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.

Other Links from Dick Seesel:

  • Posted on: 10/24/2016

    Should Bass Pro retire the Cabela’s name?

    I think it's arguable that Macy's made the right call over the long haul as the only traditional department store with a national footprint. It was important to create brand equity for the "Macy's" name instead of trying to support a bunch of nameplates with regional appeal. (Bon Ton Stores, on the other hand, decided that "localized" brand identity was a better tactic.)In the case of Bass and Cabela's, I think both brands are worth maintaining. These are superstores usually drawing from large trade areas and not necessarily in direct competition with each other -- and both companies with loyal customer bases. There is no point in shutting down the Cabela's brand in the short-term when there will be plenty of other merger-related challenges to deal with first.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2016

    What follows all-day breakfast at McDonald’s?

    McDonald's no longer has a significant price advantage on its signature product (hamburgers) compared to chains like In-N-Out Burger, Culver's and so forth. And it has a real problem in terms of food quality -- not just the lack of freshness in the burgers themselves, but also the inability to customize. I know McDonald's is trying to reconcile the quality issue with the "need for speed," but some of its regional competitors have figured out that their customers (even at the drive-thru window) are willing to wait a little longer for better-tasting food. Until McDonald's is willing to do what it takes to address this issue, nothing else (including breakfast) matters.
  • Posted on: 10/20/2016

    Will department stores experience a Christmas rebound?

    I agree with Mr. Sadove's short-term prognosis: The department store segment should have better results during 4th quarter because the 2015 comparisons are so bad. Any favorable break on the weather will drive at least modest increases in categories like outerwear, boots and sweaters -- provided that stores are adequately stocked with the right goods.But he's also correct that a strong holiday season shouldn't be mistaken for a comeback by the entire segment. There are systemic problems with the department store business that one good quarter won't fix. Macy's -- between its announcement of 100 store closings and its decision to chase the off-price segment -- typifies what happens when a retailer fails to focus its assortments, update its stores or achieve its customer service promise.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2016

    Walmart finds it pays to pay workers better

    When Walmart began its initiatives to pay more to its associates (and to spruce up its stores), its quarterly earnings took a hit. The company caught some flak from investors, except for those with the long view that these changes were overdue. Now the investment is starting to pay dividends, although Walmart admits it still needs to work on its hiring and training in the critical area of fresh foods. Assuming continued improvement in sales and the store experience (and lower turnover), this is a pretty simple lesson for other retailers considering the same strategy.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2016

    Will greeters make Penney a more inviting place to shop?

    There is nothing wrong with what J.C. Penney is doing -- especially to create a halo effect -- but I think it will be hard to measure the results from such a limited test. (I haven't visited a lot of malls where I would describe 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. as "power hours," unless it's on a weekend.) I hope anybody assigned to this job is already a sales associate working on the selling floor and comfortable dealing with customers in a friendly way.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2016

    Is it time for retailers to stop the Thanksgiving madness?

    Some of the biggest players (Walmart, Target, Macy's, Kohl's, J.C. Penney and Best Buy) apparently still plan to open on Thanksgiving. But the pendulum is swinging back, and the Mall of America's announcement that it plans to close on Thursday will be a major influence on other mall operators. It seems clear that the push for earlier "early bird" hours on Black Friday (followed by midnight openings, followed by Thursday openings) has had a diminishing effect on sales -- by draining any sense of urgency out of Friday morning shopping. (And the availability of goods online hasn't helped, either.)It's hard for the retailers who insist on being open for Thanksgiving to be the first one to blink, but it seems clear that consumer sentiment is tugging them in that direction.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2016

    Will retailers lose retiring boomers to experiences?

    Retailers will continue to have opportunities to sell products related to health, wellness and fitness as Boomers try to chase their imagined "youth" well into their 70s. But the overall premise of the conversation is correct: Boomers seem to be less interested in accumulating more "stuff" and more engaged in travel, dining and leisure. (This can extend to consumption of technology, another opportunity for retailers.) Their disposable income is also being pinched by rising healthcare costs.At some point most people decide to spend on life experiences "while they can" rather than more possessions, unless those purchases are for their children and grandchildren. But even multigenerational spending is likely to be geared toward family "experiences" in the future ... not a new phenomenon, by the way, even though we Boomers think we're the first to undergo anything.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2016

    Is consistent messaging the key to loyalty?

