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: 01/28/2022

    Did M&M’s characters need a makeover?

    Mars may be overthinking what people think about anthropomorphized chocolate candy, and the pundits on one side or another are equally guilty. But I have to point out that the Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben's "characters" were in need of retirement long ago. They evoked not just racial stereotypes but especially the image of the "happy house slave" (see: Gone With The Wind). This was one case where "political correctness" was appropriate.
  • Posted on: 01/27/2022

    Will Americans go to Lowe’s to buy dog food?

    You beat me to it, Shawn. Yes, Menards has been in the pet food/supply business for a long time, along with other "consumables." It might be considered a distraction from their core home improvement, but there is a vast amount of space available in these kinds of stores to build "adjacent" businesses.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2022

    Amazon Go is going big(ger) in suburban locations

    At 6,000 square feet, and minus gas, this almost feels like a mini-Aldi (with advanced technology) rather than a conventional C-store.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2022

    Amazon Go is going big(ger) in suburban locations

    I'm not sure that one store in a suburban Seattle location really signifies a major rollout of Amazon Go. The company can afford to experiment with different sizes, formats, and location strategies while it decides how and where to expand the concept. However, C-stores like Wawa (with its much bigger footprint) may be working on their own "touchless checkout" technologies while Amazon takes its time.
  • Posted on: 01/25/2022

    Will 2022 be the year of trading down at retail?

    At least in the short term, and especially in food retailing, consumers will be economizing by trading down where they can. Will that private label ice cream taste as good as the well-known national brand? Do I need Angus ground beef, or will a lower-priced package do as well? Does that bottle of wine on sale for $19.99 taste as good as the $25 bottle? The challenge for retailers -- not just grocers -- is to offer enough choices to satisfy the budget-conscious shopper, to maintain their own quality position, and to confront their own inflationary pressures from cost increases and labor shortages. 2022 will be quite a balancing act.
  • Posted on: 01/24/2022

    Kohl’s receives an unsolicited buyout bid, others may follow

    As a former employee (and current shareholder) of Kohl's, I realize that I am not the most objective person on this comment thread. But, as I noted a few weeks ago, the sale/leaseback idea is a financial manipulation meant to line the pockets of equity investors while draining a retail company of a key asset. (Target resisted similar pressure several years ago.) Likewise, splitting e-commerce from brick-and-mortar fails to understand the synergy between the two. The retail landscape is littered with the carcasses of once-strong brands who were leveraged to the hilt through deals like these; Kohl's should avoid this offer, especially at an asking price barely higher than its share price last spring. (And well below its share price in 2019.) "Activist investors" do not usually have the long-term interests of other stakeholders (especially employees and vendors) at heart.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2022

    Amazon says first clothing store will be a fashion and technological revelation

    I don't doubt that Amazon will bring technology to this store concept, and will generate imitators just like Amazon Go. But 30,000 square feet is not a lot -- yes, much more than most specialty apparel stores but less than a store like Macy's or Kohl's with a broader assortment of clothing. Amazon will have a challenge offering the breadth of selection seen on its website while also trying to provide a more curated offering in limited space. The slow rollout of most other Amazon brick-and-mortar concepts so far suggests some patience with their latest concept.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2022

    Should retailers stick to vaccine mandates and change face mask rules?

    Employers who can enforce vaccine rules while maintaining their workforce should do so -- especially for the workers' safety. Obviously Starbucks felt that it couldn't maintain a full staff with its vaccine rules, but it now runs the different risk of widespread infection. As to masks, I don't think KN95-style mandates are enforceable (not to mention mask mandates in general in many parts of the country). I personally prefer surgical masks anyway, and my experience in multiple medical facilities over the past two months (don't ask) suggests that the vast majority of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers prefer them too.
  • Posted on: 01/19/2022

    Are retailers’ returns concerns coming to a holiday head?

    The partnership between Amazon and Kohl's, where customers can take their Amazon returns to the nearest Kohl's store, makes sense because a brick-and-mortar store has the logistical skill to handle returns. There should be more partnerships like this one. But one of the root causes of the problem stems from retailers' execution in the first place. Did they accept orders knowing that they would be unable to ship on time? Did they ship the wrong product? Retailers who can execute better on the front end should have fewer consequences during "return season."
  • Posted on: 01/13/2022

    Can Penney’s new leadership (finally) transform the business?

    It's 2022, and J.C. Penney's main competitors (from Target to Kohl's to Macy's) were ramping up their digital strategies a decade ago -- while J.C. Penney was stumbling under a series of management changes and bad decisions. Technically, it's "never too late" but Penney has lost a lot of omnichannel ground while at the same time shrinking its physical footprint. (And, as panelists have noted, the Sephora loss is a big one.) Without any direct knowledge of the new talent acquisitions, it's hard to see how long Simon will be patient with a challenging turnaround.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2022

    More Americans are making Target runs

    Target executes "omnichannel" better than any other retailer, but the real secret of its success under Mr. Cornell is simple: Content, content, content. When the focus shifted back to apparel and soft home -- instead of food and consumables -- the company regained its credibility in the businesses that made Target great in the first place.
  • Posted on: 01/11/2022

    Reality hits omnichannel retail with a hard truth

    Activist investors are pushing stores like Macy's and Kohl's to separate their brick-and-mortar and digital operations, but this is totally counterintuitive. Customers want "seamless," and the best omnichannel retailers have figured out how to deliver that experience. To create two competing entities -- both named "Macy's" -- makes no sense from a customer-centric point of view.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2022

    Has BOPIS lost its pandemic boost?

    This is a question to which the answer is "It depends." Groceries or a tech item from Best Buy? In-store or curbside pickup? Alternatives to in-store visits will continue to grow in importance, but not necessarily with the peak demand driven by waves of the pandemic. There are a lot of ways to deliver "last mile" service, and delivery to your doorstep may be the most powerful of all.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2022

    Omicron threatens to mess retail up

    Omicron doesn't seem to be intimidating consumers, at least anecdotally based on some recent store visits. But retailers trying to staff their stores are absolutely challenged by the spread of the virus, even if the quarantine period is shorter and the side effects are milder. Most governments lack the political will to reimpose mask mandates at this point, so responsible retailers need to take that step as soon as possible.
  • Posted on: 12/30/2021

    How to escape your comfort zone

    Embracing change is difficult for most people, whether in their personal or professional lives. Speaking about retail in particular, it's too easy to function along the lines of "we've always done it this way" or "we're up against these sales from last year." That sort of mindset leads retailers down the road of complacency, stagnation or worse. Is there a tool that imposes the sort of self-discipline necessary for retailers to avoid these traps? The "product life cycle" concept provides an objective way to track businesses as they trend downward from their peak. It takes some of the emotion out of the change management process.

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