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: 04/24/2019

    Kohl’s goes all-in on Amazon returns

    When the Kohl's/Amazon partnership began, the conventional wisdom (including among some RetailWire panelists) was that Kohl's was "sleeping with the enemy." But early sales data in test markets suggests that comp-store sales improved significantly where Kohl's accepted Amazon returns. (Hat tip to Rick Romell of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for citing the findings from Earnest Research in his coverage of Kohl's.) The speed of the rollout -- from a handful of stores in Chicago, L.A. and Milwaukee -- speaks volumes about the success of the initiative. One open question -- the expense impact of the initiative -- needs to be answered, but Kohl's already handles a large number of its own e-commerce returns in its brick-and-mortar locations.
  • Posted on: 04/22/2019

    Why is Petco doubling down on same-day delivery with Shipt and Instacart?

    Same-day delivery is becoming the norm (remember when "free shipping" was the only expectation?) and it makes a lot of sense for the pet category. The only question is why Shipt is forming an alliance with a clear competitor of its parent company Target. Maybe Target sees some benefit in allowing Shipt to grow its business outside of the corporate umbrella.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2019

    Sears Holdings sues Eddie Lampert for illegally stripping retailer of its assets

    Even as recently as this year, Sears Holdings was left holding the bag while Eddie Lampert's "new" entity bought any remaining assets worth keeping -- store locations, the value of trademark goodwill, and so on. After 15 years, does anybody doubt what ESL was up to? I don't know how this will play out in a courtroom, but calling Lampert's actions "unimpeachable" is an ironic choice of words given other headlines in yesterday's news.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2019

    Hubert Joly: New Best Buy CEO has the right stuff to lead chain to new heights

    Hubert Joly's new position is not likely to be disruptive to his successor, since she has worked for most of her career at Best Buy and he presumably mentored her along the way. If the company had hired an outsider CEO, there would be a bigger sense of Mr. Joly looming over his/her shoulder. This offers the chance at an orderly transition, and at some point Mr. Joly will be ready to step down. He deserves a lot of praise for reinventing a big-box retailer like Best Buy when so many others are struggling or closing entirely. But Ms. Barry will not simply want to walk in Joly's footsteps (even though she was a key member of the "transformation" team). Retail is simply moving too fast (and so is the kind of product that Best Buy sells) for anyone to become complacent.
  • Posted on: 04/15/2019

    Is Bed Bath & Beyond smart to draw the line on coupons?

    Bed Bath & Beyond needs to be very cautious scaling back coupons. Coupons are not just a traffic driver to its stores and websites, but also an essential part of the brand identity. The growth of data analytics offers the company a chance to be more targeted in its coupons and other promotional offers, without scaling back a key marketing tool too drastically. Speaking of IT investment, my neighborhood store is the only big-box retailer I can think of that still requires a signature on paper for a credit card purchase. I don't know if this is an exception to the rule, or if it points to years of tech under-investment by Bed Bath & Beyond.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2019

    Why consumers are breaking bonds with their favorite brands

    There are several issues at play here, all threatening the market share of legacy brands:
    1. "Disrupters" (in this example, Harry's or Dollar Shave Club) are providing a value-added alternative to brands perceived as overpriced;
    2. Distribution patterns have changed -- a "classic" brand like Craftsman is harder to protect when it's broadly available;
    3. CPG companies are guilty of too many brand extensions. (See this week's WSJ article about trouble in the yogurt aisle, which has become unshoppable.)
    I could go on, but the perceived "moat" around national brands is in danger of drying up.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2019

    Will more consumers listen now that Macy’s has a new STORY to tell?

    I accompanied my wife dress-shopping in the iconic State St. (Chicago) store, and the contrast to Nordstrom's service level couldn't have been more stark. Is there anything more elemental to a retailer than figuring out how to take the customer's money?
  • Posted on: 04/11/2019

    Will more consumers listen now that Macy’s has a new STORY to tell?

