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Sears Taps Wiz Vet Tasso Koken As CE VP

Chicago — Sears has named former Wiz chief merchant Tasso Koken as VP/general merchandise manager of home electronics, effective today.

The appointment fills a hole in Sears’ CE lineup left vacant since the departure last year of former electronics VP Ray Brown. It also returns Koken to a top-merchandising slot some two years after he left The Wiz, the storied New York area CE specialty chain that was shuttered by corporate parent Cablevision Systems in 2003.

In his new role, Koken will report directly Dan Laughlin, senior VP and general merchandise manager of home appliances and electronics. His areas of responsibility include business strategies, merchandising activities, new product and business growth opportunities, and the development of marketing and promotional strategies.

John Schlenner, who had assumed Brown’s duties on an interim basis, continues as divisional merchandise manager.

Koken is a 25-year veteran of CE retailing, of which 15 years were spent at The Wiz. The chain, which operated 44 stores at its zenith, was acquired in a 1998 bankruptcy sale by Cablevision, which lauded him for his help in bringing the unit out of Chapter 11. However, within five years it ultimately succumbed to competition from national chains and the soft post-9/11 retail environment.

Koken, who had also served as an executive VP at Cablevision, was president of Dreamfield Associates, a consultancy, prior to his appointment at Sears.

“Tasso is a proven leader and a strong merchant who has been successful in growing profitable businesses wherever he’s been,” said Laughlin. “He also brings great vendor relationships, and we are excited to have him join our team.”

Koken joins that team at a critical time for Sears’ CE business, the 11th largest in the industry. Sales slipped 8 percent last year to $2.3 billion according to TWICE’s Top 100 CE Retailers report, and the department is presently preparing for a major re-assortment and retrofit this summer.