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: 10/18/2018

    Will rising costs throw a wrench in e-commerce operations?

    "Free shipping" is like free lunch, in a way -- there's no such thing. And the inflationary pressure on logistics costs is coming from several directions -- warehouse capacity, tight labor markets, higher fuel costs and so forth. But are retailers footing the bill for these costs or expecting their vendors to pick up the tab? At the college-level retailing class that I teach, a guest speaker in the wholesale business made clear that suppliers are bearing the growing margin burden for these kinds of expenses.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2018

    LabCorp deal brings blood testing to Walgreens’ pharmacies


    Anything Walgreens can do to reinforce its brand image as a headquarters for health-related products and services is worth testing and expanding. (As opposed to expanding its assortment of "everything else under the sun," such as candy, cigarettes and liquor.) Just make sure the LabCorp affiliation is credible, since Walgreens ended up with egg on its face when it ran after the Theranos deal.
  • Posted on: 10/17/2018

    Eddie Lampert is the worst

    At least Ron Johnson had a strategy, no matter how misguided and lacking in "beta testing," to improve a stagnant company's fortunes. (Instead, he almost ran it into the ground.) Right now, Lampert is in a class by himself even though "worst ever" is a high bar to clear. What separates him from the pack is his pattern of bleeding the company assets to feather his own nest. I would not want to be one of those 1.000 headquarters employees -- no doubt hardworking professionals in every functional area from buying to accounts payable to IT -- listening to Mr. Lampert's claptrap yesterday. To put the onus of survival on their shoulders (with a 90-day window) is grossly unfair, considering the litany of Lampert's own bad decisions and financial manipulation that has led Sears to this sad place.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2018

    Does anyone pay the full retail price anymore?

    Bargain hunting is not a new phenomenon, and goes back as far as traditional department stores' "bargain basements" and big quarterly sales that packed those stores. And (as I mentioned in yesterday's comment about Sears) the growth of value-oriented stores like Target, Walmart and Kohl's began over 50 years ago. I'm not sure bargain hunting is an outcome of the Great Recession, or whether retailers responded to tough market conditions by developing promotional cadences that are hard to shake loose. As Neil points out, there are still retailers who can sell products at regular price -- even Nordstrom maintains a selective sale calendar compared to most of its competitors, because it is "selling" newness and customer service alongside merchandise.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2018

    Will anything change for Sears after Chapter 11?

    Yes, and Kohl's (my former employer) is also "right-sizing" some of those 100,000 square foot stores -- at the same time, they find a large number of physical locations is an omnichannel advantage.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2018

    Will J.C. Penney’s new private brand connect with Instagram-savvy moms?

    The fate of Peyton and Parker is tied to the arrival of Jill Soltau as the new CEO of J.C. Penney. Jill's background in merchandising and product development will force a look under the microscope at all of J.C. Penney's private brands, not just its newest ones, to ensure that the portfolio of labels is relevant to its target consumers. A Target-style brand intended to broaden J.C. Penney's age appeal and "buzz factor" may turn out to be a big success -- but if not, don't expect the new CEO to be sentimental about it.
  • Posted on: 10/15/2018

    Will anything change for Sears after Chapter 11?

    It's hard to picture a long-term survival strategy for Sears, if it manages to emerge from Chapter 11 with only a few hundred stores. While individual locations may be profitable, there is nothing to suggest that the brand is relevant enough to be sustainable on a national basis. (Especially with its prized brands being sold elsewhere.) This has been the issue for Sears for many years, not just during the Lampert era -- but putting two weak brands together in 2004 did not make for one stronger outcome. I mentioned in a comment on a WSJ story that some "retail history" is in order. Back in 1962, when Sears' real estate division was rolling out dozens of regional malls as vehicles for its store expansion, three new retailers opened their doors and eventually caught on. (Walmart, Target and Kohl's.) What these three stores had in common (and others that followed, like Home Depot and Best Buy) was a combination of value-added and cost-efficiency that Sears was too complacent to emulate.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2018

    Will foodie culture save the mall?