    1,400 square feet in a limited number of stores won't move the needle, but might be a meaningful test case for Macy's to reinvent other elements of its business. In the heyday of the traditional department store, a lot of volume was driven by big ideas, key items and storytelling across merchandise departments. The experience is now more homogenized, despite efforts toward localization, so STORY is a small step in the right direction especially since it's not limited to Herald Square.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2019

    Madewell is on the way up, J.Crew is not

    Madewell has a clear sense of what it stands for -- you can see it in the store design, the merchandise content, the pricing strategies and so forth. It should continue to grow its physical footprint, albeit cautiously -- picking its mall locations carefully instead of rushing to grow. J.Crew, on the other hand, continues to suffer from brand confusion. The reported infighting between Mickey Drexler and the recently departed CEO is symptomatic of a lack of direction. What does J.Crew stand for today, in terms of value vs. regular pricing and most of all in terms of merchandise content? As long as Drexler seems to insist on a "turn back the clock" strategy, things aren't going to improve soon.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2019

    Retailers and brands become best of frenemies with Amazon

    Let's face it: Amazon is the "new mall," at the same time that it drives a huge amount of its own retail business. It is becoming a storefront for one chain after another -- like Chico's -- as they find their physical footprint to be unsustainable in dozens of weak regional malls around the country. The upside for chains like Chico's is that they have a bigger e-commerce audience than they can cultivate on their own -- but at the cost of giving up some control to Amazon and facing more direct online competition.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2019

    Should uniform pricing be the norm for large chains?

    Most large chains have the IT capacity for localized pricing based on competitive and other market conditions -- but does that make it right? The downside is that consumers have to work harder to verify that they are getting "the best price" from one physical location to another, and (more importantly) compared to the company's e-commerce site. The margin benefit of localized pricing may be offset by the erosion of trust and credibility between retailer and shopper.
  • Posted on: 04/05/2019

    Trump’s China tariff dispute leaves retail and consumer brands in limbo

    Retailers already began scrambling in 2018 to deal with the impact of tariffs and other trade issues involving China. They would be smart to follow the Williams-Sonoma lead by looking for alternative countries of origin, raw materials sources and assembly sites. Unpredictability is a concern when the Administration's trade (and immigration) policies disregard these ripple effects. But it's not always easy to create a new supply chain from whole cloth. I spoke recently to a former colleague charged with handbag product development; moving the sourcing from China (subject to large tariffs) to Cambodia (duty-free) isn't so simple if the know-how and logistics infrastructure aren't in place.
  • Posted on: 04/02/2019

    Again, Amazon attempts to shed Whole Foods’ high price image

    The price cuts signal a desire to drive trial and traffic (partly through free publicity) rather than a meaningful change in the Whole Foods pricing strategy. But does a brand with a premium image need to worry about lowest-common-denominator competitors like Walmart and Aldi? Or is there bigger share opportunity in "traditional" grocers like Kroger? Amazon has to walk a fine line between the "overpriced" and "high quality" perceptions of Whole Foods, and the ongoing TV ad campaign does nothing to enhance the value positioning.
  • Posted on: 03/28/2019

    Is Dick’s making the right move by bringing its software development in-house?

    It sounds like I'm in the minority on this one (and I don't claim any expertise on software development), but it seems like a smart move on Dick's part -- provided that they can hire the right talent to execute the strategy in a cost-effective manner. After all, who knows more about the specific complexity of Dick's business than the company itself? As the demands for system development get more complex (driven by real-time inventory management and omnichannel initiatives), Dick's is at least trying to control its own destiny.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2019

    Wayfair takes a bigger step into brick and mortar retailing

    There are still plenty of customers who wouldn't buy upholstered furniture in particular without giving it the "sit" test. (I'm among them.) So this trial run by Wayfair makes sense to a degree. My question: How does the company balance the limited assortment available to show in a brick-and-mortar store alongside its online calling card of huge selection? Wayfair's brand is built on choice, not just on free shipping.

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