US retail giant Wal-Mart has appointed Rob Cissell, chief executive of UK hardware retailer Robert Dyas, as chief operating officer of its fast-growing Chinese division.

Cissell, who led Kingfisher's flagship B&Q business until 2005, is expected to play a key role in driving Wal-Mart's growth in China, as international store groups scramble for a slice of the country's US$885bn retail market.

As the retailer's number two in China, Cissell will concentrate on exploiting existing strengths and his responsibilities will include merchandising, marketing and retail operations.

"Rob has a range of retail skills. He has wide general merchandise expertise from Woolworths and Argos, as well as B&Q, and operational and merchandising strengths," said a source.

Wal-Mart made its Chinese debut in 1996. Its Supercenter stores, of which there are now 97, have driven growth in the country. In February last year the retail giant bought a 35% stake in Trust-Mart, which runs 101 hypermarkets. An eventual acquisition of Trust-Mart is likely.