updated 5/21/2007 4:19:31 PM ET 2007-05-21T20:19:31

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will trim a second line of women’s apparel by the end of this year as it struggles with a growing inventory of ladies wear despite a drive to offer more fashion for price-conscious shoppers.

The world’s largest retailer said Monday it will reduce by an undisclosed amount the number the U.S. stores selling a fashion line by designer Mark Eisen, which it unveiled last year as part of a drive to match successful low-price designer labels at rivals like Target Corp.

But a Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the reduction will not be as large as the retailer’s rollback of its urban-style Metro 7 line for women, which the company said was pushed too fast into too many stores.

“This is not of the same magnitude,” spokeswoman Linda Blakley said. “It is not at all uncommon for adjustments to be made as you roll out a new line.”

Metro 7, launched in fall 2005, was quickly pushed into about 1,500 stores before executives decided it was not selling well enough in several markets and decided to cut it back to below 1,000.

The Eisen line, called George ME, is offered in more than 3,000 stores now, Blakely said. It will be in a few less by the end of the year, she said.

“It is performing very well in most stores. There are some stores where we know based on customer response ... that we shouldn’t have the ME portion of the line,” she said. Other George apparel for women will still be offered in those stores.

Richard Hastings, vice president and senior retail sector analyst at Bernard Sands, said the change was in step with Wal-Mart’s announced decision last fall to refocus on basics after a push to attract more affluent customers with trendier clothes and other products.

“You’re not going to get someone to think about dressing up for dinner tonight at Cafe Pierre while they’re inside a Wal-Mart,” Hastings said.

Wal-Mart called the Eisen-designed line “big news” last year when it was introduced for the fall. The sportswear is a sideline of Wal-Mart’s in-house George brand.

“And we believe that that is sure to have a broad and lasting appeal for all of our Wal-Mart shoppers,” Karen Stuckey, a Wal-Mart ladies wear executive, told an analysts meeting last June.

But as clothing sales remained slow, Chief Executive Lee Scott told analysts in October the retailer had pushed too far, too fast on fashion.

Last week the retailer said its inventory, or stocks of unsold goods, grew faster than targeted in the three months from February through April, in part because apparel was still not selling well enough.

Wal-Mart’s inventories rose 10.3 percent in the fiscal first quarter from a year earlier, to $35.2 billion, outpacing sales growth of 8 percent.

Apparel sales remained weak, together with home decor, offsetting stronger sales in areas that have been performing well for Wal-Mart, including home electronics, groceries and $4 generic prescription drugs, the company said last week.

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