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: 06/27/2017

    Will its newest small store format make Meijer a downtown destination?

    Meijer is following other retailers into a competitive space with higher operating costs per square foot than their massive superstores. (And Target in particular is bringing more name recognition to big urban markets.) But Meijer's biggest challenge is to downsize its assortments to a much smaller footprint, even assuming it is only trying to cover the grocery side of its business instead of general merchandise. If Meijer had trouble editing down to a 90,000 square foot store, this will be an even tougher task.
  • Posted on: 06/26/2017

    Will Sears get traction with its new appliance and mattress store concept?

    It's hard to picture anything solving the Sears problem at this point. The company just announced the closure of a mall anchor here in Milwaukee (after closing another anchor over a year ago), leaving it with just one full-line store here. I'm sure the story is being duplicated around the country, at the same time that Sears has been closing (not opening) appliance-only franchise stores.Sears' legitimate franchise in appliances is evaporating as it continues to shrink its footprint and sell off its key brand (like Kenmore). The appliance space is crowded with competitors, now including major investments by Amazon and J.C. Penney. And who needs another place to buy mattresses, especially given the growth of online sales?
  • Posted on: 06/22/2017

    Is Starbucks passing the buck to baristas on customer service?

    It sounds like Starbucks has some systemic issues to solve (scheduling, mobile payment, etc.), but the barista is really the face of the brand. Despite some pushback from some employees, I give Starbucks credit for ensuring that every associate owns the customer experience.
  • Posted on: 06/21/2017

    Will Amazon Prime Wardrobe change how Americans shop for clothes?

    If Amazon aspires to be the top seller of apparel in the U.S.(and it's already getting close), it needs to add a "try before you buy" feature to keep driving more Prime memberships. It's responding to the challenge of concepts like Trunk Club -- but it's also acknowledging its lack of a physical footprint. Think about it -- stores like Kohl's and Macy's already have huge numbers of brick-and-mortar locations where you can return unwanted clothing that you bought online. This may be a rare case in which Amazon responds to a competitive weakness in its formula.
  • Posted on: 06/19/2017

    Will the Bonobos acquisition give Walmart a fashion edge?

    The news about Walmart and Bonobos was overshadowed by the Amazon headline on Friday, and understandably so because of the sheer scope and boldness of the Whole Foods acquisition. But Walmart's news deserves some attention on its own.This is another case where Walmart is buying a brand that offers more digital expertise and product development skill than the company appears able to build on its own. But there is a disconnect between Walmart's brand image and the customers who are shopping Bonobos today. Chances are good that the majority of Whole Foods customers are already Amazon Prime members too. How much overlap exists between Bonobos and Walmart, and will the association with Walmart chase away Bonobos's most loyal consumers?
  • Posted on: 06/16/2017

    What happens now that Amazon is acquiring Whole Foods?

    I echo a lot of the other panelists: The move can help grow Amazon's brick-and-mortar footprint, but it's more about taking the Whole Foods brand to every household in America that may order groceries from Amazon. It gives Amazon's fresh food businesses (meat, produce, organics) instant credibility in homes without a Whole Foods location in sight.As to the skeptics about whether Amazon can handle the logistics -- can they deliver organic produce and Cheerios at the same time -- this is the smartest logistics management company in the world that we're talking about.Finally, Amazon has a longstanding willingness to lose money in a new business where it is trying to grow market share. The days of "Whole Paycheck" may be over.
  • Posted on: 06/16/2017

    Where’s the art in data-driven marketing?

    It's easy to romanticize the "good old days" of marketing and advertising -- think of Don Draper cliffside, coming up with his greatest inspiration -- but the reality is that data science has always played a role. (It used to be called marketing research.) The fact that data collection and analysis is far more sophisticated today doesn't diminish the importance of creativity and instinct. Marketing is in part the art of creating an emotional link through brand equity, but it needs the grounding in facts and results that data science can provide.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2017

    Can fitness centers save malls?