    With all due credit to marketing consistency, I think it's overrated as the key driver of customer loyalty -- at least in this survey. Communicating to customers -- wherever they look for marketing messages -- is an important building block in branding, but it doesn't happen in a vacuum. Marketing needs to function alongside merchandise content, pricing strategies, customer service and so forth -- and in a consistent way with the other pieces of the retail puzzle -- in order to turn a satisfied customer into a committed one.By the way, since retailers are in the business of selling goods and services, isn't merchandise content (the right product in stock when the customer wants it) the most important attribute? If stores don't execute this, does marketing matter?
  • Posted on: 10/07/2016

    Should Bed Bath & Beyond ditch its coupons?

    Looking at this from the perspective of a Bed Bath & Beyond customer (who never forgets to bring a coupon to the store), I'd be attracted by this new business model. Since a typical coupon can be used only on a single item per visit, it's likely that the $29 membership fee and subsequent discount would actually save money for the consumer. Whether this helps or hurts Bed Bath & Beyond's margins is another question, but it's likely to drive more consistent traffic and fuller shopping carts.
  • Posted on: 10/06/2016

    Will retailers find gold or coal in their holiday stockings?

    If somebody tracked the annual NRF holiday forecast compared to actual results, I think they would find that this trade organization is consistently too optimistic. I feel the same way about their 2016 number.And does their number include surging growth by e-commerce retailers, especially Amazon, or strictly brick-and-mortar and multichannel retailers like Macy's? There isn't much evidence from the numbers we've seen all year (especially from mid-tier retailers) to expect a sudden surge in demand. Some retailers have especially easy comparisons to 2015 (which will help), but I'd be pleasantly surprised to see numbers beyond the 2 to 3 percent range.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2016

    Will Craftsman be better off without Sears?

    Selling its three key brands to the highest bidder might give Sears Holdings a short-term cash infusion. But it's the beginning of the end if Craftsman, Kenmore and DieHard are available anywhere. If you can buy a full array of Craftsman tools at your local DIY superstore (not to mention on Amazon), the most compelling reason to visit Sears is gone.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2016

    Are the alternatives any better than annual performance reviews?

    Like it or not, retail is a business of measurables as well as intangibles ... at least for line managers (merchants or store managers) responsible for things like sales, gross margin, turnover, shortage and store expenses. So it's important to hold people accountable for those metrics for which they're responsible. If you don't like the idea of a report card (even looking at daily sales) you are in the wrong business.The problem is that the system seems unchanged at least since I started getting performance reviews in the late 1970s and surely predating that. The intangibles (like the ability to collaborate with a team, to train others, to work effectively with vendors) ought to be given more weight and should be evaluated much more often than once a year. This kind of frequent feedback will prevent the year-end review from becoming a surprise and will also have a positive effect on the metrics.
  • Posted on: 10/03/2016

    Costco sticking to store-first approach

    Costco is not wrong in sticking to its knitting, especially while it continues to have the opportunity to open more of its destination stores around the country. (It started with one store in the Milwaukee area and gradually grew to four.) It's also clear from observing grocery carts at the checkout lane that fresh goods and bulk groceries are key drivers of Costco sales. (And it's also clear that the switch from Amex to Visa was a win.) It would be tough online to duplicate the variety of goods bought on a typical Costco shopping trip if you're looking online for a single item.That being said, Costco can do better online -- not only in terms of product sales but especially in terms of ancillary services. B2B, insurance, travel, etc. are all big opportunities to leverage the Costco website.
  • Posted on: 09/29/2016

    Will opening hotels help West Elm sell more furniture?

    Part of West Elm's stated motivation is to widen the brand footprint without opening too many brick-and-mortar stores. It's a creative way to expand a lifestyle brand into a related business. (Of course there is the added benefit of filling several hotels with saleable product.)Hotels have been in the ancillary business of selling their proprietary mattresses, bedding and towels for several years. This takes the concept into reverse gear and it may turn out to be a brand expansion opportunity for West Elm's parent, too -- Williams-Sonoma kitchens inside West Elm hotels, anyone?
  • Posted on: 09/23/2016

    Will on-demand beauty services connect with Macy’s customers?

    As a percentage to the total business, cosmetics are still a "headquarters" area for traditional department stores like Macy's. Meanwhile, there is growing competition from Ulta, Sephora (inside and outside of J.C. Penney) and others, including mass market retailers.This partnership is an ideal way for Macy's to underscore its dominance in this business and also to reinforce its image as a full-service retailer -- an image that has been tarnished in recent years. Looks like a win all around.

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