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: 04/19/2018

    What makes a great loyalty marketing professional?

    It goes without saying that managers of loyalty programs need to be aligned strategically with the rest of their company's marketing and customer service platform. But the explosion of data science has changed the nature of CRM and loyalty programs -- and along with it, the skill sets needed to manage them effectively. Today's loyalty manager needs to use all that data (without getting lost in it) to personalize preferences as much as the technology permits. "One size fits all" loyalty programs just don't cut it anymore.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2018

    Can food halls become retail’s new anchors?

    Anybody who has traveled the world (and has visited department stores in the process) can't help but be dazzled by the food halls, especially in Europe but also in Asia and elsewhere. I realize that this is an extension of "high street" shopping in densely populated central business districts, so it doesn't necessarily lend itself to the American department store model. And yet ... wouldn't a food hall (in the European sense) be more compelling than a Backstage installation in a Macy's store? The growth in self-contained food halls inside malls (but not necessarily inside a department store) is healthy for several reasons -- and not just as a placeholder for another anchor tenant. It capitalizes on shoppers' growing interest in cooking, healthy eating, locavore dining, etc. -- and it provides an opportunity for retailers like Whole Foods/365 or Trader Joe's to expand their footprint. Besides, if you're waiting for one department store to fill the anchor space of another ... you're going to have a long wait.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2018

    Backstage shops star inside Macy’s

    It's hard to argue with the sales lift that Backstage has brought to the first group of stores, but I have my doubts about the long-term strategic impact. From the local Macy's store with a Backstage installation, I see a messy collection of "stuff" that doesn't even meet the housekeeping standards of my local Marshall's -- not to mention the standards of the rest of the Macy's store. And the off-price space is getting very crowded, at the risk of oversaturation. It would be worth knowing more before passing judgment: Is the sales increase driving any kind of gains in Macy's "upstairs" departments? And what kind of product is selling in Backstage? Again, from my observation, the "upstairs" brands at Macy's have no interest in selling their labels inside Backstage, so the brands I shopped could just as easily be found at a Kohl's or J.C. Penney store.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2018

    Can Nordstrom’s full-line men’s store make it in Manhattan?

    It’s an easy yes, in part because of the brand equity already built up. If Nordstrom brings its content and service standards to play — along with a healthy dose of localization — the men’s store should be a big win.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2018

    Retailers face criticism for failure to protect customer data

    The Target breach was one of the first and biggest, but every week seems to bring a new headline about data security. And retailers’ problems have metastasized through alliances to social networks like Facebook with big issues of their own. But consumers’ migration to mobile commerce keeps gaining speed anyway, despite these breaches of trust.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2018

    Are Aldi’s upscale makeovers necessary?

    Many of the original Aldi locations (at least here in the Milwaukee area) were in lower income neighborhoods often suffering from "food desert" syndrome. The stores filled an important niche, but eventually Aldi started growing into middle-income and more upscale suburbs here. I'm sure the same phenomenon has happened around the country. If Aldi is serious about upgrading its merchandise content, the store experience has to keep pace. Again, a local parallel: Pick 'n Save stores (first part of Roundy's, now a Kroger division) began as bare-bones stores with food displayed in cut-open shipping cartons stacked on empty gondolas. The formula worked for awhile (Pick 'n Save became the market share leader here) but eventually customers expected a better experience. The same is true of outlet malls -- from "piperack" operations to very upscale today. So Aldi is making the smart move, especially where the trade-area demographics dictate, as long as they don't simply duplicate their Trader Joe's formula.
  • Posted on: 04/02/2018

    Walgreens focuses on healthcare services in new store format

    I agree with David Weinand's comment that a store redesign is overdue. Walgreens' natural positioning is in the health and wellness category (it is a pharmacy, after all) but the shopper is currently overwhelmed by candy, junk food, cigarettes and a wide assortment of "stuff." Walgreens has decided to be a modified c-store (with shrinking footage devoted to actual health products) and it makes a typical store almost impossible to navigate. Anything that Walgreens can do to emphasize its brand positioning (and to make the shopping experience easier) is a welcome change.
  • Posted on: 03/30/2018

