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: 03/08/2021

    Does Saks.com make sense as a separate business?

    Aside from the financial benefit of a spinoff (in order to maximize the value of the e-commerce business), will this matter to the customer? Will the shopper continue to think of Saks as one business, whether brick-and-mortar or online? (That's how most successful omnichannel retailers have gained share over the past decade.) If the new e-commerce spinoff is to be wholly successful, it needs to replicate the high-touch element of shopping at Saks that put it on the map in the first place.
  • Posted on: 03/04/2021

    Is Texas messing with retailers?

    You are correct, George, per the stats published daily in the New York Times. The only state with higher per capita cases is North Dakota. Right now South Dakota is the middle of the pack in terms of 7-day average; Texas is ranked #8 in the past seven days and the full effect of "sheltering where you can" during recent power outages is likely to get worse.
  • Posted on: 03/04/2021

    Is Texas messing with retailers?

    Neil, unfortunately I just read in the Houston Chronicle that Kroger (along with H-E-B) will no longer require customers in Texas to wear masks, even though it will be required of store employees.
  • Posted on: 03/04/2021

    Is Texas messing with retailers?

    Retailers with mask policies are likely to continue them in Texas (and nationwide) for the next several months. However, they're now back in the uncomfortable position of confronting customers who refuse to comply because of a perceived "free pass" from Gov. Abbott. The ugly scenes we saw last spring and summer are going to happen again, compounded by the "COVID fatigue" that we are all feeling. The bigger risk to retailers and restaurants is the chance that cases, hospitalizations and deaths will start to climb again in Texas and elsewhere. This will not only undo a lot of the progress being made by vaccinations, but will also lead to yet another round of closures. It doesn't need to happen, and I hope other politically ambitious governors can restrain themselves for a little longer.
  • Posted on: 03/03/2021

    Target CEO says record-setting 2020 was no ‘fluke’

    Target had the clear advantage early in 2020 of remaining open as an "essential retailer" while many of its competitors (especially mid-tier stores like J.C. Penney and Kohl's) were forced to close their doors. That being said, Target has worked hard under Mr. Cornell's leadership to upgrade and update its apparel and soft home offerings; these were gaining share at other stores' expense before the pandemic if you look at 2019 results. Target was also very nimble putting its omnichannel practices to the ultimate test after COVID-19 hit. It has gained a reputation for convenience and execution perhaps second only to Amazon, especially in terms of its curbside pickup program. 2021 may not be a repeat of last year's lofty numbers, but Target's market share gains are cemented for awhile.
  • Posted on: 03/02/2021

    Is off-mall where it’s at?

    As a former Kohl's executive, there is no doubt in my mind that part of that company's growth in the past was based on off-mall locations. They proved more cost-effective and also drew convenience-based shoppers. The typical regional mall anchored by department stores and apparel specialists was at the time less value-oriented than outlet malls or big box stores. This trend has been going on for decades, not just for the past year, and it's past time for mall-based specialists to figure it out. The decline or outright death of multiple anchors (J.C. Penney, Sears, Bon Ton and others) has only added to the "zombie mall" phenomenon. It becomes a vicious cycle of increasing vacancies followed by declining traffic and share.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2021

    Will the post-pandemic era be America’s next Roaring ‘20s?

    Two more fun facts about 1920 and the pile-up of social change: First (thanks to DeAnn for the reminder), women won the right to vote. Second, America's population became more urban than rural for the first time in 1920. I'm not sure the country has ever seen so many changes happening in such a short window ... even for us Baby Boomers who think everything starts and ends in the 1960s.
  • Posted on: 03/01/2021

    Will the post-pandemic era be America’s next Roaring ‘20s?