    Creating a fitness center out of an existing mall anchor is a creative way to reinvent excess real estate instead of waiting for another retail tenant or tenants to emerge (unlikely) in today's overspaced environment. I've been in the J.C. Penney store in question and it was grossly overspaced for the volume it probably generated during the last few years.Students of retail history (and Minnesota natives like me) know that Southdale was the first fully enclosed regional mall in the U.S. It served its purpose as a retail mecca -- and community center -- for many years, but the mix of anchors and nearby competition from Mall of America has made it less relevant in its current form. So the Simon team deserves credit for finding new reasons for people to come to Southdale and other malls like it.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2017

    Can retailers escape the scourge of free shipping?

    Retailers have competed over e-commerce free shipping for a number of years, so it's hard to envision the genie being put back into the bottle. (Customer expectations are hard to unwind, after all, when customers are given a benefit for free.) The trick that Amazon seems to be mastering is the trade-off between speed and cost. Even Prime members may pay extra for same-day or next-day delivery compared to truly free shipping for an item showing up in two days; the shoppers figure out the value equation that matters to them. But will competing retailers take advantage of the solution that Amazon is providing to them?
  • Posted on: 06/09/2017

    Is IKEA really going to start selling on Amazon’s Marketplace?

    IKEA continues to open physical stores at a very deliberate pace. Here in the Milwaukee area, they are finally breaking ground this month for a store announced last year and opening in 2018 -- their first in the market. Yet IKEA has broad name recognition and brand equity among potential customers who don't live anywhere near one of their stores. Why not expand their e-commerce footprint, especially if the sales data uncovers potential new markets or localized changes in merchandise mix?
  • Posted on: 06/09/2017

    Is it time for stores to ditch the free Wi-Fi?

    I've shopped in many stores and malls where the 4G signal is weak because of city locations (I'm thinking downtown Chicago) or because the buildings themselves are like concrete bunkers. So the access to free Wi-Fi is a benefit that most customers expect to find, even if they don't use it or need it.It's not just a matter of unlimited data plans -- until cellular signals are more reliable, why take away something that consumers are now trained to expect?
  • Posted on: 06/08/2017

    Can a failed department store find a second life as an off-price retail chain?

    From my recollection shopping a few Gordmans stores in the past, they were a Kohl's wannabe without the geographic footprint to be sustainable. Now they are aiming to be a TJ Maxx wannabe but will still be saddled with the same problems. It's tough to enter an increasingly crowded sector without the physical footprint or the buying power to compete against TJX, Ross Stores and now Backstage.Stage Stores is trying to maintain multiple concepts and brands (Peebles, Goody's, Bealls and now Gordman). Why not operate one concept under one brand-name umbrella? It's the "Bon Ton syndrome" where none of the individual brand names is strong enough to overcome the lack of scale.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2017

    What will happen to J.Crew without Mickey Drexler as CEO?

    First, keep in mind that Mickey Drexler is not exactly riding into the sunset: He retains his chairman title and a significant ownership in the company. So it remains to be seen whether Mr. Brett has the freedom to reshape the company as much as it needs. It's not always easy for somebody with Mr. Drexler's track record to walk away.As to the reshaping, I expect to see a few things happen: First, a faster expansion of the Madewell business. Second, a course correction for the J.Crew brand itself, perhaps back to its legacy positioning as a more affordable (but still aspirational) alternative to Ralph Lauren. (Right now it's nowhere close to a clear point of view.) And third, expanding the J.Crew brand (once it is fixed) into new categories, just as Mr. Brett has done by treating West Elm as a lifestyle business.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2017

    Does store operations have a seat at the digital transformation table?

    Retailers pushing for omnichannel solutions (BOPIS, ship-from-store and so forth) absolutely have to involve store operations. There is no way to plan the costs of these services (especially in payroll hours) without field management at the table. And store management has a responsibility to speak up when pushed to "do more with less" -- otherwise the costs of omnichannel programs erode the customer service that brick-and-mortar shoppers still expect.
  • Posted on: 06/01/2017

    Should Amazon buy Macy’s?

    Amazon shouldn't buy Macy's if its only motivation is to use the stores as pickup and return centers. And I'm not sure that Amazon "needs" Macy's to give its own apparel business more credibility -- some reports suggest that Amazon will already become the number one seller of apparel in the U.S. this year.Amazon should only pursue Macy's if it is prepared to reinvent the department store model from top to bottom -- something that Macy's itself seems unwilling or unable to do. Amazon is already dipping its toe into other kinds of brick-and-mortar retail, but this would be a big jump.

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