    People spend far more on food (eating in or dining out) than they do on general merchandise, so it makes sense to add food halls, restaurants and grocers to the mall mix. But it can't be "just any grocery store," or the mall visit becomes just as boring and prosaic as it was before. Mall developers need to think carefully about food-related tenants that can draw frequency of visit on their own but can also drive positive traffic for the rest of the stores in the mall.
  • Posted on: 10/08/2018

    Will a new private label keep Target’s customers out of Aldi and Dollar General?

    The Smartly introduction signals that Target is still fighting a perception that its prices are too high on commodities, at the same time that it gains traction in its new apparel and soft home private brands. Target invested a lot in its Up & Up brand, and the new products are likely to cannibalize sales of the old ones at lower margins.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2018

    Is Target ready for Amazon and Walmart this holiday season?

    Target's recent success stems from its decision to return to its roots ("cheap chic"), not from a decision to be cheaper or more broadly assorted than Amazon and Walmart. (It helps that the company has taken steps to execute its omnichannel initiatives more effectively at the same time.) Target has always been most successful when it is "comfortable in its own skin" and develops merchandise strategies that fit its brand position.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2018

    Can a new CEO revitalize J.C. Penney’s business?

    Full disclosure: I'm a former Kohl's colleague of Jill Soltau; we worked in different merchandising divisions. Somebody with Jill's background in apparel and "soft home" is just what J.C. Penney needs right now -- you can always hire a great COO or CIO, but you have to get the product right. This has been an issue at J.C. Penney for years, and Mr. Ellison's efforts to paper over the challenge by adding appliances didn't fix the problems. There are plenty of other challenges that J.C. Penney faces -- from underdeveloped omnichannel programs to a troubled real estate portfolio -- but putting a "merchant at heart" in charge was the right move.
  • Posted on: 10/03/2018

    Will the Kroger/Walgreens pilot lead to something really big?

    Both Kroger and Walgreens are big enough to test an outside-the-box idea like this one, and none of us has a crystal ball about where this will lead. I frankly see an alliance (like the CVS stores inside Target) being more feasible than a financial combination -- there is nothing Walgreens would like more than several hundred new locations inside Kroger stores. This reminds me of the speculation swirling around Kohl's when it installed Amazon return desks (and "device" shops) in its stores -- Is Amazon buying Kohl's? Why would Kohl's "sleep with the enemy"? As it turned out, the alliance was a win for both companies, and maybe this trial run will turn out the same.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2018

    Is traffic a flawed measure of engagement?

    E-commerce sites measure both traffic and conversion rates scrupulously, and brick-and-mortar retailers should do the same. Simply observing that "the store looks busy" is not enough to understand why some visitors are "just looking" and others turn into customers. More data-based traffic measurement should be part of an overall strategy to build conversion rates and transaction sizes.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2018

    Will Amazon disrupt retail again with its new 4-star store concept?

    I'm not sure the net result of Amazon's store concept -- items curated based on popularity and consumer ratings -- is much different from what should happen when a well-run merchandising organization makes the same choices. After all, what buying team doesn't aspire to an assortment full of best-selling items? (And yes, it doesn't always happen that way.) What distinguishes Amazon 4 Star is the "treasure hunt" element, which has been a secret of the off-pricers' success. It's going to keep customers coming back week after week because it eliminates the boredom factor.
  • Posted on: 09/25/2018

    Is Eddie Lampert looking to save Sears or suck it dry?

    ESL may walk away with the prized brand assets and real estate portfolio that Lampert always coveted, but Sears as an ongoing retail operation is doomed sooner or later. This has been true for many years, despite the brave talk of a "transformation," starting with the shameful lack of capital investment for nearly 15 years. At this point Sears has become irrelevant in some markets and invisible in others (such as here in Milwaukee), so any chance of a revival is slim-to-none. Why any investor would buy into this fantasy today is beyond me.

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