PROFILE

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.

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  • Posted on: 02/17/2017

    Will Costco, Kohl’s, Target, et al give Google Home an edge over Amazon’s Echo?

    If this works, it's an opportunity for Google to play catch-up on the head start that Amazon has established with Echo, and to establish a stronger beachhead on the "device" front. But it's also an opportunity -- or attempt -- for several retailers to marginalize Amazon's e-commerce business that has eaten into their own market share.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2017

    Lidl is ahead of schedule for U.S. store openings

    I've been in a couple of Lidl stores in Europe, and in some cases they carry more variety than a typical grocery store. To make it work in a small footprint (by U.S. grocery store standards), the assortments will need to be tightly edited -- as Lidl indicates it is willing to do. But Aldi (with its sister brand Trader Joe's) already has a big head start in the U.S., so Lidl is going to need some unique selling proposition in order to succeed. Tesco's failure in the U.S. ought to be a warning sign.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2017

    Is Amazon the most innovative company in retailing?

    There may be more innovative retailers who are not as visible as Amazon, but it's hard to think of a company with such scale that is less willing to rest on its laurels. I know that some panelists view Amazon's push into new businesses and logistics methods as not much more than a well-oiled PR machine (see yesterday's discussion of intimate apparel as an example). But it's hard to deny that the company is anything but complacent when it comes to extending its reach and improving its execution promise.The real test for Amazon will be its success in rolling out innovative brick-and-mortar retailing models. The bookstore and especially the C-store tests will be telling, because most other stores with "omnichannel" strategies have not succeeded in offering an innovative approach to the business of shopping.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2017

    Will women buy lingerie from Amazon?

    Full disclosure: I spent almost 15 years merchandising intimate apparel at Kohl's, and it's a complex business. Customers tend to be brand-loyal (counting Victoria's Secret as a brand) because the same bra size fits differently from label to label. So Amazon will need to be patient with customer trial-and-error while it builds its own private brand. Commoditizing a category on the basis of price -- when it needs some sizzle to go along with reliable fit and comfort -- may be a tougher challenge than selling apparel.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2017

    Should L.L.Bean ditch its legendary return policy?

    Having worked for Kohl's for 24 years, I have a bias toward more forgiving return policies. Kohl's always viewed its return policies as a competitive advantage and marketing practice (even though there was plenty of gnashing of teeth among the merchant ranks) and I believe this is still the case. Stores can maintain this kind of trust with their customers, even if they look at tweaking the policy through issuance of gift cards for goods returned without receipts or after some time has passed.I'd be very careful if I were L.L. Bean to walk away from part of what has defined its brand for a long time. As another panelist suggests, look for other reasons why costs are rising faster than sales, starting with merchandise assortments.
  • Posted on: 02/09/2017

    Why in-store merchandising has to change

    I would add that great merchandising starts with great merchandise. So, are your assortments clearly relevant to your target customer? And are you staying in-stock on those goods and getting them to the selling floor?
  • Posted on: 02/09/2017

    Did President Trump go too far with his Nordstrom tweet?

    Based on anecdotal evidence over the past 18 months, many consumers are boycotting goods and services with the Trump name attached. It's been reported that the family is developing a second hotel brand without the Trump name attached to it. So I'm assuming that both Nordstrom and TJX made rational business decisions based on weak sales.
  • Posted on: 02/01/2017

    Has Amazon fundamentally changed the way Americans shop?

    Amazon's competitors have it all wrong if they think it's all about low prices. (And this is the fundamental error behind Walmart's "brand promise" over the years.) Amazon has always been focused on breadth of assortment and great execution. As the company has entered more categories (starting all the way back when they were in the business of shipping books), it has never lost sight of these key competitive advantages. Customers' expectations have been scrambled as a result, and everybody else (whether pure play e-commerce or omnichannel) is just trying to keep up.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2017

    Should the Monday after the Super Bowl be a national holiday?

