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: 06/17/2019

    How well did Target handle its no good, very bad weekend?

    I agree that consumers will forget this incident quickly, but it's a good object lesson for Target (and other retailers) on how to handle customers effectively in every location when a system failure happens.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2019

    Has Barnes & Noble found its savior(s)?

    Like many other panelists, I'm concerned when I read "hedge fund" and "assumption of another $200 million+ in debt." The retail graveyard is filled with well-known brands that have fallen victim to excessive debt loads and their own dated business practices. Nor to suggest that a brick-and-mortar bookseller like B&N has no place in the world, but any number of turnaround strategies haven't worked for years. Saddling a struggling retail model with more debt doesn't sound like a recipe for success.
  • Posted on: 06/11/2019

    Is Amazon really out of the restaurant delivery business for good?

    The restaurant delivery space is getting awfully crowded, but at the same time there are underserved markets around the country. (I live in one.) So there is opportunity for fewer brands to expand to more cities and countries -- gaining market share and economies of scale along the way. Amazon is not usually interested in a market unless it can be dominant, but Deliveroo may be a sign pointing toward its future plans.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2019

    Stores have cut out-of-stocks. Why don’t consumers know that?

    As Andrew's article points out, perceptions of out-of-stocks are driven by visual evidence. If a peg or shelf is empty, the item is out of stock as far as the customer is concerned. That's why the "last mile" of getting goods onto fixtures is so important in terms of payroll planning -- if a store's inventory system says an item is in stock, it doesn't count if it's on a trailer awaiting unloading or sitting in a stockroom. It's a cliche of brick-and-mortar retail -- but just as true as ever -- that the customer isn't shopping in the stockroom. The perception of stockouts is further complicated by omnichannel initiatives like "ship from store." Retailers are using their physical locations as mini-warehouses, from which to ship e-commerce orders no matter where they originated. One result? The inventory planned to satisfy demand for customers actually walking into that location isn't always there.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2019

    Are Wegmans, Giant Eagle and Tops wise to drop in-store childcare?

    There is nothing wrong with a store design that engages kids as well as parents if it's intended for a family shopping experience. (Grocery stores certainly qualify.) But there is no economic benefit to the retailer to devote space to any category or service if it's not being used productively. Better to use the square footage to generate profitable sales, as long as the shopping experience is engaging instead of boring.
  • Posted on: 06/04/2019

    Will delivering online orders seven days a week further transform retail ops?

    Zel is right on the money: UPS has some catching up to do (Saturdays as well as Sundays) in order to maintain market share. It's not just about its traditional competitors like FedEx and USPS, but especially about the infrastructure that Amazon is building out for its own delivery service.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2019

    Consumers are changing – or not – in ways that retailers may not understand

    Retailers tend to fight last year's battle -- a common mindset is, "We sold this product/category last year, we need to sell more this year." Managing to a product life cycle should make retailers be more forward-looking, and improve their ability to provide more localized assortments. This is especially true of apparel retailers -- which helps explain the doldrums at your local mall.
  • Posted on: 05/28/2019

    Can department stores shake themselves out of the doldrums?

    I’m not sure how to compare Kohl’s (which had a tough quarter but is financially sound and on the right strategic path) to J.C. Penney, in its usual survival mode. And it’s hard to draw conclusions about the entire segment when you add Nordstrom to the conversation. However, there may be a shift underway from economic tailwinds to headwinds. Despite low unemployment, the unease surrounding tariffs, the stock market and the farm economy is taking a toll. Any search for value will benefit off-pricers and discounters in the months ahead.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2019

    How should retailers raise prices to offset tariffs?

    Short answer to the questions you pose in your first paragraph: No.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2019

    Should Kohl’s buy At Home?

    Kohl's is in the process of downsizing (or "right-sizing") many of its stores, at the same time that it expands its footprint in active-related categories like athletic shoes and workout wear. And the addition of Amazon return desks further squeezes the space for its home store -- largely focused on kitchen, bed and bath rather than decor. (I'll add my usual disclosure here, that I worked for Kohl's from 1982 to 2006.) So an acquisition like At Home allows Kohl's to expand into a lot of new businesses -- especially if adding e-commerce offers some competition to Wayfair. A word of caution, however: It's a small sample size, but the one At Home store that I've visited has a lot of room for improvement on the "store experience" front.
  • Posted on: 05/15/2019

    Is Apple’s App Store a monopoly?

    I'm not prepared to judge the case on its legal merits, one way or the other, but at first glance I don't agree with the accusation that the App Store is a monopoly. As Apple points out, app developers and e-commerce merchants can use other platforms (Android-based, Windows-based and so forth) if they choose. I see a parallel to the Amazon Marketplace: Second-party merchants who use Amazon as a platform to drive their business should be willing to adhere to Amazon's "rules of the road." I see Apple having the same right to exercise some control over those using its iOS megaphone.
  • Posted on: 05/13/2019

    What’s wrong with the (fill in the blank) category?

    Retailers make the mistake of overassorting a hot category (in this case yogurt) and then wondering why sales are slowing. Is it because the product is on a cyclical downturn, or was it a self-inflicted wound created by offering too many choices? It's a common mistake, and not just in grocery stores, because the shopper ends up more confused than motivated. Understanding the product life cycle is essential to managing the ups and downs of particular categories. The key is to understand whether a business is stable and sustainable over the long run, or whether it is going to decline from its peak. In the second case, smart retailers need a pipeline of up-trending replacement categories, rather than just falling into the over-assortment trap.
  • Posted on: 05/10/2019

    Trump is deaf to retailers on tariffs

    Tariffs would be more effective as a protectionist measure for domestic industries if those industries actually existed. The reality is that wide swathes of retail-centric industries (apparel, footwear, accessories) fled the U.S. a long time ago -- yes, for the labor/cost savings that you describe. But the horse is out of the barn, and at this point the tariffs cause havoc with existing supply chains and manufacturing "ecosystems," not just with the prices that consumers pay.
  • Posted on: 05/10/2019

    Is anyone going to buy Sears’ rebranding?

    Right on the money, Art. Marketing 101: Fix the product and/or customer experience before developing a new tagline and ad message, not after.
  • Posted on: 05/10/2019

    Trump is deaf to retailers on tariffs

    I'm not sure the NRF or any other lobbying group can move the needle at this point, as long as President Trump continues to mischaracterize the impact of tariffs on U.S. importers and consumers rather than China itself. Whether he really believes this narrative or uses it for politically motivated spin is a conversation for another day or a different platform.

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