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: 08/25/2016

    Has beauty been the ‘missing link’ for Kohl’s business?

    In the interest of historical accuracy, Kohl's has carried beauty in all stores since 2004-2005, when the company introduced exclusive brands developed by Estée Lauder. (I was involved in the launch.) The difference now appears to be the greater variety of brands, increased staffing and the much bigger footprint being rolled out for the category.No surprise that it's working, just as Sephora has been driving sales at J.C. Penney for several years.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2016

    Is Walmart on a roll?

    Walmart veers from under-performance to over-performance over time, and the latest "over-performance" is really only in contrast to competitors like Target. A very modest comp-store sales increase is nothing to write home about when Walmart continues to lose share to Amazon, dollar stores and other competitors. That being said, Walmart is doing a consistently better job drawing in regular food shoppers than Target, and some of its investments in store improvements are starting to pay dividends. But a 1.6 percent same-store increase isn't cause for celebration, even in today's tough environment for general merchandisers.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2016

    Where would J.C. Penney be without Sears?

    I agree that some of Ron Johnson's ideas -- when introduced -- were innovative in light of J.C. Penney's stagnating business at the time. But his unwillingness to test before making changes across the chain, and his almost perverse desire to chase away J.C. Penney's core consumer (dropping St. Johns Bay, for example) tarnished the value of those ideas.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2016

    Where would J.C. Penney be without Sears?

    Marvin Ellison has noted the sales gains in J.C. Penney locations where Sears has closed, and it's not surprising. Even those Sears stores that are still open are often woefully light on basic inventory, especially in J.C. Penney's sweet spots like sheets, towels, socks and underwear. And the play for Sears' appliance business is clearcut, even though J.C. Penney also has an opportunity to make its own home stores more productive.But some of the credit for J.C. Penney's modest operating improvements is coming from other initiatives that Mr. Ellison is spearheading -- cost reductions, improved supply chain management, better IT management and (most important) new merchandising leadership. Given these changes, and the tailwinds coming from Sears and Macy's store closures, J.C. Penney investors probably have a right to expect faster growth after 2016.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2016

    Does Nordstrom’s growth depend on Nordstrom Rack?

    If I were a JWN shareholder, I'd be happy that the company is growing the Rack business. It's good to have a growth vehicle in light of the well-documented issues with both the traditional department store business and the near-luxury brands like Coach, Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren. And Nordstrom has always been very cautious about opening its full-line stores.This being said, the company's brand reputation is really built on the success of its full-line stores. I shopped my local Nordstrom on Saturday (newly opened in Milwaukee last fall) and I wonder whether a little more attention to the store's value positioning -- without hopping on Macy's promotional carousel -- might help its traffic levels and reduce its clearance levels more effectively.
  • Posted on: 08/12/2016

    Are store closings a positive sign for Macy’s?

    Whether Macy's stops cannibalizing its own sales depends on where it closes stores. It seems clear that after a long period of acquisition (especially the May Company locations) that it is finally owning up to an unsustainable real estate portfolio. It's also clear -- from a random sampling of Macy's visited around the country over the past year -- that the company has not been prepared to make the necessary capital investments to keep some of its stores fresh and shoppable.But painting this move as part of an omnichannel-driven "reinvention" is not the whole picture. The fact remains that Macy's has plenty of work to do on over-assortment, on low levels of customer service and on a stale marketing program. Closing 100 stores may peel off Macy's least profitable locations, but will the move address some of the company's underlying issues?
  • Posted on: 08/11/2016

    Can (should) brands do without department stores?

    I'm not sure that near-luxury brands like Coach and Michael Kors are ready and able to abandon the traditional department store as a key volume driver. Some of their recent problems fall on their own shoulders -- the overexpansion of their own stores (hundreds in the case of Kors), the willingness to distribute their goods to off-pricers and their own outlet stores, and the failure to cherry-pick the best anchor locations. It's not an exact parallel, but Apple has always been selective about being in "the right mall," not every mall -- and it's a lesson that aspirational brands should learn as they continue to do business with department stores.
  • Posted on: 08/10/2016

    Will selling in fewer stores help Coach sell more handbags?

    Brands like Coach and Kors couldn't grow fast enough, partly by over-distribution to department stores and partly by over-expansion of their own stores. Investors were happy while the category was hot, but the brands have been compromised at the same time that the demand for designer handbags is cooling off.A strategy of deliberate scarcity makes sense in the short run (despite the volume hit), in order to rein in discounting and drive better sell-throughs. But the underlying issue remains: How to reignite consumers' interest in near-luxury handbags when they aren't all that interested in visiting department stores at all.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2016

    Are loss leaders a losing proposition for stores?

    I agree with other panelists that loss leaders are useful in driving sales and store (or site) traffic. Anybody with a long memory (Gimbels, anyone?) knows that loss leaders have been around for decades, and the phenomenon of cherry-picking is at least as old as Black Friday circulars.What's different is shoppers' ability to do their cherry-picking on their smartphones, but I'm still skeptical about the number of consumers willing to drive from store to store to save on pencils here, glue sticks there, and so forth -- versus the convenience of one-stop in-store or online shopping. So these loss leaders are a calculated gamble that shoppers lured in by the giveaways will stay to fill their carts.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2016

    Amazon launches Prime Air

    It's not just a PR move but also a legitimate way for Amazon to verticalize its logistics operations -- and to keep ratcheting up its execution vs. its competitors. I'll be interested to see if Amazon decides to expand the Prime Air concept to offer an alternative to the other carriers, like UPS and FedEx.
  • Posted on: 08/05/2016

    When should brands go down market?

    If Under Armour wants to gain share at Nike's expense, why not sell where Nike already has an established beachhead? Without having any insider information (I worked for Kohl's from 1982 to 2006), I'm speculating that they have a very large and healthy active/fitness apparel and shoe business across all ages and genders. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
  • Posted on: 08/04/2016

    Would Walmart + Jet.com be an Amazon killer?

    The risk isn't great to Walmart, considering the purchase price vs. Walmart's scale. But the reward is definitely in favor of Jet.com's founders and investors, who are about to become very wealthy. The real question is whether Walmart intends to keep the Jet.com brand alive or simply wants to take a competitor off the playing field.Jet.com seems to have followed the typical internet startup path of losing money while aggressively trying to build traffic and market share. But Walmart's move makes it hard to tell if Jet's business model is sustainable over the long haul. Let's face it -- nothing about this move changes the reality that Amazon is the alpha dog.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2016

    Disney may track park visitors using shoe recognition tech

    Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. At least smartphone users can opt out of location-based tracking. This has a "creep" factor that seems at odds with the Disney brand.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2016

    Where should retailers concentrate their tech focus?

    Retailers might think that the smartest use of their tech projects is to lower costs through better logistics management, sourcing and so forth. But they are better off shifting the focus to areas of improvement that the customer will recognize. This may involve smarter replenishment tactics, associate scheduling or targeted loyalty programs. Consumer-facing enhancements ought to be the priority.
  • Posted on: 07/27/2016

    Sears Holdings says Kmart is being transformed, not closing doors

    Is there anything wrong with figuring out how to get goods to the selling floor faster and more efficiently? Of course not.That being said, does anybody really believe -- over a dozen years since Lampert bought Kmart before adding Sears -- that some kind of "transformation" is even possible? We've heard this kind of language many times over the years, most recently around the "membership model." Meanwhile, the results continue in a downward spiral.

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