    There will likely be an economic recovery as the post-pandemic world returns slowly to ordinary life -- traveling, going to the mall, dining out, and so forth. But I'm not sure about comparing it to the upheaval of the 1920s -- a reaction not only to World War I and the end of the pandemic but also to the moralistic strictures of Prohibition. Widespread adaptation of technology also led to the first true era of modernity. I'm no economist (or soothsayer), but I see the 2020s as a period of more incremental change, and with more normal economic cycles. As Peggy Noonan wrote in Saturday's Wall Street Journal, our great urban centers like New York may feel the economic hangover of "work from home" dislocation for years to come, even if consumer behavior returns to normal.
  • Posted on: 02/25/2021

    Are Americans ready to do some good old-fashioned ‘revenge shopping’?

    Apparel sales have really suffered during the pandemic, for two key reasons: First, the "work from home" phenomenon (where feasible) has cut into sales of officewear, even in workplaces with casual dress codes. And, second, mall-based retailers suffered from closures and lack of traffic more than "essential" retailers like Target or Home Depot. I see a lot of pent-up demand for what Jeff Sward calls "relaxed shopping," but I'm not sure how it translates into a boom for apparel. People have learned what they can live without during the past year, and in many cases it includes new clothing.
  • Posted on: 02/23/2021

    Activist investors attempt takeover of Kohl’s board of directors

    A local reporter called me yesterday (because I live in Milwaukee and used to work for Kohl's) and I pointed out the checkered history of activist investors -- especially as you note, JCP and Sears. I also questioned why Kohl's or any retailer would put a competing retail CEO on its own board (one of the activist investors' demands). Is Target's CEO likely to sit on Kohl's board, or vice versa? Kohl's board as composed today seems to have relevant background in some retail disciplines like e-commerce, technology, HR management, etc. -- not just traditional backgrounds of "running the store" or "buying goods."
  • Posted on: 02/22/2021

    Should suppliers help fund retailers’ omnichannel investments?

    It wouldn't be surprising. "Don't fight the fees or you'll lose shelf space."
  • Posted on: 02/22/2021

    Should suppliers help fund retailers’ omnichannel investments?

    It's fair game to ask vendors to partner in store remodels benefiting their sales -- and by the same token it's appropriate to ask suppliers to help pay for the physical requirements of omnichannel. But the key word is "ask." Retailers have had a checkered history of issuing chargebacks (often related to gross margin recovery) without prior vendor agreement, and unauthorized fees feel the same. Walmart has all the leverage in this situation, but it's still a questionable practice even if the rationale is valid.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2021

    Keep on growing is Target’s mantra as chain announces leadership moves

    Target still has big growth opportunities -- not only in online sales, which drove its growth in 2021, but also by developing new store formats. There is an empty department store near me being reopened soon as a 120,000 square foot Target store, and there are plenty of vacancies like this one. More importantly -- if you look at the list of 2021 openings, many of them are urban locations in small formats, often between 25,000 and 40,000 square feet. This is a wide-open chance for Target to gain share, as long as the right sites are available -- the company certainly appears to have the team in place to execute the strategy.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2021

    Has text messaging become retail’s go-to communication tool?

    Being somewhat old-school in my communication preferences, I have opted into very few retailers' text messages -- I find them intrusive, but I realize that's the point. But there's a risk of overkill -- too many messages from the same retailers, or too many retailers heard from. Constant texting of promotional messages (even if they include a link to a webpage) will eventually lead consumers to ignore the flood of information, just as many shoppers delete promotional emails without reading them. There needs to be a balance between attention-getting motivational techniques and intrusive violations of data privacy.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2021

    Will Nordstrom celebrate or regret its decision to give brands a lot more control?

    To this American shopper's eyes, the concession model in full bloom in European and Asian department stores makes the shopping experience more disjointed even if each brand has greater control over its destiny. And, in terms of customer service, it's like the longstanding cosmetics model -- where the Lancome "counter manager" has no incentive or interest in helping a customer with a competing brand. This is a particular risk to Nordstrom, whose own brand equity has always been customer-centric as much as product-focused.

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