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: 04/27/2017

    Is Trump’s tax plan right for retailers and their customers?

    If the proposal announced yesterday is the beginning of a negotiation, it probably makes sense for the President to take the most aggressive position possible at the outset. But to turn this into a plan that can pass both the House and Senate is another story. The absence of a "border adjustment" tax is obviously good news for retailers (and consumers) but the lack of a revenue mechanism to offset the deficit impact of the tax cuts makes it a tough sell ...assuming the GOP-controlled House still cares about that sort of thing.As to the impact on consumers, this is harder to read: I think more affluent consumers living in states like Wisconsin might actually see their Federal taxes go up, if they can no longer itemize state and local taxes and the rise in standard deduction doesn't offset it.Finally, looking for sustained 3 percent GDP growth over 10 years is like looking for a blue-eyed unicorn: The flood of Boomers into retirement age is an impediment and so is the reality of the economic cycle. Wishing and hoping is not a strategy.
  • Posted on: 04/25/2017

    Will omnichannel make the J.C. Penney and Sephora partnership more successful?

    When Mike Ullman (formerly of LVMH) partnered with Sephora (owned by LVMH), he realized that J.C. Penney needed a critical mass of cosmetics even though the legacy department store brands like Clinique, Estee Lauder and Lancome wouldn't sell J.C. Penney. (Lancome is now part of the Sephora assortment.) At the same time, Sephora was growing as a mall-based alternative to the anchor stores' beauty departments with a unique approach to open-sell layout and fresh assortments. It's turned out to be a win for both companies, especially as those traditional department store anchors lose share and traffic.Certainly omnichannel is another opportunity for J.C. Penney as Amazon continues its inroads into the beauty business. But perhaps the biggest unmet opportunity for J.C. Penney is to convince the (younger) Sephora customer in the store to buy more apparel, shoes and accessories on her visits to the beauty department.
  • Posted on: 04/24/2017

    What customer service lessons can be learned from United Airlines?

    Consumers have choices of retailers, just as they (often) have choices of airlines and other service providers. One of the lessons that any customer-facing business ought to take away from the United fiasco is the need to empower employees to look past the policy manual when it's time to exercise some good judgment. (In the case of United, it would have been easier to seek volunteers for rebooking instead of working from a mandatory list.) Policies are meant to protect a retailer's assets and to manage risk, but they shouldn't turn into a roadblock to common sense.And the second lesson learned: If your company hasn't learned the power of viral social networking by now, you'd better get your communications act together fast. Above all, don't blame the consumer for your own missteps.
  • Posted on: 04/21/2017

    Are Millennials and Gen Z more about convenience or price when they shop?

    The headline (price vs. convenience) is a false choice, since adept retailers ought to be able to deliver both. That's the expectation of consumers today, whether they are Millennials or Generation Z or their parents. M-commerce has empowered shoppers over the past decade, because of the vast amount of knowledge at their fingertips and the growth of retailers who know how to leverage it.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2017

    Has CVS crafted a promising new drugstore shopping journey?

    Given a switch of insurers last January, I'm shopping less at Walgreens and more at CVS. I've always had a problem with the navigation issue at Walgreens: It's just as difficult to find things in my newly remodeled neighborhood store as it was before. And the over-assortment of categories having nothing to do with health and wellness may be good for Walgreens' position as the "neighborhood convenience store," but it certainly doesn't help the customer figure things out.The competing CVS is noticeably easier to shop, with wider aisles and better directional and product signage. If the company takes its execution to the next level -- as reported -- it could be part of a broader competitive advantage over Walgreens.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2017

    Can McD’s succeed with commercials that don’t mention its name?

    I have to disagree with Dave on this one. I'm thinking that McDonald's is aiming for multi-platform engagement by its customers, especially Millennials and younger who are adept at that sort of thing. I'm no Millennial, but as soon as I saw the ad I started Googling on my nearby laptop -- I found out the ad was for McDonald's and I also learned that Mindy Kaling is a McD's devotee. (She joked that she wanted to be paid in fries for her work.) And -- most importantly -- the ad made a point about the taste of Coke products alongside the food at McDonald's. If my experience is typical -- and if the ad gets people talking -- I'd rate it as a big success.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2017

    Will Amazon pull a Quidsi on Zappos?

    The share numbers over the past four years suggest that the business is basically static for Amazon. (The Amazon brand has gained while the Zappos brand has slipped.) I don't see a net positive by folding the Zappos business into Amazon, considering the brand loyalty it built (and continues to enjoy). Amazon has an opportunity to re-grow the Zappos business and to use it as a laboratory for market segmentation strategies that could be applied to other areas of the company.
  • Posted on: 04/17/2017

    Are outlet malls an outlier?

