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Wal-Mart's Apparel Merchandising Head Resigns

Wal-Mart Stores said Friday that Claire Watts, executive vice president in charge of the discount chain's apparel merchandise, has resigned to "pursue other career interests." The move comes as the world's largest retailer continues to work to revive sales in the flagging division.

Wal-Mart said it named Dottie Mattison senior vice president overseeing women's apparel, jewelry, shoes and accessories, and apparel product development.

It said Mark Larsen is overseeing men's, kids and baby apparel.

Mattison and Larsen will report to John Fleming, Wal-Mart's chief merchant, said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sarah Clark.

Wal-Mart has struggled with months of poor clothing sales at its namesake discount stores and has said it hopes to be able to show improvements in the business by the back-to-school shopping season.

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At its annual shareholders' meeting in June, the discount giant elected Allen Questrom, a retail industry veteran who helped revitalize J.C. Penney, to its board. The addition of Questrom was seen by analysts as a means to help get Wal-Mart's apparel business back on track.

"The changes, which include the resignation of Claire Watts and the promotion of several people internally, may be the first steps that recent board addition Allen Questrom has suggested since coming to Wal-Mart in early June," wrote J.P. Morgan analyst Charles Grom in a research note, outlining the management changes.

"We think that the changes, which were long overdue, in our view, are steps in the right direction, although it remains to be seen what changes in the company's merchandise cadence we will see under the new regime," he wrote.

Wal-Mart shares dropped 56 cents, or 1.15 percent, at $48.26 in Friday mid-afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

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