Dick Seesel

Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC

Retailing In Focus, LLC. is an independent consulting firm founded in 2006 by Richard Seesel. Its goal is to provide marketing-based, pragmatic strategies for retail and supplier clients interested in driving more profitable sales.

Dick Seesel was most recently a Senior Vice President and Divisional Merchandise Manager at Kohl’s Department Stores. During his 24 years at Kohl’s, Dick managed the Women’s Accessory, Jewelry, Cosmetics and Intimate Apparel businesses. Prior to Kohl’s, Dick worked at Dayton’s Department Stores (Minneapolis, MN) and for his family’s retail business.

Dick’s education includes an undergraduate degree from Harvard College (AB 1976, magna cum laude) and a Master’s degree from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University (MM 1978, marketing major). During his years at Kohl’s, Dick enjoyed “continuing education” through several management training courses, with an emphasis on retail negotiation.

As a lifelong “student of retail,” Dick enjoys passing along his knowledge and experience. He was certified to conduct negotiation classes to incoming associates at Kohl’s. Recently he has spoken to business students at the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) and at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has led a class in Retailing Management at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for the past several years.

Dick is proud to have helped Kohl’s grow from 18 stores to a national retail powerhouse, during an era of change and consolidation throughout the retail industry. He is also proud of his reputation for integrity, fairness, “win-win” negotiation style and getting results. Dick also serves as a consultant with McMillan Doolittle Consulting and as a partner with Roulston Research.

Dick, his wife and children have lived in the Milwaukee area since 1982. He is an active volunteer at the University School of Milwaukee (where he is a Trustee), and has also volunteered his time to College Possible, Congregation Sinai, the Harvard Club of Wisconsin and other local organizations. In his spare time, Dick is passionate about movies, baseball, travel and – yes – shopping.

Other Links from Dick Seesel:

  • Posted on: 10/16/2017

    Should Coach Inc. have changed its name?

    I don't have a problem with the name change because it is aimed at the investment community -- not at consumers of the company's multiple brands. Coach is still Coach as far as the customer is concerned, and likewise with Kate Spade. The new name suggests to investors that Tapestry is literally "more than Coach," especially if it has more brand acquisitions in the future. Google's decision to rename its parent company as "Alphabet" was a similar move that didn't dilute the strength of the Google brand at all.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2017

    Is a standalone beauty concept the right plan for Forever 21?

    As the article says, the beauty space is crowded and getting more so. New entries like Riley Rose point out the core issue: Weak traffic in department store anchors (and their aging demographics) force the cosmetics business to find new avenues. Sephora and Ulta have been the biggest players so far, but don't ignore the huge beauty business being done by discounters, drug chains and even Amazon.So the jury will be out until Riley Rose opens its doors. (One of the first locations is at theMayfair Mall here in Milwaukee, part of the GGP rollout.) Will the Forever 21 customer recognize Riley Rose as a spinoff? And will Riley Rose look and feel different enough from Sephora to succeed? Stay tuned.
  • Posted on: 10/11/2017

    What marketing lessons can we learn from Amazon?

    The discussion of the "four P's" makes sense as far as it goes -- and it rightly points out that assortment is more important than price to the Amazon customer. But there are other secrets to Amazon's success that deserve at least as much attention.First, Amazon's predictive technology does an industry-best job making purchase recommendations based on shoppers' past buying and browsing behavior. Second, Amazon has created an Apple-style "ecosystem" (from the Kindle to the Echo) enabling its own hardware to drive e-commerce sales. And finally, Amazon's TV advertising does a great job creating an emotional connection between the company and its customers.All of these points would mean little if Amazon didn't execute well. The level of trust between Amazon and its customers may be the most important brand-building exercise of all.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2017

    Will Lidl follow Aldi’s path in the U.S. – or Tesco’s?

