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Ken Downing Builds Out Team at The Tower

by News Desk

Hearst has made another key retail hire as it gears up to launch its luxe e-commerce platform, The Tower.

After revealing that retail veteran Ken Downing would be in charge of the platform in the role of chief brand officer, the media company behind Elle, Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar has tapped Mariko Ichikawa as merchandising director, beginning next week, WWD has learned.

Ichikawa, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, spent almost a decade as a womenswear buyer for stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New York, before setting up her own kimono line.

Confirming the news, Downing told WWD: “We are incredibly excited to welcome such a talented merchant like Mariko to our team, her vast experience and retail knowledge is a welcome asset as we continue to bring The Tower to fruition.”

The Tower will be made up of four individual stores with one cart, one platform and shared back-end technology from media brands Elle, Bazaar, Town & Country and Esquire. The first store, which will feature designer items selected by Hearst editors, will open this spring, with the remaining three stores launching before the end of next year.

Hearst began dabbling with e-commerce in 2012 with the launch of ShopBazaar and most media companies have been diving deeper into retail over the past few years as traditional advertising revenues continue to tighten, a trend that was only exacerbated by the pandemic.

Many publishers have mainly been operating in affiliate links as a revenue driver, although some have launched their own branded products or collaborated with other brands. While Hearst will continue with affiliate links and shoppable content, growth in its e-commerce business over these past few years led executives to decide to branch out with this luxury marketplace. — KATHRYN HOPKINS

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