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: 09/29/2016

    Will opening hotels help West Elm sell more furniture?

    Part of West Elm's stated motivation is to widen the brand footprint without opening too many brick-and-mortar stores. It's a creative way to expand a lifestyle brand into a related business. (Of course there is the added benefit of filling several hotels with saleable product.)Hotels have been in the ancillary business of selling their proprietary mattresses, bedding and towels for several years. This takes the concept into reverse gear and it may turn out to be a brand expansion opportunity for West Elm's parent, too -- Williams-Sonoma kitchens inside West Elm hotels, anyone?
  • Posted on: 09/23/2016

    Will on-demand beauty services connect with Macy’s customers?

    As a percentage to the total business, cosmetics are still a "headquarters" area for traditional department stores like Macy's. Meanwhile, there is growing competition from Ulta, Sephora (inside and outside of J.C. Penney) and others, including mass market retailers.This partnership is an ideal way for Macy's to underscore its dominance in this business and also to reinforce its image as a full-service retailer -- an image that has been tarnished in recent years. Looks like a win all around.
  • Posted on: 09/22/2016

    What’s behind Zara’s crazy sales gains?

    Zara's mastery of supply chain to exploit trends has long been noted, but their targeting of a fairly broad customer base less so. They seem to straddle the sweet spot between Forever 21's focus on what used to be called the "junior" customer and H&M's emphasis on more wear-to-work clothes.As to store openings -- at least in the U.S. -- Zara has been more deliberate than its competitors, so its comps may reflect that it is not suffering from the same square footage overload as many other omnichannel retailers right now. But -- as usual -- it really comes down to merchandise content.
  • Posted on: 09/21/2016

    Is a trendless fashion industry killing Gap’s business?

    It's the job of Gap stores to test, identify and exploit trends -- not to blame "the fashion cycle." Walk into Forever 21 and you'll see a strong statement right now on the "spice market" color trend. What's stopping Gap?
  • Posted on: 09/20/2016

    Zappos and Meijer among retailers touting their corporate values

    If a statement of corporate values is intended to speak to consumers (not just internal constituencies like employees and vendors), then Zappos has the edge in this one. I see a parallel to Target's longstanding commitment to charitable giving in its communities, the "Kohl's Cares" program and so forth. None of these would be as effective tools for doing good -- and pitching the company culture -- if they were isolated to each company's headquarters city.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2016

    Are you ready for Generation Z?

    The article points out the many differences that separate Generation Z even from their Millennial (or Generation X) parents. It's most important for retailers and marketers to consider that technology is like breathing to this group of current and future consumers, and rapid technological changes tend to be embraced rather than pushed away.This may be the first generation since the Boomers that takes for granted new ways to consume goods and services. Boomers grew up getting information from TV and were no longer bound to shopping "downtown" as malls and discounters spread nationwide. There are parallels to Generation Z, and marketers need to figure this out while still catering to the consumption patterns of their parents and grandparents.
  • Posted on: 09/15/2016

    Why did mall landlords step in to save Aeropostale?

    The deal to salvage at least a third of Aeropostale's stores is a sign of the times. The developers apparently don't see a viable replacement strategy to fill this space in hundreds of regional malls. The problem facing Simon, GGP and others: This may be the beginning of a game of whack-a-mole, in which they try to rescue one failing specialty chain after another, simply to prevent too many vacancies at one time.The bigger challenge for Aeropostale's new owners: How to fix the business model, and provide some kind of spark to the brand's merchandising. Aeropostale was always trailing behind American Eagle and Abercrombie (who have had their own issues), so they need a compelling strategy to make the company more competitive today.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2016

    Why are retailers struggling with Big Data?

    I've long noticed a conflict between the work done by line and staff managers. In the case of retailers, the merchants and store management would constitute "line" functions; areas such as HR, IT, marketing and finance tend to be viewed as "staff" and therefore lower on the organizational totem pole. This cultural disconnect isn't new, but the problems it can cause are now underlined by the massive growth in available data.There needs to be a stronger commitment to data science, not just IT, among retailers. Colleges (such as Marquette here in Milwaukee) are developing new data science majors -- separate from both computer science and math -- because of the growing demand for this skill set. But the key to effective data science for retailers is to make it actionable, not to provide another reason for "analysis paralysis."
  • Posted on: 09/09/2016

    Will Apple bring Macy’s a merry Christmas?

    And one more point: If Macy's rolls out Apple shops nationwide, it already has mall competition (in its "A" mall stores, at least) from the Apple store.
  • Posted on: 09/09/2016

    Will Apple bring Macy’s a merry Christmas?

    Part of Macy's problem is its Herald Square-centric approach to the business, and this is another example. The flagship store in Manhattan has always been a showplace for new shop concepts and brand features, especially because it's an easy place to show off to those members of the investment community who don't do channel checks around the country.Meanwhile, there are hundreds of Macy's stores across the country -- not just the 100 likely to be shuttered next year -- that are in desperate need for capital investment and revamped merchandise assortments. Not long ago, I visited the Macy's store at the University Town Center in La Jolla -- and even though a brand-new Nordstrom store is being built next door, this Macy's store hasn't had a facelift (paint, tile, carpeting, lighting) in a long time.So is a partnership between Apple and Macy's a good idea? Sure, but it can't mask the long list of issues that Macy's management needs to address nationwide.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2016

    Will dedicated teams lift Target’s grocery business?

    Anything that helps Target execute the unique demands of the grocery business is a positive, especially if the dedicated teams ensure the freshness of meat, produce and dairy. But this doesn't address the fundamental challenge: How to make Target a top-of-mind destination for fresh food in the first place.
  • Posted on: 09/06/2016

    Will Lands’ End hit pay dirt on Amazon?

    By 2017, Amazon may outpace Walmart as the biggest seller of apparel in the U.S. It's hard to argue with its legitimacy and power if you're a label trying to rebuild your volume base, not just your brand equity. Remember, Lands' End was tarnished by its years-long association with Sears (including its shops within Sears stores), so it's got nowhere to go but up.
  • Posted on: 09/02/2016

    Walmart cuts in-store back-office jobs

    If those back-office jobs can be displaced by technology, or by combining functions for several stores, then it's a justifiable move by Walmart. And if at least some of the cost savings can be applied to front-of-the-store payroll (checkout lanes and restocking teams) then it is a smart move too.
  • Posted on: 09/01/2016

    Has American Girl made a wise move into Toys ‘R’ Us?

    Yes, Toys "R" Us is the biggest big-box toy chain by far (not counting the huge sales at Walmart and Target) so it's a tempting decision for American Girl. But I think it cheapens a premium brand, and there may have been other ways to drive broader distribution (and more sales). For example, wouldn't a traditional department store like Macy's be a suitable home for American Girl shop concepts?
  • Posted on: 08/31/2016

    Can fresh foods revive department stores?

    I agree with Tom that the European "food hall" model (at Harrods and elsewhere) does not lend itself to American department stores. Not enough downtown anchors and too many options to make this work.

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