its 2014 low of $72.30, reached several days after McMillon officially took command.
At the time of publication the author owned shares in HD, COST and AMZN.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.