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: 09/14/2021

    Will Kohl’s be known for something other than its retail partners?

    As an ex-employee, I know I'm biased but I think Kohl's has stronger brand equity than some other panelists give it credit for. When I started at Kohl's in 1982, it was known for "jeans and sneakers," and today it is known for "active and fitness." To a strong degree, Kohl's has stayed in its lane for a long time and has benefited from the rise of the active lifestyle vs. career apparel. At the same time, most of its department store competitors focused on wear-to-work apparel have fallen by the wayside. Kohl's brand is also built around a strong value proposition, and a location strategy driven by convenience. (The low operating costs of those off-mall sites enable the value.) These are two more reasons why Kohl's has lasted as the slightly upmarket cousin to Target, while mall-based retailers struggle to survive.
  • Posted on: 09/13/2021

    Is the government’s vaccination mandate plan good for retail?

    So, what’s your actual argument?
  • Posted on: 09/13/2021

    Is the government’s vaccination mandate plan good for retail?

    Many thumbs down today from those who oppose the mandates, apparently, but not a lot of actual commentary from the thumbs-down contingent from what I can tell. If you have an objection, speak up!
  • Posted on: 09/09/2021

    Will shoppers flock to or avoid stores for Halloween and Christmas?

    I appreciate Bob Phibbs's optimism, but there are too many "known unknowns" to make a safe prediction. The national statistics suggest that COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant may have peaked about 10 days ago, but there is little doubt that the current numbers threw a wet blanket over mall traffic. Does anybody really know what the next three months look like -- in terms of resurgence in cold-weather states, cases among school-age children, and so forth? (I didn't think so.) I can foresee a greater impact on Halloween vs. holiday sales, unless things improve in a hurry. One positive sign that may point toward improved retail traffic: Moviegoers flocked to the latest Marvel movie ("Shang-Chi") over the weekend, signaling a lot of pent-up demand for shared experiences.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2021

    Higher wages can boost retailers’ bottom lines

    Retailers aren't just raising minimum wages to $15/hour because of the competition to fill jobs right now. They understand that the expense hit will be offset in the long run by better retention and lower costs of hiring and training. Employers like Walgreens aren't doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, but because there are certainly studies to back it up. Often forgotten: Loyal, long-term sales associates are often a store's best customers, too. If a retailer succeeds in retaining them -- and paying a living wage -- then their loyalty in return will be demonstrated at the cash register.
  • Posted on: 09/07/2021

    Nordstrom ain’t what it used to be before the pandemic

    All of the trends affecting retail for the past 18 months -- working from home, avoiding the mall, hiring challenges -- are aimed squarely at the Nordstrom business model. Until customers can feel assured about returning to the office and to their favorite restaurants and other venues, it's going to be a slow recovery for Nordstrom. Ultimately, they will return to sales and profit growth vs. 2019 comparisons -- but how long will it take?
  • Posted on: 09/01/2021

    Ending prices that end in 99 cents

    “Going from $19.99 to $25 may seem like it will cost more than going from $20 to $26, even though it is actually less,” said one of the doctoral students conducting the study. Yes, but what about going from $19.99 to $24.99? If the test results are limited to sales of cups of coffee, was the study comprehensive enough to draw any conclusions one way or the other?
  • Posted on: 08/24/2021

    Following full FDA approval, should employees be required to get COVID vaccines?

    It's not an exact parallel because of the severity of COVID-19, but we didn't require proof of vaccination during past flu outbreaks for customers to enter stores. It's a tough policy to enforce, although individual venues like restaurants, theaters and concert venues are gaining traction. Employee mandates are something else and should be encouraged. If employers ban smoking and other kinds of unhealthful behavior at the workplace, why not make vaccination a condition of employment for everyone's sake? It's a political hot potato but it's in everyone's public health interest -- this has gone on longer than it needed to.
  • Posted on: 08/23/2021

    Are Home Depot and Lowe’s about to hit a sales wall?

    As with most retailers reporting sales comparisons to 2020, the more relevant benchmark is 2019. This may signify a longer-term sales trend at the big box DIY retailers, even if the immediate comps are challenging. I believe there is still a lot of runway for the home improvement business generally and DIY retailers in particular. Many consumers have just recently decided on remodeling projects after staring at those four walls for a year, and many contractors are backed up for months because of demand and supply chain issues.
  • Posted on: 08/20/2021

    Will Amazon department stores spell trouble for Kohl’s?

    Kohl's stores are almost entirely in the 60,000-to-90,000 square footage range, so in some ways the Amazon move feels more akin to Target's small format stores. Yes, there is risk to Kohl's but a lot depends on Amazon's location strategy. If the smaller format allows for more urban locations (vs. suburban power centers and strip malls), then Kohl's has less to worry about. Amazon's track record in brick-and-mortar stores is mixed. Ultimately, content will make or break this Amazon concept, while Kohl's continues to position itself up and away from Target. (See: Sephora, Calvin Klein, Eddie Bauer, Cole Hahn as a few examples.) Amazon may also discover that it's hard to replicate its vast online assortment in a 30,000-square foot building that also serves as a return center.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2021

    Has Target ‘only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible’ for its business?

    There is plenty to like about Target's merchandising, its focus on omnichannel, its development of new formats, and so forth. But the underlying key is a cultural attribute: The company's refusal to rest on its laurels. At the same time, Target's opportunism is focused on areas that are true to the brand rather than distractions. As long as "no complacency" is in Target's DNA, it will continue to grow.
  • Posted on: 08/18/2021

    Should grocery stores retire the ethnic aisle?

    Yes, Mariano's in Chicago and my local Metro Market in Milwaukee are different Kroger nameplates, but the same concept. I agree that treating these foods as "international" rather than "ethnic" is a more appealing way to present them.
  • Posted on: 08/18/2021

    Should grocery stores retire the ethnic aisle?

    Most American shoppers today have more diverse tastes than in the past, just as the new census shows we are living in a more diverse country. But I think the perception that the "ethnic aisle" is somehow becoming a ghetto for both shoppers of color and the products carried there is inaccurate. I see plenty of white shoppers (like me) buying Mexican, Thai, Indian and other ingredients in that aisle, and it's frankly easier to find what I'm looking for when it's organized in this way. Retailers like Kroger do this not because of unconscious racism but because they presumably sell more merchandise. Side benefit: This kind of merchandising has expanded Americans' palates and their willingness to try new things.
  • Posted on: 08/17/2021

    Are over-attentive associates creeping shoppers out?

    Nordstrom seems to do the most consistent training of its sales associates to find the balance between acknowledging, offering help, and hovering. As other panelists have pointed out, it depends on "reading the room" -- does the customer display body language suggesting that he/she is looking for help, or would rather be left alone? It also depends on the store and the category. Does the self-service customer buying shoes at Target expect the Nordstrom treatment? Of course not, but stores at all price points could benefit from simply acknowledging the customer.
  • Posted on: 08/13/2021

    Are websites a must-have for all retailers?

    You make a good point about social media, even though I mentioned Facebook in my comment. There is a nearby restaurant with a Facebook page but no website -- and I'm not on Facebook, so I have no access to the menu or any other information.

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