Wal-Mart Strips Down

Wal-Mart's (NYSE: WMT  ) attempt to brush up on its fashion sense appears to have been a bust, judging by the company's decision to tinker with the structure of its apparel unit.

The discount giant plans to restructure the apparel portion of its business -- which means shutting down its product development sourcing areas, as well as cutting some jobs. Wal-Mart said, "The restructured apparel organization is built around brands that make clear statements and whose teams are accountable for financial returns."

Having brands that "make clear statements" certainly sounds the way it's been interpreted around the Web. Although Wal-Mart felt compelled to jazz up its clothing to compete with cheap-chic discounter Target (NYSE: TGT  ) and draw in more customers (and higher sales), it appears the more fashionable merchandise it tried to provide with selections like the Metro 7 line might have just confused Wal-Mart's core customers without luring any new ones in.

Back in 2005, when Wal-Mart first announced its plans, they sounded far-fetched, and since then there have been signs the company was having a hard time executing those plans -- including its decision to pare down some of its offerings last May.

This may seem like a disappointment, but at the same time, Wal-Mart has been making strides here lately. Sometimes a good run is better than a bad stand. And shareholders would probably rather not see Wal-Mart squander money on initiatives that aren't doing well and that aren't part of its core competency.

Wal-Mart might be getting back to basics with its apparel options. In the long run, getting back to its comfort level in this area is the retailer's best bet.


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