The executive shuffle at F.W. Woolworth Co. expanded yesterday when Richard L. Anderson, president and chief operating officer of the major retailer, resigned to become an officer of Melville Corp., and Woolworth's board named Harold E. Sells as Anderson's successor.

Sells, 54, has served in the organizations of Woolworth and its Kinney Shoe Corp. since 1945, and most recently was senior vice president-international and property development at Woolworth, the nation's fourth largest retailer.

Anderson's departure is the latest in a series of executive changes at Woolworth that started when its former chairman and chief executive, Edward F. Gibbons, died last Oct. 26. John W. Lynn, then vice chairman, was named to succeed Gibbons on Nov. 2 and the decision to tap Lynn instead of Anderson triggered some grumbling within Woolworth's ranks, according to published reports.

Two months earlier, Woolworth began to restructure its operations to enhance its profit. It announced the closing of its 336-store Woolco discount chain, which was losing money, and the sale of its 52.6 percent interest in its British subsidiary for about $279 million.

Before that announcement, however, Woolworth had given discount-store specialist Bruce G. Allbright primary responsibility for restructuring Woolco. And after Woolworth decided to close the chain, Allbright quit on Dec. 8 and returned to his former employer, Target Stores, a unit of Dayton Hudson Corp.

Some analysts expressed doubts about Woolworth's managment structure. The loss of Gibbons, Allbright and Anderson leaves Woolworth with a "lack of depth at the top management level that needs to be addressed," Jeffrey Feiner of Merrill Lynch said yesterday.