    The growth of outlet malls over the past several years flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that brick-and-mortar retail is dead. Outlet malls provide the same kind of focus on "treasure hunt" and value that have kept companies like TJX and fast-fashion retailers performing well. They have the added cachet of multiple designer brands, at the same time that those brands are trying to clean up promotional activity in their department store accounts.In fact, the proliferation of outlet malls (and their upgraded appearance and tenant mix) is one more issue making it harder for the traditional regional mall to tread water. But outlet mall developers need to be careful about overexpansion: There are up to a half-dozen outlet malls around the Chicago area where there used to be one. Part of the appeal of "destination shopping" will be lost of these malls become too commonplace.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2017

    Are retail CEOs ready to ‘disagree and commit’ like Jeff Bezos?

    Amazon is in the rare position of being able to take risks quickly without disrupting its overall business model. In fact, you can argue that trying new things (only some of which will stick to the wall) is central to Amazon's brand image. But there are other recent examples of "shoot first, ask questions later" -- most famously, JCP's moves in 2012 that backfired badly because of inadequate market testing.That being said, I do agree with Mr. Bezos that there is plenty of room for risk-taking and decision by instinct (not just data) in retailing, if senior management creates a fast-moving culture where it can happen.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2017

    What will retailers gain from HHGregg’s loss?

    Best Buy will benefit, naturally, in those markets where HHGregg had a store footprint and market share. There are significant clusters of stores around Chicago, in the mid-Atlantic and mid-South (including Atlanta) and in Florida. But don't expect it to compare to the demise of Circuit City -- not only because HHGregg isn't a national competitor but also because of the changing retail landscape.Another retailer that might gain share is J.C. Penney as it pushes into the major appliance business. Keep an eye on the big home improvement chains, too. This is one business that hasn't been dominated by Amazon (yet).
  • Posted on: 04/10/2017

    Should the same-store sales metric be retired?

    The article brings up a key point about the impact of omnichannel on same-store sales metrics. If a customer uses BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store), does the sales credit belong to the company's e-commerce site or to the store that fulfilled the order? Is it a fair metric when store A might have the merchandise in stock and location B might not? And, bottom line, does it or should it matter to a true omnichannel retailer?There is another issue casting a shadow on the validity of same-store sales: The increasing speed of store closures. At one point "comp sales" was a valuable tool as a lot of retailers were in a go-go expansion mode, but just the opposite is the case now. As companies close overlapping locations, the remaining stores may benefit from a spike in same-store sales without actually reflecting on the health of the business.
  • Posted on: 04/06/2017

    Will Panera Bread be more successful as a private company?

    I agree with Mark's assessment of the private vs. public outlook for Panera, provided, of course, that the new owners really intend to be hands-off investors. The emphasis on long-term growth strategies instead of quarterly results will help a company with a unique niche in the fast-casual marketplace. But it will also pay to see if there are any cross-branding strategies, especially between Panera's bakery business and the Peet's Coffee business. That's another positive as long as the two co-brands reinforce each other's strengths.
  • Posted on: 04/04/2017

    Will Jenna Lyons’ departure help or hinder J.Crew’s turnaround efforts?

    Product development is the lifeblood of a brand like J.Crew. There is no question that the company's merchandise assortments lost their way for the past several years and Mr. Drexler has been frank about design mistakes in his public statements about J.Crew's sales problems. While retailers are chasing the success of fast fashion stores like Zara and Forever 21, these tactics may not be right for J.Crew's preppy brand identity and higher-end positioning.As to the change in creative directors (after many years where Ms. Lyons's efforts were instrumental to the company's success), I guess it's like a baseball team: If you're the owner or the GM, it's easier to fire the manager instead of all the players.
  • Posted on: 03/31/2017

    An open letter to retailers from a Millennial: Fix your omnichannel!

    Retailers are working to break down silos (not just between IT, merchants and stores but also between different groups of merchants overseeing the same products), just not fast enough. But the story related in the article also comes down to poor execution given the information tools available to avoid this sort of situation.For a long time, retailers have run items in their promotional circulars that have not been in stock when customers visit stores -- and companies like Target became notorious for this. But the systems that existed even 10 years ago are far different from today's, so there is no excuse for this happening now. Any sort of marketing vehicle -- whether a website, print ad or TV spot -- ought to function like a party invitation, and the guests should be welcomed accordingly.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2017

    Will ‘ambitious store redesign’ lift Target to new heights?

    I'll start with some dumb questions: What if you want to enter the "quick trip" side of the store but all of the available parking is close to the "inspiration" side? Do all of the commodity businesses (food, HBA, cleaning supplies and so forth) end up on the "quick trip" side, and what is meant to draw traffic around and through the soft goods side of the store?I admire Target's effort to redesign elements of the store lacking excitement, such as women's apparel and home decor. But surely there is a way to design a store around both convenience and longer shopping trips without creating what sounds like a schizophrenic experience. We'll all have to see this redesign for ourselves before judging, and I hope Target continues to address its inventory management issues at the same time.

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