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: 08/17/2017

    Is Walmart on an unstoppable run?

    I would never say "unstoppable," but Walmart's investments in stores and omnichannel certainly seem to be paying off. They do need to anticipate the impact of the Amazon-Whole Foods tie-up in terms of its impact on online grocery retailing. But Walmart is seeing payback from its multi-year investments in upgrading brick-and-mortar, focusing on better execution in food and getting its full-size prototype right.Walmart is the most obvious case of a retailer figuring out how to leverage its e-commerce business into store traffic, but Target's results seemed to point to the same thing. Even stores like Kohl's with comp-store decreases suggested 2nd quarter improvements in store traffic -- so maybe the stores with the most aggressive omnichannel effort are starting to see results.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2017

    How should vendors respond to Walmart’s reluctance to raise prices?

    Walmart has always been tough on its suppliers when it comes to costs -- it's part of the company culture. Recall several years ago when suppliers were dealing with escalating cotton costs but Walmart didn't budge on the prices charged to its customers. And the company is not going to cede its price leadership to Amazon if it can help it.What can vendors do? As the article suggests, they can try charging more to other customers, they can find cost savings in their supply chains or (the least desirable but most probable outcome) they can compromise product quality.
  • Posted on: 08/14/2017

    Does the internet know us better than we know ourselves?

    Consumer panels, focus groups and other traditional survey tools are losing favor because they are less predictive than actual transaction data. Clearly companies like Amazon and Netflix figured this out a long time ago and have continued to refine their data mining skills. But Big Data isn't a perfect tool, especially in the case of a new product category lacking any history that can be used for predictive forecasting. Even Netflix often uses variations of consumer panels to test-market pilots of new TV series before making a multi-episode commitment.
  • Posted on: 08/11/2017

    Is a positive quarter a sign of results to come for Nordstrom?

    The results of Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale (and the "less bad" sales reports from Macy's and Kohl's) may point toward a stronger second half than expected. It's too early to tell if we're seeing a full-fledged revival of women's apparel sales (still reported as a weak spot on Kohl's earnings call), but the Nordstrom numbers are encouraging.I shopped the Anniversary Sale in a couple of markets, and you'd be hard pressed to find a robust sale offering in men's or women's -- so there must have been some traffic-driven regular-price selling in the mix. Hats off to Nordstrom for sticking to its promotional discipline and for continuing to ride the success of its Rack and e-commerce businesses.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2017

    Is Wayfair Amazon-proof?

    Nobody is "Amazon-proof," because the company has a quick learning curve (and willingness to spend/invest) whenever it decides to move into a category. But Wayfair is in a better position than Amazon's competitors in other industries: It has a niche, a following and a strategy that are serving it well right now. Something to watch: Will Wayfair decide down the road that it needs an omnichannel game plan through a footprint of brick-and-mortar showrooms or a strategic alliance with another furniture retailer?
  • Posted on: 08/04/2017

    Are the four Ps of marketing irrelevant for retailers?

    I don't think the four Ps are dead, but retailers' ability to control the transaction using these tools has diminished in our age of consumer empowerment. Pam Danziger offers an alternative view, but it's really a way to supplement marketers' conventional wisdom with a more holistic view.Of the four P's, I continue to feel that "product" is the most important. Whether the consumer is buying online or in-store, and whether he/she is looking for a transaction or an "experience," there is no substitute for well-conceived and well-edited content.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2017

    Will grocery stores become the new mall anchors?

    Jon, interesting point about shopping habits outside of the U.S. However the European traditions of food halls and "High Street" shopping may not translate well to the car-centric lifestyle of Americans. My local Macy's store just closed its fresh food department to make room for a Backstage off-price installation, if that's a sign of the times.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2017

    Are retailers squandering store traffic?

    Charles is right on the tactics needed to improve conversion rates. Customer service and shorter checkout lines both require payroll expense whether you are Macy's or Target. The question is whether stores will commit these dollars since their expenses are already being stretched thin by omnichannel initiatives like BOPIS and ship-from-store.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2017

    Will grocery stores become the new mall anchors?

