October 26, 2011 / 3:20 PM / 6 years ago

Wal-Mart moves NY fashion office back to Arkansas

* New York fashion office opened in 2009

* About 275 staff affected by unit’s return to Bentonville

* Company says focus on basics is working

Oct 26 (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc is shuttingits New York fashion office and consolidating buying operations at its home base in Bentonville, Arkansas, after flopping in its attempt to attract customers by offering trendier clothes.

The world’s largest retailer, which is now refocusing on basic goods, made a splashy move to Broadway, in the heart of Manhattan’s Fashion District, in 2009.

At the time, the U.S. Walmart chain was attempting to broaden its business by offering more fashionable clothing to the millions of people who shop at its discount stores each week. But shoppers were not impressed, and the company soon retreated from that strategy.

“When you consider our core strategy centered in basics and fashion basics, in order to execute our offices do not need to be located in New York,” Andy Barron, executive vice president of the Walmart U.S. softlines business, said in a memo sent to U.S. employees on Wednesday.

“Also roughly 40 percent of our apparel planning, replenishment and modular execution associates are in Bentonville today. It just makes sense to unite our apparel efforts in one location.”

The retailer’s renewed focus on basic clothing has helped in certain categories. Still, overall apparel sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, continue to fall.

“We’re very focused, very focused, on winning and basics, on socks, underwear, jeans and basic tops. It’s who we are, that’s what we stand for,” Chief Merchandising Officer Duncan Mac Naughton said at an analyst conference earlier this month.

In September, Walmart’s same-store sales of underwear, socks and jeans rose, Mac Naughton said.

Wal-Mart said it plans to relocate as many as possible of the roughly 275 workers in New York to Bentonville. It aims to fully move the business back to its home office by Feb. 1.

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