Wal-Mart is bringing back its action alleys where the once wide-open aisles now contain additional products on pallets that contain items that vary from sodas to cheese spread on Thursday, October 21, 2010, in Marana, Ariz. A.E. ARAIZA / ARIZONA DAILY STAR

It's easy to say now, but Walmart was never really about wide-open spaces within its big boxes.

The mega-retailer briefly flirted with it - uncluttering its wide aisles by ditching those palettes stacked with discount stuff. A Marana supercenter was one of the first Walmarts in the country to get the new, cleaner look.

Shoppers could wheel their carts around without obstruction. There was no getting caught on the corners of palettes, and there were fewer traffic jams at the place where electronics and office supplies meet.

But it was never really the Walmart brand we've come to know - and it apparently hurt sales.

It took a year or so, but the world's largest retailer has looked in the mirror and acknowledged this. The "Action Alley" is back - a trail of discounted items in the aisles that can be followed across a Walmart from one end to the other, from groceries to TVs. It's not quite the Yellow Brick Road, but a customer could follow the Alley to some pretty good deals.

Back in the spring of 2009, Walmart brightened its brand. It put up new signs, lowered shelves and ditched the Action Alley, among other changes. The Walmart Supercenter in Marana, 8020 N. Cortaro Road, was one of the first to get the makeover.

Tiffany Moffatt, a Walmart spokeswoman, said the changes were based on customer surveys - as was the decision, announced this month to company investors, to bring back Action Alley.

The Marana Supercenter is already changing back, and the push is on to have the store in full-clutter mode by Black Friday.

The key is that discount bins and stacks will be smaller, narrower and less in the way, Moffatt said.

So far, so good.

A highly unscientific survey of Walmart shoppers at the Marana supercenter - sample size, three - showed they're pleased with the new Action Alley. It strikes the right compromise of deep discounts and room to maneuver, they said.

It's all good, said shopper Russ Mendenhall, "as long as they leave room for two baskets on each side to get by."

Contact reporter Josh Brodesky at jbrodesky@azstarnet.com or 573-4242.