    It's ironic that we're talking about food stores taking over vacant mall space today, after discussing excess square footage in the grocery business yesterday. There may be specific malls where it makes sense to add a small-footprint store like Fresh Market, but it's hard to see how full-line mid-tier stores like Kroger can make this work on a large scale despite its test in Ohio. Presumably the grocery store would be the "last stop" on the shopping trip, if the shopper visits the rest of the mall at all.The entire issue comes down to mall developers and how they reinvent all that real estate. Southdale (outside Minneapolis) is replacing a J.C. Penney store with a three-level fitness center; other malls are adding more dining and entertainment. But pulling off-mall retailers (TJX, Costco) into the fold may be a more viable solution if the price of entry is right.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2017

    Are there too many grocery stores?

    The grocery business is suffering from the same "overspace" problem that has plagued general merchandisers for years, leading to waves of store closures this year. The retailers in the middle -- the old standbys like Kroger -- are particularly vulnerable to increased competition from discounters, small-format stores and retailers doing a better job engaging with "foodies" and Millennials. (At least Kroger has a winning concept with Mariano's in Chicago.)There is no doubt that shopping behavior is changing. Some shoppers are opting for more frequent but smaller trips for fresher food, while others are bulking up at warehouse clubs. Aldi, Lidl and Trader Joe's are offering smaller stores with curated assortments, and now Amazon is lurking in the background with its purchase of Whole Foods. As a regular shopper at Kroger's "Metro Market" chain in Milwaukee, I can tell you that the overwhelming amount of choice (to fill all that space) makes even a simple shopping trip harder than it should be.While some mid-tier chains are in a better position than others to survive, some industry consolidation is probably long overdue here.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2017

    Will Gen Z demand a new level of collaboration?

    I may have mixed my Ys and Zs ...
  • Posted on: 08/01/2017

    Will Gen Z demand a new level of collaboration?

    Whether we are talking about "Gen Z" or "Millennials," it's dangerous to paint an entire group of consumers with a broad brush. That's why I would challenge Anne's statement that "Gen Z lacks ... real-life engagement and the emotional resonance that comes with it."My own Gen Z children and their friends (now in their mid-20s to early 30s) certainly don't lack for real-life engagement. They are out there trying to establish their personal lives and careers (and figuring out the economics), just like their parents were at the same age, regardless of their tech prowess and skepticism about authority. Marketers would do well to remember that a lot of Gen Z "consumer behavior" will be driven by household formation issues (marrying, having their own children, buying a home) -- just like it was for their Boomer parents.
  • Posted on: 07/25/2017

    Will dropping prices on cosmetics drive traffic to department stores?

    Speaking as a former buyer of cosmetics (going back to 1980) and then as a merchandise manager with oversight of the category, the beauty business has been the last refuge of full-price selling in department stores. But the temptation to put these goods on sale has migrated from discount stores and mass merchants to those department stores -- with the added impact of Sephora, Ulta and online sales. And like anything else related to price promotion, retailers will find it hard to stop taking this particular drug once they start.A long time ago, cosmetics fed off the traffic that the traditional department stores enjoyed. Then they became "headquarters" businesses in their own right given the strength of brands like Lauder, Clinique and Lancome. Eventually customers were trained to "wait for the gift-with-purchase," just as they were trained to "wait for the sale" elsewhere in the store.Those legacy brands are aging, just like the legacy department stores that carry them. This pattern is being repeated throughout the retail industry and the entire CPG world. So the conventional wisdom -- that discounting cosmetics will only commoditize the business -- may be true but may not be relevant anymore.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2017

    Do mini makeup studios make sense for Sephora?

    Sephora has learned, through its collaboration with J.C. Penney, that a small footprint can be very effective. And it's hard for Sephora to ignore the growth and success of Ulta. Finally, Sephora must be paying close attention to the threat to the traditional big-mall model -- so a new concept like Sephora Studio gives it a good defensive and offensive strategy for growth.
  • Posted on: 07/21/2017

    Did Amazon just send Sears a life line with their Kenmore deal?

    Your last thought is really interesting. Could there be another Whole Foods-type of transaction in the future? Could Amazon eventually be the owner/operator of Sears Home Services (with the added business of selling appliances, etc.) and let Sears finally throw in the towel on its actual stores?

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