Wal-Mart Stores, the world's biggest retailer, yesterday said an ongoing personnel reshuffle on the mainland, affecting as many as 1,400 mid-level managers, was a natural result of business development, denying accusations of a 'disguised staff cut'. The US giant over the weekend issued an internal notice that it is looking to reassign 'a few mid-level management positions' per store. Employees who opt not to relocate may be reassigned to other jobs in the same store, and their wages will be adjusted as existing positions are removed, according to spokesman Jonathan Dong. The action, targeted at reducing the number of mid-level store managers at 140 of its 147 outlets around the nation, sparked a public outcry with media accusing the company of instituting a 'disguised staff cut'. 'This is a natural result of our company's expansion and a normal readjustment of the managerial structure in the company,' said Mr Dong. He said that unlike the popular three or four-tier managerial hierarchy at other major retailers, Wal-Mart has five tiers, and the company now wants to improve efficiency because its ongoing expansion needs more manpower. Each Wal-Mart store has 10 to 13 mid-level managers, higher than the industry average. Mr Dong said the company was abiding by mainland labour law and only up to 1,400 mid-level managers would be affected by the reshuffle and non-management employees were not part of the scheme. He declined to disclose where the company would expand this year, but said it had added 23 new outlets in the year to date. Ma Ruiguang of Flyhorses Consulting, a chain-store consultancy, said the move was not surprising as retailers on the mainland faced slowing demand. Local media have reported that the retailer, which won plaudits from the government by establishing one of the mainland's first worker unions in a foreign company, could slash as many as 3,000 managerial posts.