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: 12/13/2017

    RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Home Depot vs. Lowe’s

    I agree with the consensus that the Home Depot ad is more effective. There's nothing especially wrong with Lowe's focus on holiday decor, but nothing compelling about it either, when it comes to building an emotional connection.The Home Depot ad, in contrast, promotes a "hands-on" holiday season with some welcome warmth and focus on the family, It also includes frequent appearances by categories like major appliances, in case shoppers need reminding that the store sells a lot more than tools and hardware.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2017

    Will late deliveries mess up Christmas?

    It's not as though FedEx and UPS in particular didn't see this coming: The demand for online package delivery is surging, not only because of holiday gift-giving but also because of the orders of "everyday" commodities from Amazon and others. Stores' move to drive "omnichannel" sales, and the shrinkage of brick-and-mortar locations in 2017, have only added to the pressure.UPS' decision to impose surcharges may discourage shoppers (and e-commerce retailers) from postponing, but the move seems like "too little, too late." Once again, they seem especially unprepared for the next 10 days. It's no wonder that Amazon in particular is moving ahead on its own vertically integrated shipping service, instead of leaving its reputation in the hands of second-party carriers.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2017

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: H&M vs. Gap

    I'm assuming that the H&M ad is meant to be posted on their website and via social media. (There is no way that a three-and-a-half minute spot is going to run on TV.) I found the spot dark in mood and lacking any emotional connection to the brand. H&M could learn a thing or two about "storytelling" ads from Target.The Gap spot isn't an instant classic but wins this contest: It's upbeat, celebrates the holidays and (most importantly) celebrates the Gap brand by focusing on the merchandise.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2017

    Would CVS + Aetna = lower healthcare costs?

    I'm curious to see whether the CVS acquisition allows Aetna to re-enter some of the individual insurance markets that it has exited entirely for 2018. But mostly I expect the transaction to drive Aetna's huge base of customers into Caremark's hands. As to cost efficiencies, count me as a skeptic.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2017

    Will mobile move the needle for J. Crew – this holiday and beyond?

    J. Crew is pursuing the path of many other mall-based retailers, both department stores and specialty apparel chains. They are shedding excess square footage in weak locations, and they are developing an "omnichannel" strategy by expanding their digital footprint. These are all necessary steps for almost any retailer you can think of, not just J. Crew.What's missing from the discussion of a "mobile overhaul"? Any acknowledgement that the merchandising continues to be the underlying problem at J. Crew. The company is more dependent than most apparel retailers on a product direction that is relevant to its customers and true to its brand. Until J. Crew gets this right, the other pieces of the strategy feel like window-dressing.
  • Posted on: 12/05/2017

    Which off-price retailers will withstand the test of time?

    Every time a retail segment gets overcrowded with "me too" brands, a shakeout is inevitable. Between the key players like TJX and Ross, the luxury retailers' outlet brands, and the new entries like Backstage and Off/Aisle, the market is ripe for consolidation. It's no different from the waves of brand closures that swept the department and discount store industries, but I do expect TJX and Nordstrom Rack to be among the survivors.Meanwhile, off-pricers keep expanding their brick-and-mortar footprints (often in other retailers' closed sites) at the same time that most other big chains are working on omnichannel initiatives. You can argue that the "treasure hunt" appeal of off-pricers doesn't lend itself easily to e-commerce, but this segment of retail needs to figure it out in a hurry.
  • Posted on: 12/01/2017

    What is increased mobile holiday traffic doing for sales?

    The answer to the question depends on which retailer you're talking about. Amazon (for example) makes the process of buying directly from your smartphone app as simple as possible, so it's easy to buy without having to reach for your laptop. On the other hand, some transactions are more complex (for example, the dishwasher we bought after Thanksgiving) and really benefit from a bigger keyboard and screen to "close the deal" -- even if the initial searches happen on the smartphone screen. (At least that's true for this troglodyte.)Lesson learned for all e-commerce and omnichannel retailers: Follow the Amazon model where possible, and make the transaction as easy as you can -- from search to selection to checkout. If more retailers follow this example, the smartphone share of wallet will continue to grow at a rapid rate.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2017