    If's a fun way for Kraft Heinz to garner publicity (instead of shelling out $5 million for a 30-second spot), but that's all. The vote seems to be unanimous so far -- we don't need another Federal holiday, especially for this -- and I agree.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2017

    Should Macy’s have never gone national?

    Some of our observations about Macy's are based on 20/20 hindsight, not based on what seemed like a smart move at the time. Even though there was plenty of debate about the disappearance of powerful local nameplates like Marshall Field's, the reality is that several of those retailers were in their own slow decline. So Macy's effort to create a national brand (and economies of scale) paid off for a while.Where Macy's has lost its way is in the failure of the "My Macy's" initiative to cater more effectively to local tastes. The best data science in the world may not be a substitute for experienced managers who really understand their customers' taste (and when things sell in a given climate). But the bigger issue is the overassortment of women's brands, erosion of customer service and lack of capital spending; no amount of localization can overcome those hurdles.
  • Posted on: 01/27/2017

    Will drop shipping online orders deliver results for retailers?

    I'm not sure this is a new phenomenon. For awhile, retailers have added categories to their websites that they don't have space for in their physical stores (or their own distribution centers) -- think furniture or fitness equipment -- and have counted on their suppliers to carry the inventory and ship the goods. This practice has extended to less bulky but more SKU-intensive categories like domestics or shoes, where a supplier will hold the goods and ship customer orders while making it appear that they are coming from Macy's or wherever.The advantage is clearly to the retailer in this equation. It gains a sale without any inventory risk or supply-chain cost (assuming it has negotiated these terms with its suppliers). And it is able to offer breadth of assortment, colors and sizes that it would not be equipped to handle on its own.
  • Posted on: 01/25/2017

    Will Big Macs boost McD’s results as popularity of all-day breakfast wanes?

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: Fix the burgers! It's not that Millennials (or Boomers, or anybody else) won't eat fast-food burgers, but they have a lot of choices where the food is better, from Five Guys to regional chains like Culver's or In-n-Out Burger.I ate last week at a new McDonald's in Grafton, Wisconsin where the kiosk-ordering system was installed. My wife and I were able to customize our lunch sandwiches (chicken for her, burger for me) but we found the kiosk technology confusing and the wait time far too long compared to a typical Culver's that also brings your order to your table. But, worst of all, the burger was the usual piece of dry, flavorless once-frozen beef that had clearly been sitting in McDonald's notorious warming drawers for too long.Until McDonald's figures this out, no amount of customization or new technology matters.
  • Posted on: 01/25/2017

    Will smartphone payment app help Target get turned around?

    It's surprising that Target wouldn't try a third-party app like Apple Pay first, before investing in its own mobile payment system. And given the lingering distrust from its data breach issues, is this even a smart move on Target's part? Focus on getting the merchandise content first (including groceries) and let somebody else sweat the details of a mobile payment system.
  • Posted on: 01/23/2017

    Can retail compete for data scientists?

    As the father of a data scientist (who did not follow me into retail), this is close to my heart. More and more undergraduate and graduate business schools are creating data science majors (as opposed to a mashup of math, computer science and business) because of the demand for this kind of expertise. But competition is fierce and prices are high for the talent pool. Are retailers willing to dig into their pockets to compete on salary and benefits against tech companies? The evidence so far is thin.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2017

    Will online sales redeem struggling brick and mortar retailers?

    "Omnichannel" retailers like Macy's, J.C. Penney and Target are still heavily dependent on their physical footprint. Each store reported rapid e-commerce growth (from 17 percent in Penney's case to 30 percent at Target), yet each of them also reported total comparable-sales declines in the low single digits. So it's clear that the combination of brick-and-mortar and omnichannel isn't driving sales yet.All of these stores and others have opportunities to improve their assortments, customer service and overall store experience. Omnichannel initiatives like BOPIS and ship-from-store have put even more strain on retailers' ability to execute these "Retail 101" issues better. But until they do, their overall sales will continue to be stuck in neutral.

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