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: 12/07/2016

    Zara succeeds with speed

    I teach an undergraduate business class in retail management, and the class recently discussed the Zara business model. Even before the Wall Street Journal article appeared, the students correctly figured out that speed is Zara's biggest competitive advantage -- along with its design-to-manufacturing model that is more vertical than its competitors. Other "fast fashion" retailers (H&M, Forever 21) move product to their stores pretty quickly, but traditional department and specialty stores have a harder time layering "speed" on top of an existing model based on long lead times and too many private brands.As to the risk of inventory overages, the fast fashion retailers use speed as a weapon to avoid big mistakes. Zara, for example, can exploit a trend faster than its competitors while at the same time taking markdowns to clear the decks for the next big idea.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2016

    Will the tech behind Amazon Go redefine convenience at retail?

    Amazon has redefined convenience in every category they have entered (starting with their original business of shipping books). The company has raised customers' expectations for speedy execution and has raised the bar for all of its competitors at the same time. Whether Amazon Go works or not is almost beside the point, because the company can afford to fail -- but Amazon appears committed to bringing its vaunted tech-driven efficiency to brick-and-mortar retail models that haven't advanced much beyond the UPC code. (If Amazon Go works ... watch out!)
  • Posted on: 12/02/2016

    Will Starbucks be the same without Howard Schultz as CEO?

    I agree with Max: No company, especially a big public one like Starbucks, can last forever on the basis of one key CEO. (Although there are many examples, such as Whole Foods, where the CEO can't seem to step down from the big job.) We'll see whether Mr. Schultz -- so central to the Starbucks success story -- can allow his handpicked successor to do his job, including making some mistakes along the way. And we'll see whether Mr. Johnson can balance the "fresh set of eyes" with the Starbucks culture that has been so successful through the years.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2016

    Will sales promotions be the death of department stores?

    Good point, and that's part of the reason why the fast fashion guys are winning. Generation X is a fairly narrow slice of the pie compared to Boomers and Generation Y. Go where the money is.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2016

    Will sales promotions be the death of department stores?

    Let's separate promotional department stores (like J.C. Penney and Kohl's) from higher-end stores like Nordstrom with a limited promotional schedule, and let's include Macy's in the bucket of promotional stores whether they like it or not. Mr. Questrom is correct that overpromotion runs the risk of "commoditization" in a business that also needs more focus on customer service and trend-right merchandise content. But the painful lesson of J.C. Penney in 2012 can't be ignored: Most customers' value perceptions of department stores revolve around the fact that they run frequent sales. When J.C. Penney tried to follow the lead of "fast fashion" retailers with everyday low prices (like Zara or Forever 21), it fell on its face.
  • Posted on: 11/29/2016

    What does a record Cyber Monday foretell for the remaining holiday season?

    A healthy Cyber Monday is a good omen for overall holiday spending, especially online. Most e-commerce and omnichannel retailers start "Cyber Week" early and end late, just like stores have gotten into the habit of extending the life of their Black Friday specials. (I've already gotten my "Cyber Tuesday" e-mails from Amazon and others today.) So a one-day jump may be significant, but mostly it points to the accelerating strength of online shopping as a whole, and especially searching for deals.
  • Posted on: 11/28/2016

    Online wins the Black Friday weekend again

    In a sense the migration from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce is as profound as the shift from "downtown" shopping to suburban malls and strip centers that began in the late 1950s and accelerated in the following decade. It's another step in the long evolution of consumer choice, empowerment and convenience -- which arguably began with the development of department stores in central business districts in the first place.
  • Posted on: 11/28/2016

    Online wins the Black Friday weekend again

    While mall traffic seemed a bit more robust on Friday, this could be the result of malls deciding to close on Thanksgiving (even if some of their mall anchors like Macy's were open). Otherwise the trend toward online shopping doesn't look like a big surprise, especially with the early availability of so-called Black Friday doorbusters. It's past time to try measuring online vs. in-store sales, especially for omnichannel retailers -- the real issue is whether total retail spending rose or fell this weekend and which product categories are driving the bigger increases. The silos (e-commerce vs. brick-and-mortar) just aren't relevant anymore.
  • Posted on: 11/22/2016

    How important is convenience to motivating online holiday shoppers?

    Walk a mall this Friday morning and you'll probably see what I saw in 2015: The huge crowds at 8 a.m. are a thing of the past. Part of this is the retailers' fault for pushing their opening hours earlier and earlier (back to Thanksgiving itself), but the bigger reason is the rapid growth of e-commerce sales. Let's face it: At this time of year "omnichannel" means shopping online for the same deals that you can get in-store, having goods shipped free to your house or across the country and generally avoiding the hassle of the entire Black Friday experience.
  • Posted on: 11/22/2016

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: J.C. Penney vs. Kohl’s

    I think the J.C. Penney ad is a bit heavy on the heartstring-tugging and light on selling product -- although I suppose that VR headsets will be Black Friday doorbusters this weekend. The Kohl's ad says "holiday spirit" more clearly, and who knew they sold American Girl dolls? We do now.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2016

    Will table service be a difference-maker for McDonald’s?

    We both live in "Culver's Country," which other readers may be able to tell. David is right that Culver's service culture grew organically, and it would be tough to impose this on an existing (and vast) organization like McDonald's. We agree absolutely that it's all about whether McDonald's can elevate the quality (not speed or value) of its offerings.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2016

    Will table service be a difference-maker for McDonald’s?

    One word: Culver's. The Wisconsin-based chain (which has now spread to several regions of the country) has always made table service part of its business model, without a significant price difference vs. McDonald's. You order at the counter, find a table, grab your soda and wait (maybe five minutes) for a friendly associate to bring your hot, good-tasting food to your table.The key here is "hot" and "good-tasting." Yes, I think the combination of kiosks (for efficient ordering) and table service can be a win for McDonald's but they also need to improve the drive-thru experience. (Touch screens and mobile payments, anyone? Culver's could use some work here, too.) But it's all about the food quality.
  • Posted on: 11/18/2016

    Will hundreds of small stores produce big results for Target?

    Target's recent hirings and departures suggest that it's still struggling with how to manage its supply chain and IT more effectively, especially in its grocery business. But fixing those issues shouldn't prevent Target from moving along a parallel track of new format development and expansion.Small-footprint stores are a big opportunity, especially as Walmart appears to have abandoned its own plans. For example, I can think of a two-level vacated Sports Authority store in a nearby "town center" development that would be an ideal location -- but only if Target sticks to its core assortment and shifts the focus away groceries, given the Trader Joe's right next door.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2016

    Are retailers carrying enough inventory for Christmas?

    I don't blame retailers for being cautious about holiday 2016. They were burned last year by excess seasonal inventory that took most of the first quarter to work through. In addition, there was nothing in the sales numbers during the first half of 2016 (when plans are made and orders placed) to point toward being overly aggressive.Will there be pockets of shortages? Yes, especially among those stores who overreacted to last year's poor cold-weather sales instead of ordering against a three-year average. But stores need to learn the lesson of "sell what you own" during the post-Thanksgiving period: If one key item sells out, sell something else in your inventory.
  • Posted on: 11/11/2016

    Will Donald Trump’s presidency be good for retailers?

    Agreed, and some of the names being floated for key jobs (Steve Bannon of Breitbart for chief of staff, for example) are likely to have a chilling effect on many of those who didn't vote for Trump but would like to give him a fair chance to succeed.As to Cathy Hotka's observation (above) that the conventional wisdom in DC expects Mr. Trump to do nothing that he promised ... how did the conventional wisdom work out on Tuesday?

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