The executive who oversaw the struggling apparel category at Wal-Mart Stores Inc has resigned, it emerged last week.

Claire Watts, who was senior vice president of apparel merchandising and a member of the retailer's executive committee, has left to "pursue other career interests," the company said, with her departure prompting internal management changes in the apparel division.

Mark Larsen will now run men's, children's and baby clothing, and Dottie Mattison will be in charge of women's clothing, shoes and jewellery.

Ms Watts began her career with Wal-Mart in 1997 as divisional merchandise manager of product development. She was promoted to vice president in July 1999 and then senior vice president of product development in October 2001, before heading the apparel merchandising division in December 2003.

Before joining Wal-Mart she worked at Limited Stores, Lands' End, and May Department Stores.

However, her departure from the world's biggest retailer is not entirely unexpected. Despite leading the company's costly and high profile foray into high fashion for price-conscious shoppers, plans to offer more sophisticated clothing and home furnishings suffered a series of embarrassing mishaps.

In October last year Wal-Mart admitted that it had been too ambitious in its plans, and that higher-priced fashions - like Metro 7 and George ME by designer Mark Eisen - are "not where the money is going to be made." It was also forced to scale-back the rollout of some of the new lines, even though its had staged runway shows in New York and taken out ads in Vogue magazine to promote them.

However, Wal-Mart is still pursuing its foray into fashion, but with styles and prices that are more in tune with its shoppers.

This autumn the retailer also plans to expand its design team into a big studio in Manhattan, with the new location intended to make it easier for both designers and vendors to work with the retailer from a central base rather than travelling out to its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.