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: 12/13/2018

    Are holiday shoppers getting more ‘appy’?

    Kohl's said that 80% of its online traffic came from mobile devices, although a lot of the resulting sales may have happened in-store. So the migration to the Chinese shopping model may be happening faster than we realize!
  • Posted on: 12/13/2018

    Retailing success doesn’t depend on silver bullets

    The role of a store manager or associate doesn't happen in a vacuum. Yes, their roles are changing as most retailers try to shift to a true omnichannel model and add tech-based service enhancements. And roles are also changing as stores broaden the merchandise categories they offer. But the store experience is still driven by headquarters initiatives, from merchandising to brand management to product development. So the basic premise -- there is no "silver bullet" -- is right. It's about getting all of the elements of the retail mix in sync with each other, and targeted toward shoppers who find that mix most relevant to their needs.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2018

    Are holiday shoppers getting more ‘appy’?

    Here's a link to a new AP article on the same topic: There's no question that the smartphone has become an essential shopping tool -- not only for m-commerce but for brick-and-mortar shopping. Stores that want true omnichannel experiences for their consumers absolutely need to view this as a 12-month opportunity, not just isolated to the holiday season. Getting the mobile experience right year-round (from app design to BOPIS execution and everything else) will pay dividends during the 4th quarter.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2018

    Is Kroger following the Sears playbook for self-destruction?

    I don't see the exact parallel to Sears, which neglected not only its physical stores but also its omnichannel strategy, its merchandising, and just about every other element of its retail strategy. It became an afterthought in almost every category of goods that it sold, where Kroger is often the market share leader (or a strong competitor) among traditional grocers where it operates. I can only speak for the ex-Roundy's stores in my market that Kroger acquired, but the new owners appear to have made capital expenditures in these stores that were overdue. And it's hard to overstate the importance of digital, especially with Amazon going after the food business more aggressively. Kroger needs to keep one eye on the future (e.g. the test with Walgreens), given the fluid nature of the grocery business today.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2018

    Should Amazon buy Target?

    It's tempting to speculate about how and when Amazon will take another deep dive into brick-and-mortar retail, following its splash last year with Whole Foods. For example, the rumors were flying for awhile about Amazon and Kohl's after the latter added Amazon return desks and "device" shops to some of its stores, but that noise seems to have quieted down. But is Target the right move, especially now? It seems that Amazon already has its hands full building out "Amazon Go" and other brick-and-mortar concepts, as well as really leveraging the Whole Foods acquisition. There is also the question of whether Target -- proudly independent since 1962 -- really wants to be under someone else's thumb.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2018

    Have retail store associates fallen into a hypnotic state?

    All of Bob's suggestions (and those offered by fellow panelists) are good ones. It's about convincing entry-level associates that retail is a potential career -- not just a job with a set of robotic tasks to be accomplished. Their heightened level of engagement will be apparent to shoppers, too, making that retailer a destination -- not just a store.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2018

    Walmart: Floor cleaning robots will give associates more time to serve customers

    I'll join the skeptics on this thread: Robotic floor cleaning may be a sign of "things to come," but I doubt that Walmart will redeploy any cost savings into more customer service. (The exception might be the human capital needed to execute Walmart's omnichannel strategies.) If anything, I'd expect Walmart to keep a close eye on Amazon's experiments with totally automated retail, to see how they can leverage fewer associates into more cost savings.
  • Posted on: 12/05/2018

    Drugstore/grocery pilot is two-thirds Walgreens and one-third Kroger

    I have the same question as David: What is Walgreens prepared to edit out of its assortment to devote so much space to grocery? The store already suffers from too much clutter and a lack of focus on its core health business.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2018

    Walmart gives associates a tool to deal with out-of-stocks

    Target and Kohl's have had self-service kiosks for a while to address the same issue, and Walmart ought to consider the same option. After all, they are not exactly known for high-density sales associates on the selling floor.
  • Posted on: 12/03/2018

    Can Gap cut its way to profitability?

