Asda has revealed it is to create a merchandising department to drive efficiencies in its non-food business.

The Wal-Mart-owned grocer is recruiting a merchandising team for its home and leisure division to sit alongside the buying team, headed by commercial director Jon Wragg.

Asda was unable to confirm the number of recruits needed, but Wragg said it would be a “significant” number. “We want to have the team in place by the end of June and are recruiting internally and externally,” he said.

Wragg added: “Traditionally the company has had a biased food ethos but the non-food side of the business has grown substantially. The role of trader at Asda encompasses both buyer and merchandiser and now we can split these roles to create better efficiencies.”

The team will be responsible for analysing trends and implementing changes to the non-food business, which will include home, leisure and Asda Direct. Wragg said the responsibilities included overseeing how ranges are put together, checking stock volumes and deciding when to bring stock into stores.

“With analysing and planning now under the merchandising team, the buying team can focus more on customers and the supply team can focus on optimising store stock,” said Wragg. He added that the aim is to deliver a better service for customers.

Asda’s commitment to non-food comes as some analysts have warned of a slowdown in the category, as shoppers postpone discretionary purchases in the difficult economic climate.

However, rival Tesco reported this week that non-food sales strengthened a little compared with the third quarter, with positive like-for-like growth driven by market share gains across categories such as electricals, clothing and entertainment.

Asda launched its online non-food site Asda Direct in autumn last year and is expected to introduce Direct desks to stores this year.