    Former Walmart U.S. CEO raises prospect of breaking up Amazon

    A little retail history is in order: Back in the heyday of Sears, it owned Allstate and other financial services brands that doubtless ran bigger profit margins than its retail operations -- and they probably subsidized Sears' growing market share and expansion plans. The role of AWS is not that different -- and to pile on some irony, there are reports in today's Wall Street Journal that Walmart is interested in acquiring Humana. Is the world's largest retailer interested in buying a health insurer because of the low margins? Until Amazon came along (and became the bête noire of unsuccessful brick-and-mortar retailers), Walmart filled that role for many years. It's unfitting for Mr. Simon to propose some sort of governmental intervention, as if the goods and services Amazon provides represent some kind of monopoly. Let's face it: President Trump's griping has nothing to do with Amazon's business practices, and everything to do with Jeff Bezos's ownership of the Washington Post.
  • Posted on: 03/29/2018

    Research ties regular shift schedules to higher retail sales

    Even if scheduling algorithms are tied to data about shopping patterns, the lack of consistent shifts is one of the biggest causes of associate turnover in retail. It's hard for even entry-level employees working part-time hours to be clueless about when (and for how many hours) they will be working during a given week -- especially since many work at multiple jobs and their other employers expect some predictability. So there is no surprise that more consistent shifts lead to reduced turnover and greater associate loyalty -- which in turn will lead to higher productivity and (not least) reduced costs of training new employees.
  • Posted on: 03/26/2018

    Should retailers emulate or differentiate from Amazon?

    Few retailers outside of giants like Walmart are prepared to match Amazon when it comes to breadth of assortment and competitive pricing. In fact, trying to follow Amazon's lead in areas outside of a store's core strengths could be a trap. But there is one overriding competitive advantage of Amazon that every retailer can learn from: Its delivery of a convenience strategy that underlies much of its consumer trust. Not every store can master Amazon's logistical network or data science, but most stores can "execute" better than they are doing today.
  • Posted on: 03/20/2018

    Will it always be about price for Gen Z?

    Shoppers regardless of age are more price-conscious and value-oriented than ever. Some of this is residue from the Great Recession, and some of this results from the "empowered shopper" with plenty of price data as close as the nearest cell phone. I wouldn't describe Gen Z as uniquely price-oriented. I've taught a college-level retailing class for ten years, and it's always a challenge to discuss retailers that the students can't afford to buy from. (And today's college students fall right into the Gen Z age profile.) These are mostly students who are working through college while taking on significant debt, so it's no wonder that they visit TJMaxx instead of Nordstrom. But their spending power will change as they form households and grow their career earnings potential.
  • Posted on: 03/20/2018

    Macy’s CEO discusses mobile checkouts and other planned changes

    Most traditional department stores (or the ones that are still standing) have been slow to adapt to changing shopper behavior, especially Gen Y and Z consumers who already represent the future of the retail business. So Macy's is to be applauded for updating its approach to the furniture business, to the mobile interface and to the in-store checkout experience. But my biggest critique of Macy's over the past few years pertains to merchandise assortment. It already has a problem with too many private brands overlapping each other and without a clearcut identity. Adding more brands isn't the solution (other than the perceived margin benefits) until Macy's puts its existing brand matrix under a microscope. And while it's tempting to add more products in-store to emulate the e-commerce experience, it's tough to squeeze it all in at the same time that Backstage takes floor space from "upstairs" departments.
  • Posted on: 03/15/2018

    No more playing around – Toys ‘R’ Us is out of the retail game

    It's unlikely that Toys "R" Us is going to stay afloat, and this is a big deal for those who follow the recent history of retailing. They were among the first "category killer" stores with broad assortments of a single category in a big-box format. There have been others (Linens 'n Things, Sports Authority, etc.) but this one stands out. If you see reporting on "the Amazon effect," it's more complicated than that. It's tough to survive in a highly seasonal business like toys given the growth of e-commerce and the dominance of discounters in the same category. And there has been a generational change, where many of today's kids are interacting with technology (smartphone apps, streaming video games) instead of the toys of a short time ago. And one more lesson learned: A mountain of private-equity debt doesn't help.
  • Posted on: 03/14/2018

    What does Ring mean for Amazon?

    The article discussed the myriad benefits of the Ring acquisition nicely, so not much to add there. It's all about the ecosystem! Apple has built an entire business on an ecosystem linking its computers to its smartphones, and from there to its App Store and iTunes store. Amazon has learned this lesson well, and is a big step ahead of its competitors as it links its e-commerce businesses to the growth of IoT.
  • Posted on: 03/13/2018

    Will department stores regret their off-price push?

    Agree on the need for reinvention, but I'm not sure that imitation of a concept going through a growth cycle right now is sustainable. Department stores had enough trouble developing their answer to "fast fashion" retail (when it was hotter than it is now) because they don't have the mindset or supply chain to move as quickly as, say, Zara.

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