    The reporting by the Wall Street Journal immediately brought the Tesco fiasco to mind, but it's too early to judge whether Lidl can make corrections fast enough to thrive. It's a big company with a strong track record of success in Europe, but the U.S. is a different and more complex market.The biggest challenge I see (even if Lidl corrects its initial mistakes) is the huge head start that Aldi has already established in the same niche. Here in southeastern Wisconsin there are well over 20 Aldi stores (along with a few Trader Joe's locations), giving Aldi critical mass to do brand-building TV advertising, and to build an efficient supply chain. Assuming Lidl gets its merchandising act together, it still has a lot of catching up to do.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2017

    Are retailers confusing customer service with the customer experience?

    Customer service is part of (but not all of) the customer experience. The entire experience includes the store's "silent salespeople" (store atmospherics, design, etc.), the interaction with e-commerce, the pricing strategy and above all the merchandise.Meeting or exceeding customers' expectations for "good service" depends on the type of store, as other panelists rightly point out. Good customer service in a high-touch atmosphere like Nordstrom is far different from what the Target shopper expects: Merchandise in stock, easy to find and easy to pay for quickly. But getting this right is only one piece of the puzzle for any retailer.
  • Posted on: 10/06/2017

    Costco ups its delivery game for online orders

    I rarely visit Costco without buying at least something that wasn't on my shopping list -- either because "I need that" or "I want that." Home delivery is likely to cut into impulse buying, but Costco has little choice but to compete in this arena.There may be an unexpected upside for Costco: Its stores typically draw from much bigger trading areas than the typical Walmart or Target store; here in Milwaukee, the average distance between the four stores is 16 miles. The convenience factor is likely to draw shoppers who just don't want to drive the distance to the nearest location.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2017

    Have retailers killed off Black Friday?

    "Killed" is too strong a word, because Black Friday still represents one of the biggest shopping days on the retail calendar. But the day has lost its punch for a number of reasons:
    1. Most obviously, the shift from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce. With the growing number of store closings and "zombie malls," this will be a bigger problem than ever throughout the 2017 holiday season.
    2. The Thursday paper stuffed with promotional circulars doesn't reach the huge number of Gen Y and Z shoppers who don't even read the paper.
    3. As stores have extended Black Friday opening hours into Thanksgiving itself, they have simply cannibalized their own business.
    I could go on, and these are tough "macro" challenges for an individual retailer to overcome. Some of the potential solutions involve greater use of targeted social media and other messaging to reach younger customers ... and this is true from early November all the way to the last crucial weekend before Christmas.But the biggest challenge may be to make the sale offerings and merchandise content more compelling. Easier said than done (without months of advance planning), but the recent focus on putting entire assortments on sale -- instead of key items at compelling price points -- has drained Black Friday of its former sense of urgency.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2017

    Has Amazon really saved Whole Foods from its ‘Whole Paycheck’ trap?

    I teach a college-level class in retail management. When I surveyed the class about where they shopped most answered Aldi, or Trader Joe's or Metro Market (the Milwaukee brand of Kroger-owned Mariano's). None of them shops at Whole Foods even though the store is in the neighborhood where most of them live.There is no doubt that Whole Foods' "premium price" reputation has kept many shoppers away as they face more competition in the "organic" arena. I believe the first round of price cuts is just the start, and it simply moved some overpriced key items to the "market price." Expect more of this from Amazon in the future, but also expect Amazon to build Whole Foods' base on its potential e-commerce and home delivery upsides.
  • Posted on: 10/02/2017

    Is the time right for Kroger to go hyper-local?

    Whether this was a pre-existing strategy or a reaction to the Whole Foods "centralization" news, it's a good idea especially for grocers with national scale to pay attention to local preferences. As I said last week, however, don't assume that Amazon will ignore this issue just because it is trying to find cost savings in the Whole Foods model in order to compete.Amazon is the leader in using data science to determine consumer preferences, and I expect this to extend to their assortment planning in individual Whole Foods stores. If Kroger intends to compete, it will want to support its "local" initiative with great execution of in-stock levels.
  • Posted on: 09/29/2017

    How can grocers improve their digital experiences?

