Wal-Mart’s top merchant, Claire Watts, resigned last week, according to a company spokesperson, who said Ms. Watts would “pursue other interests.”
The move was not a big surprise, as Wal-Mart’s recent foray in to more up-to-date fashion had been unsuccessful to the point of affecting the stock price and overall profitability of the chain. At one point, Ms. Watts had control over Wal-Mart’s home departments as well, but lost responsibility for that earlier this year.
Her job will not be immediately filled but will be split between two current executives. Mark Larsen will be in charge of men’s, kids and and infants, and Dottie Mattison will be run the women’s apparel, shoe and jewelry businesses. She will be headquartered in Wal-Mart’s New York design office, which now has around 80 employees.
Ms. Watts, who had been at Wal-Mart for 10 years with a background at the Limited and May Company, spearheaded Wal-Mart’s move away from the basic fashion upon which it grew, to more stylish apparel that would compete better with other big chains, in particular it’s direct competitor, Target. That included the opening of the NY design office and the introduction of the George ME line for men, designed by Mark Eisen, and the Metro 7 womens label.