    I agree with Neil's assessment that product is the root of Gap's problems. (At the same time, they are overstored and would benefit from some pruning.) The Gap label hasn't had any particular cachet since it promoted khakis more than 20 years ago, and it is caught between its own value and premium brands. (Not to mention the tectonic shift from jeans to activewear.) Meanwhile, there are so many alternatives that didn't exist in Gap's heyday, from fast fashion to off-pricers. Not so easy to get the product right vs. closing stores, but this is job one.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2018

    Is J.Crew’s new Amazon relationship already over?

    There is evidence that J.Crew had already lost its way before the hiring of Jim Brett, and the sales results this year suggest that his initiatives were working. While Mickey Drexler has a storied track record, he seems to be falling into the Les Wexner trap: "We've always done it this way." Retailers (Kohl's, for example) are benefiting from forming alliances with Amazon instead of avoiding them. Maybe J. Crew could learn something about how to improve its own stores and content with a presence on the data-rich platform of Amazon.
  • Posted on: 11/28/2018

    RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Target vs. Walmart

    This one's nearly a toss-up for me, with both ads exhibiting different strengths. The Target spot is instantly identifiable by the red and white color scheme and abstract setting, and hits the "convenience" message effectively throughout. But I find it a little sterile compared to the Walmart ad -- showing real people celebrating the holidays in a real home while still making its points about "omnichannel" benefits. I'm a Target shopper but also a huge fan of the current Walmart campaign, which has incorporated "old school" pop hits in some very effective ways. So that coin toss comes out slightly in Walmart's favor.
  • Posted on: 11/26/2018

    Are Black Friday results a sign of Christmas 2018 things to come?

    This was a difficult weekend to "read," but most panelists have already observed that Black Friday "ain't what it used to be." Between extended doorbuster hours, omnichannel shopping and early promotion of Black Friday pricing, there just isn't the same urgency around Thursday night and Friday morning. That being said, the overall signs of a good holiday season are there -- especially among the survivors. (Market share from stores like Sears, Toys "R" Us and Bon Ton has to go somewhere, and not all of it is being captured online.) While higher-end shoppers may feel the pinch from their IRAs and tax estimates, lower-to-middle income consumers are seeing improvement in hourly wages and lower gas prices. Both of these tailwinds will drive sales in the weeks ahead.
  • Posted on: 11/20/2018

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Big Lots vs. Dick’s Sporting Goods

    There is nothing especially distinctive about the Big Lots ad -- put a different logo on the shopping bags (and at the end of the spot) and it could have been a commercial for HomeGoods or just about anybody else. And Walmart "owns" the use of vintage hit records used in creative ways, so not many points for originality either. This week's winner is the Dick's Sporting Goods ad. It's very relatable for this Boomer parent of Millennials headed home for Thanksgiving -- they will revert to childhood once they're in the door (although it may be beer pong instead of ping pong). And it doesn't hurt that Dick's sells ping pong tables among many other things, so the spot manages to be specific to the store's assortment too.
  • Posted on: 11/19/2018

    Why is Bloomingdale’s selling major appliances?

    I'm old enough to remember when every city's local department store chain was the dominant retailer of major appliances and TV's. (That makes me pretty old.) Over time, stores like Macy's and its predecessor nameplates exited these businesses because they couldn't compete against big box stores and found better uses for the square footage. J.C. Penney is the latest retailer to re-enter these categories in a big way, in order to capture market share from Sears -- and Penney's own sales suggest that it's not working. Bloomingdale's has a different motivation, assuming that its LG shops will display the brand's most advanced (and high-priced) electronics and appliances. Bloomie's may feel that it enhances the overall home store strategy, but may find that it's a tough business to operate profitably -- unless LG is heavily subsidizing payroll costs. Meanwhile, LG has nothing to lose from this brand-building exercise.

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