    The key is to convert digital engagement (recipes, product information) into e-commerce shopping trips. Whether via store pickup or home delivery, grocers need to get a lot better at execution. Even without the shadow of the Amazon/Whole Foods deal looming over the industry, there is huge room for improvement.I've already shared my story here about ordering online from Safeway, who proceeded to deliver three hours late (I canceled the order) after short-shipping a third of what we wanted. I'm sure there are plenty of similar examples, and no amount of website engagement is going to overcome this level of execution.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2017

    Should shorter lines for the iPhone 8 concern Apple?

    To some degree, Apple is suffering from "sequel-itis," just like a movie studio that is up against huge box office numbers from the year before and decides that the safest way to cover those numbers is to release "Part 2." Sometimes it works, but more often it doesn't.In this case, the reviews are in and many potential buyers of iPhone 8 have already read that it is not a significant improvement from iPhone 7. (That did represent a big leap forward.) In fact, updating to iOS 11 will accomplish many of the same tasks for free.For purchasers of an iPhone 7 who are in the middle of a two-year payment play (even though untethered from their phone carrier), it pays to wait. And for early adopters, iPhone X is right around the corner.
  • Posted on: 09/26/2017

    Will centralized buying make Whole Foods a more formidable competitor?

    Centralized buying will bring economies of scale that allow Whole Foods to compete more effectively on price and on execution. But competitors (Kroger, I believe, is one example) are already opening the door to local vendors in response to the Whole Foods move.Let's not forget, however, that Amazon is the master of data science when it comes to retail management. Just because they are tightening the screws on the buying process doesn't mean that they will ignore local preferences. In fact, they are likely to do a better job of allocating space and replenishing goods to meet individual stores' tastes than Whole Foods ever dreamed of.
  • Posted on: 09/25/2017

    Would a radical partnership help Walmart thwart Amazon?

    When the majority of product searches start at Amazon, that's a huge advantage -- it combines the predictive intelligence of an SEO company with the execution skill of a best-in-class e-tailer. But is Amazon invulnerable? Of course not, and that's part of the reason why the company is filling in its portfolio with brick-and-mortar acquisitions (Whole Foods) or alliances (Kohl's).So an expanded partnership between Walmart and Google has potential: It provides Walmart with more robust search capacity and web traffic, and it offers Google a stronger e-commerce platform. But unless Walmart adds more second-party retailers (and their goods) to its site, it's not going to catch up to Amazon's head start for awhile.
  • Posted on: 09/22/2017

    Walmart’s Christmas plans do not include seasonal hires

    Assuming that every Walmart store has enough associates who are able to work extra hours is not a given -- after all, many of these people may be working one 20-hour shift at Walmart and another shift at a completely different type of employer. So Walmart managers will need a workaround to make sure their stores are adequately staffed -- especially with the push for more omnichannel programs like BOPIS.That being said, it's a net positive for Walmart (saving on training costs, having experienced associates already in place) and for those staffers who are willing and eager to work the extra hours.
  • Posted on: 09/20/2017

    Kohl’s to accept product returns for Amazon

    Omnichannel initiatives like BOPIS already put strain on existing store operations, as panelists just discussed in the context of holiday hiring. So Kohl's ability to process Amazon returns (even unpackaged ones) without affecting their other operating standards will be something to watch. Without payroll support from Amazon, this could be a heavy lift.As to who comes out ahead in this collaboration, I understand that this will drive even more traffic to Kohl's stores. (And here is my usual disclosure that I worked there from 1982 to 2006.) But Amazon picks up as many as 1,100 more brick-and-mortar locations (if it rolls this out chain-wide), with the eventual ability to add pickup lockers and even an ordering kiosk if they play their cards right. So it looks like Amazon is the biggest potential winner in this deal.

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