Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, is to revamp its struggling apparel unit in an attempt to make sure its styles are more in tune with its shoppers and enhance speed to market.

The restructuring will involve organising its apparel business around two 'hubs' which will focus on brand merchandising and buying.

In a statement sent to just-style, John Fleming, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer for Wal-Mart, said the restructured apparel organisation will be "built around brands that make clear statements and whose teams are accountable for financial returns."

He added that the teams will fully leverage suppliers "to efficiently deliver the product the customer wants."

Under the new set-up the brand merchandising operation will move to New York, where Wal-Mart has an apparel unit in Manhattan, and the buying operation will be based near the company's head office in Bentonville.

The brand merchandising team will be responsible for maximising the financial performance of private label brands.

This will involve developing brand-right assortments and overseeing brand positioning, assortment development, textile design, vendor selection, sampling and cost negotiation.

The buying team, meanwhile, will be responsible for maximising space productivity.

They will select products, both from brand merchandising and from national suppliers, and set pricing and in-store allocation in conjunction with their planning and replenishment partners.

Although Fleming didn't confirm media reports which say the moves will involve the closure of Wal-Mart's  product development and sourcing divisions, and eliminate dozens of positions, he said the retailer is "doing all we can to look after our associates as we move to the new structure."

Attempts by the retail giant to revamp its clothing business have so far met with a mixed reception.

More sophisticated and higher-priced fashions - like Metro 7 and George ME by designer Mark Eisen - suffered a series of embarrassing mishaps after the retailer was also forced to scale-back the rollout of some lines.

And Claire Watts, the executive who oversaw Wal-Mart's apparel category, resigned in July.

Wal-Mart is now pursuing more basic styles and prices, and last summer signed an exclusive direct-to-retail license agreement with Iconix Brand Group for apparel and accessories under its Ocean Pacific and OP brands.