Asda is to close its standalone George clothing high street stores four and a half years into a pilot, after failing to make the economics of town-centre retailing work.

Wal-Mart-owned Asda will focus its non-food offer on its out-of-town clothing and homewares chain Asda Living, which will continue to sell the George brand.

The supermarket group has not been able to deliver the high volume sales needed to cover the high rents from town-centre sites.

Ten of the 11 standalone George stores will close within three months and the remaining store in Manchester will be converted into an Asda Living shop. The closures will affect 400 staff and Asda hopes to offer them jobs in stores nearby.

A proposal to close the stores was unveiled to staff yesterday, according to George boss Anthony Thompson, who is a former Marks & Spencer executive.

He said: "We are very pleased with how Asda Living is performing and we believe it has great potential. We believe that the out-of-town format is better than the high street.”

The first George stores opened in September 2003 as part of an initiative by Andy Bond, who is now Asda's chief executive.