Meanwhile, Qurate Retail Group, Ascena Retail Group, Lovehoney, Paazl, Saddle Creek and SoundCommerce announce personnel changes, while Intelligence Node and Quiq raise funds.

Victoria’s Secret’s chief marketing executive is leaving the lingerie seller amid a flurry of controversy.

Ed Razek, who crafted the chain’s defining image of lingerie-clad models with angel wings, will step down from his role at parent L Brands Inc. (No. 39 in the Internet Retailer 2019 Top 1000) this month, CEO Officer Les Wexner said in an internal memo to staff on Monday.

“With the exception of Les, I’ve been with L Brands longer than anyone,” Razek said in a note to employees, adding that he recently told Wexner he wanted to retire.

Ed Wolf, a senior vice president, will fill the vacancy left by Razek’s departure on an interim basis at the parent L Brands, while Bob Campbell will assume Razek’s responsibilities at Victoria’s Secret.

Victoria’s Secret still holds 24% of the $13.1 billion U.S. women’s underwear market, according to Coresight Research. It has struggled in the past few years, however, losing market share to ecommerce competitors like ThirdLove, who have gained ground by using body-positive marketing geared at a wider array of women and body sizes.

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The impact is clear: L Brands said in February it planned to close more than 50 Victoria’s Secret stores this year. Plus, comparable sales—both stores and direct sales—decreased 2% in 2018 and 8% in 2017 for Victoria’s Secret, and it has closed dozens of stores over the past few years, according to data from Internet Retailer’s Top500Guide.com.

Online sales for the 12 retailers in the lingerie subcategory increased by 20.8% in 2018, making it one of the fastest-growing apparel subcategories in Internet Retailer’s Top 1000.

The turmoil extends beyond the chain’s sales performance, however. Victoria’s Secret portrayal of women is under greater scrutiny due to Wexner’s past relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was at one time the CEO’s close friend and financial manager. Razek had past ties with Epstein as well.

Razek, who has worked for Wexner and L Brands since 1983, was a longtime champion of Victoria’s Secret’s annual fashion show, which was first held at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel in 1995. It grew into a televised spectacle starring the company’s “Angels,” who don wings in their underwear and strut the runway as pop stars perform live.

Last November, Razek and the fashion show became embroiled in controversy when the executive said in an interview with Vogue magazine that he would not put transgender models on his runway. Celebrities and customers called for his resignation and the brand’s CEO Jan Singer left her job in the aftermath. The lingerie label recently hired its first transgender model for a photo shoot.

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In other ecommerce news:

  • Qurate Retail Group (No. 9) appointed Leslie Ferraro to the newly created role of president of QXH, effective Sept. 16. (Qurate acquired TV and web retailer HSN and its brands in mid-2017 for $2.1 billion. In October, 2018, it combined HSN and QVC U.S. into a new business unit called QXH.) Ferraro will be in charge of Qurate Retail’s QVC and HSN brands in the U.S. Before this role, Ferraro was co-chairwoman and interactive media and president of Disney consumer products at The Walt Disney Co. Ltd. (No. 104), where she led the Disney Store and retail businesses.
  • Lovehoney, a web-only sexual health brand, hired Sarah Warby as CEO, effective Sept. 16. Warby formerly worked as the marketing director for U.K.-based grocery chain Sainsbury’s. Founded in 2002, Lovehoney has grown to $121 million in sales in 2018, according to founder DJ Neal Slateford. “We’re thrilled that Sarah is joining Lovehoney to take the business to the next level. Having someone with her quality and breadth of experience is a real asset to our company and we look forward to watching Lovehoney develop further under her leadership,” Slateford said.
  • Software company Paazl appointed Jan-Willem Roest as its new CEO, focusing on international expansion. Roest takes over from Paazl founders, Bernard Schreiner and Ramon Keijsers, who will remain active on the management team. Prior to joining Paazl, Roest spent nearly 10 years at PayPal Inc. in a variety of leadership roles. “In our search for the new CEO, we needed someone who truly understood what convenience in ecommerce is about,” Schreiner said. “As PayPal is a front-runner in making payments convenient, Jan-Willem’s entrepreneurial mindset and strong background in a comparable market makes us confident he is the right person to achieve Paazl’s mission: making delivery convenient.”
  • Omnichannel logistics services company Saddle Creek promoted Mark Cabrera to its CEO, succeeding Cliff Otto who retired at the end of July. Cabrera, who joined the company in 2001, was previously the company’s chief operating officer.
  • Ascena Retailer Group (No. 80), who owns such brands as Ann Taylor and Dress Barn, promoted Dan Lamadrid—the company’s current senior vice president of finance and chief accounting officer—to chief financial officer. Prior to joining Ascena in August 2017, Lamadrid worked as senior vice president and chief accounting officer at The Vitamin Shoppe Inc. (No. 290) for six years and vice president and controller for Polo Retail Group at Ralph Lauren Corp. (No. 85) for three years.
  • Operations data platform provider SoundCommerce appointed Meredith Han as its chief operating officer. In this role, she will be responsible for company operations and operations of its technology products. In her work history, Han worked at Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1) as its senior product manager for seven years and senior director of global ecommerce at running gear retailer Brooks Sports Inc. (No. 695) for nine years. “Meredith has lived, breathed, built, and scaled some of the world’s most respected, customer-centric brands—and launched compelling and original technology products supporting consumer experiences,” said SoundCommerce CEO Eric Best.
  • Retail analytics and artificial intelligence company Intelligence Node raised $5.5 million in a Series B funding round, bringing it to $10.6 million in total funding. It plans to use the funding to expand in the U.S., hire more senior leaders and expand its product assortment. “We find ourselves at an unprecedented inflection point where we have reached the cusp of product maturity and market readiness, and are looking to raise Series C funding shortly,” said CEO Sanjeev Sularia. “With the significant diminishing of competitors, the timing could not be better for us to bring on the right strategic partner and growth capital to set us up for our next phase of steep revenue trajectory.”
  • Business messaging platform Quiq has raised $12.5 million in a Series B funding round, led by Foundry Group, with participation from Teamworthy Ventures and existing investors Venrock and Next Frontier Capital. It plans to use the funding to expand its platform capabilities and grow its team. Some of Quiq’s customers include Office Depot Inc. (No. 19) and Overstock.com Inc. (No. 48). “This investment validates our vision that digital engagement channels, like messaging and chat, are the future of consumer communications and that asynchronous messaging will be the foundation of the next generation enterprise contact center,” said Mike Myer, founder and CEO of Quiq.

Bloomberg contributed to the article.

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