    It’s good to be Home Depot

    We were in the market for a new dishwasher (ours died on Thanksgiving ... *sigh*) and found essentially the same items, brands and prices at Home Depot, Lowe's and Best Buy. (Sears is no longer in our consideration set.) Not sure I can explain why, but we gave our business to Best Buy. Our last shopping trip to compare models reminded me that Lowe's is frankly a more appealing place to shop than Home Depot in terms of presentation, customer service and ease of navigation -- at least in our backyard.To some degree, all of the home improvement chains are benefiting from the strength in the housing market (including those putting money into existing homes' remodeling projects). If I were in this segment of the business, I would be concerned about the new tax law and its deadening effect on real estate sales -- by capping the home interest deduction and potentially eliminating the SALT deduction entirely. A smart retailer such as Home Depot needs to anticipate some headwinds and especially needs to work on its omnichannel and in-store experiences.
  • Posted on: 11/28/2017

    Encouraging signs for department stores as holiday season kicks off

    Most of the anecdotal evidence and reports from retailers suggests that foot traffic was down, especially on Friday, but overall sales volume was good. This suggests that stores' omnichannel strategies are working to drive total sales, instead of the "silo" effect of looking at e-commerce and brick-and-mortar as two separate businesses.There is also a sense of higher discretionary spending, which will tend to benefit department stores along with off-pricers specializing in apparel. Early cold weather doesn't hurt, either.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2017

    Did Macy’s Black Friday credit card fail cost it the holidays?

    "Overcapacity"? On Black Friday?? I guess Macy's didn't get the memo.While I wouldn't write off Macy's holiday season based on this glitch, it's certainly going to make customers skeptical about returning, especially on high-volume days. (And that starts with today, Cyber Monday.)
  • Posted on: 11/21/2017

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Big Lots vs. Kohl’s

    My usual "full disclosure" to begin: I worked at Kohl's from 1982 to 2006. I vote for their spot because it plays on the well-known angle of "Kohl's Cash" in a creative way. It may feel too much like a "very special holiday episode of Game of Thrones" but it's attention-getting.I find the Big Lots commercial too generic -- it could be a holiday ad for any store. And the use of the retro soundtrack is too reminiscent of the (excellent) Walmart campaign on the air right now.
  • Posted on: 11/20/2017

    Who will be left standing after the next retail shakeout?

    Whether "discount" is part of your brand DNA, "value" needs to be. But don't confuse one with the other -- customers' value perceptions may not be shaped by whether your store has the lowest price. It's really about whether they are paying a fair price (in their minds) for the goods and services received, so "lowest common denominator" is not always the right answer.Once you make the distinction between value and discount, I do agree that "convenience" is a common thread across all kinds of retailers. But what constitutes convenience? For some stores, it might be a saturation approach to their location strategy (think Starbucks or Walgreens). For others, like Nordstrom with fewer locations, it might involve everything from free shipping to the 24/7 curbside pickup that they are testing this holiday season. The Amazon model doesn't fit all circumstances, but Amazon has clearly raised shoppers' expectations.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2017

    Is private label grocery about to go to the next level?

    I expect the move toward private brands to continue, both at opening price points and in mid-tier pricing intended to capture share from national brands. This is the same trend that has allowed department stores to differentiate themselves for years -- and to avoid direct price competition -- although it's arguable whether the shift has driven sales.It's not just the Amazon/Whole Foods combo driving the movement (or the growth of Aldi, either). Traditional mid-tier grocers are pushing more branded goods off the shelves in favor of higher-margin alternatives. But "different" doesn't always mean better: My local Metro Market (acquired from Roundy's last year) is filling up fast with Kroger-branded product and not necessarily to the benefit of the product quality.
  • Posted on: 11/15/2017

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Macy’s vs. Nordstrom

    Spot on re: Macy's. It could have been an ad for anything ... sharing a Coke, sharing songs via a music app, whatever. Would Macy's even be relevant to two little kids?
  • Posted on: 11/15/2017

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Macy’s vs. Nordstrom

    I absolutely agree with Bob about the bleak mood of the Macy's commercial. (Sign of the times, maybe, but depressing.) The heart-tugging message about sharing for the holidays could just as easily been a generic holiday commercial for fill-in-the-blank-brand-or-product. Macy's appearance at the end seems tangential to whatever the ad is trying to say.The Nordstrom ad, in contrast, accomplishes a couple of goals: First, it sends an upbeat, accessible message celebrating its own associates (which are a key part of the store's brand "formula"). And not coincidentally, the spot shows most or all of the employees wearing apparel that they presumably bought at their own store.

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