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: 10/16/2019

    Does Target need to address its associate morale problem?

    Erratic weekly hours have been a sore point among retail workers for a long time, and it may not change anytime soon whether the hourly rate goes up or not. The reality: Most stores have volume peaks and valleys, and the peaks happen mostly in the 4th quarter when the hiring is done. This is just a fact of life, but it makes front-line retail work very unpredictable as a source of income and benefits. As to the elimination of overnight shifts, I'm sure this depends greatly on each store's sales volume and whether the task management involved in unloading trailers or stocking shelves can be done during open hours. One overall caution to Target: With its longstanding problem keeping those shelves and pegs filled, be careful not to be overly cost-conscious at the expense of good in-stock rates.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2019

    Why are grocers still missing the mark with small food brands?

    The phenomenon of small food brands getting squeezed for space seems more prevalent among the big chains like Kroger vs. smaller locally based grocers. The big chains have more leverage with the big national brands, and those brands have the marketing power and financial strength to deal with slotting fees and other allowances. At the same time, chains like Kroger are making more space for their own private labels, often at the expense of those national brands. The small companies and unique products get squeezed from both directions, and I don't see this trend changing anytime soon outside of the local chains.
  • Posted on: 10/10/2019

    Can Target’s chief merchandising officer turn Bed Bath & Beyond around?

    Target has always been known for well edited assortments (although not always for in stock rates). A proven merchant like Mr. Tritton is exactly what Bed Bath & Beyond needs to bring some order and forward thinking to its stores.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2019

    Why is Target helping Toys “R” Us get back online?

    I see this leading toward a TRU-branded toy department inside Target. There is no other apparent reason (at least, not that I can figure) for Target to lend a helping hand to a onetime key competitor. Target has grown its toy footprint since the demise of Toys "R" Us, and a deeper collaboration gives it some competitive advantage over Walmart and Amazon.
  • Posted on: 10/08/2019

    Walmart sells ModCloth, seeks Jetblack spinoff and cuts Bonobos jobs

    It's one thing for Walmart to acquire digital expertise as a shortcut instead of developing it internally. It's another thing when the acquired brands are mismatched with Walmart's core consumer. I always felt that Bonobos in particular was a bad fit for Walmart -- its product is sold online, in its showroom-style stores and at Nordstrom -- given its higher price point and more aspirational positioning. It took Lands' End years to recover from Sears' mishandling, and I hope brands like Bonobos don't fall victim to the same kinds of issues.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2019

    Best Buy makes a big bet on health tech

    Oh, I doubt anyone would embrace it! Definitely not recommended as a branding idea for Best Buy.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2019

    Best Buy makes a big bet on health tech

    Geek Squad meets Geezer Squad? (I can joke about aging now that I'm on Medicare...) This seems like a good marriage between Best Buy's tech reputation, its service network, its dominance in the "smart home" product category, and the growing demand for healthcare devices and expertise. Best Buy already recognized that "tech" isn't just HDTVs and computing devices, but extends to all aspects of its shoppers' lives. Good move.
  • Posted on: 10/03/2019

    Zulily thinks it can beat Amazon and Walmart on price

    The retail graveyard is full of brand names who thought they could beat the "low price leader" on price, and today those leaders are Walmart and Amazon. Those two giants are competing on far more than price, however: Their mastery of logistics keeps their costs down, which in turn allows them to be price-competitive. Part of their value equation is great execution of broad assortments, not just "lowest price" -- so Zulily is going to need a different sustainable advantage to gain market share.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2019

    Can Forever 21 come back from bankruptcy?

    Dave, great points. It can't be said enough that many casualties of the "retail apocalypse" were actually victims of their own debt loads, overexpansion, poor merchandising, and so forth. Execution matters.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2019

    Can Forever 21 come back from bankruptcy?

    Forever 21's problems weren't just a case of facing headwinds of omnichannel and weak mall traffic: The company's own decision to place its bets on more and larger locations was a strategic mistake. Its rapid growth misled its management into a mindset of "We can do no wrong." (As the cliche goes, today's peacock is tomorrow's feather duster.) The withdrawal from overseas markets and many U.S. locations needs to be accompanied by a strategic reset. First, recognize how much the off-price segment has eaten into the "treasure hunt" experience of shopping Forever 21 -- and do something about it. (Bringing some focus and organization to the assortments and store experience would be a good place to start.) Second, develop more off-mall locations as part of the reset. Finally, get the e-commerce side of the business ramped up, even if it involves using a portal like Amazon as a virtual storefront.
  • Posted on: 09/26/2019

    Amazon tests program to take better care of employees’ health

    I'm not sure that other retail companies (other than, say, Walmart) have the bandwidth for an initiative like Amazon Care, unless their partnerships with insurers can be extended to offer this kind of service. Rather, they may well seek out Amazon Care as an outside provider to their own employees. I am just speculating, but it is possible that Amazon's real long-term play is to offer Amazon Care to the public -- maybe as a benefit of Prime membership, maybe as a monthly subscription or "fee for service" basis.
  • Posted on: 09/25/2019

    Retailers must turn stores into ‘anything engines’

    I'm not sure whether the Apple or Tesla model applies to all stores; after all, these are companies selling nothing but a limited selection of their own branded products. For the majority of stores (think discounters or department stores), the challenges of assortment planning and logistics are much more complex. Amazon is a different paradigm than Apple or Tesla, and its operating strengths (breadth of assortment, speed of execution) should be every retailer's goal -- especially online. But stores that try to be "all things to all people" in their physical locations run the risk of becoming the next Sears.
  • Posted on: 09/24/2019

    What will Apple’s reinvented Fifth Avenue flagship mean for the brand?

    Apple can't build a store like this everywhere, but it probably learned from the success of its new Chicago showplace that the strategy is worth expanding. It's still a powerful brand, even if iPhone sales are down, and locations like this one are a key marketing tool.
  • Posted on: 09/23/2019

    Will free same-day delivery boost Macy’s online sales?

    Many of Macy's products (especially apparel, accessories and shoes) are impulse buys -- so free same-day delivery facilitates this kind of purchasing behavior. Imagine picking out a new dress or pair of pants on the Macy's app before commuting to work, knowing that the item will be waiting for you when you get home or delivered that evening. And "free" doesn't hurt, either. How long will the offer be in place? If Macy's only plans to use it during the typical retail lull before Thanksgiving, it may find the offer too costly to extend into the holiday shopping season.
  • Posted on: 09/19/2019

    What is retail’s role in building a better society?

    It may not be retailers' responsibility to fill the void of "the public good," but it is an opportunity for them. CVS and Dick's took risks by dropping tobacco and firearms sales (respectively), and the moves have paid off over the long run. Target has donated 5 percent of its profits to local charities going back to its roots as a division of a department store company. You can't put a price on the kind of goodwill these moves created. Meanwhile, the trend is gaining speed as customers perceive their government failing to address the same issues -- such as gun safety or the environment. Retailers can take a visible position on these issues (without wading into controversy) since they are the most consumer-facing industry out there.

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