Wal-Mart Apparel Chief Leaves After Retailer Splits Job Duties

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. apparel chief Dottie Mattison resigned, less than two months after the retailer decided to split her responsibilities with another executive because of slow growth in clothing sales.

The resignation was effective yesterday, said Greg Rossiter, a Wal-Mart spokesman. Mattison reported to Chief Merchandising Officer John Fleming, who is leaving Aug. 1.

Lisa Rhodes, who had worked under Mattison, was tapped by Wal-Mart in June to co-run the apparel business. Both work in Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart’s New York design office.

Rhodes took on more duties after Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, posted apparel sales that fell short of expectations last fiscal quarter. The performance made the business “a work in progress,” then-U.S. stores chief Eduardo Castro-Wright said June 4. Target Corp. benefited from increased clothing purchases in the same period.

Wal-Mart’s U.S. chief operating officer, Bill Simon, last month took charge of U.S. stores, the company’s largest unit. Castro-Wright, who had run that business, was reassigned to California, where his wife was recovering from surgery.

Apparel accounted for 10 percent of the total sales at Wal- Mart’s U.S. stores in the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31, down from 12 percent two years ago, according to company filings.

Skinny Jeans

Wal-Mart rose 81 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $51.67 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have dropped 3.3 percent this year, compared with a 1.1 percent decline in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Mattison previously worked at Gap Inc. and replaced Claire Watts, who resigned three years ago this month after her attempt to make Wal-Mart’s apparel more upscale failed, according to Bill Dreher, an analyst with Deutsche Bank AG in New York.

Watts introduced higher-end fashion items including skinny jeans. Mattison’s apparel strategy included less expensive, brightly colored merchandise, as well as an exclusive line with performer Miley Cyrus, which has so far failed to spur sales growth.

“We are going back to basics in terms of the product,” Castro-Wright said in a June presentation. “We do well when we sell everyday needs for customers, from socks and underwear to jeans and t-shirts -- that is where we excel.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Boyle in New York at Mboyle20@bloomberg.net.

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