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: 02/23/2021

    Activist investors attempt takeover of Kohl’s board of directors

    A local reporter called me yesterday (because I live in Milwaukee and used to work for Kohl's) and I pointed out the checkered history of activist investors -- especially as you note, JCP and Sears. I also questioned why Kohl's or any retailer would put a competing retail CEO on its own board (one of the activist investors' demands). Is Target's CEO likely to sit on Kohl's board, or vice versa? Kohl's board as composed today seems to have relevant background in some retail disciplines like e-commerce, technology, HR management, etc. -- not just traditional backgrounds of "running the store" or "buying goods."
  • Posted on: 02/22/2021

    Should suppliers help fund retailers’ omnichannel investments?

    It wouldn't be surprising. "Don't fight the fees or you'll lose shelf space."
  • Posted on: 02/22/2021

    Should suppliers help fund retailers’ omnichannel investments?

    It's fair game to ask vendors to partner in store remodels benefiting their sales -- and by the same token it's appropriate to ask suppliers to help pay for the physical requirements of omnichannel. But the key word is "ask." Retailers have had a checkered history of issuing chargebacks (often related to gross margin recovery) without prior vendor agreement, and unauthorized fees feel the same. Walmart has all the leverage in this situation, but it's still a questionable practice even if the rationale is valid.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2021

    Keep on growing is Target’s mantra as chain announces leadership moves

    Target still has big growth opportunities -- not only in online sales, which drove its growth in 2021, but also by developing new store formats. There is an empty department store near me being reopened soon as a 120,000 square foot Target store, and there are plenty of vacancies like this one. More importantly -- if you look at the list of 2021 openings, many of them are urban locations in small formats, often between 25,000 and 40,000 square feet. This is a wide-open chance for Target to gain share, as long as the right sites are available -- the company certainly appears to have the team in place to execute the strategy.
  • Posted on: 02/17/2021

    Has text messaging become retail’s go-to communication tool?

    Being somewhat old-school in my communication preferences, I have opted into very few retailers' text messages -- I find them intrusive, but I realize that's the point. But there's a risk of overkill -- too many messages from the same retailers, or too many retailers heard from. Constant texting of promotional messages (even if they include a link to a webpage) will eventually lead consumers to ignore the flood of information, just as many shoppers delete promotional emails without reading them. There needs to be a balance between attention-getting motivational techniques and intrusive violations of data privacy.
  • Posted on: 02/16/2021

    Will Nordstrom celebrate or regret its decision to give brands a lot more control?

    To this American shopper's eyes, the concession model in full bloom in European and Asian department stores makes the shopping experience more disjointed even if each brand has greater control over its destiny. And, in terms of customer service, it's like the longstanding cosmetics model -- where the Lancome "counter manager" has no incentive or interest in helping a customer with a competing brand. This is a particular risk to Nordstrom, whose own brand equity has always been customer-centric as much as product-focused.
  • Posted on: 02/15/2021

    Is the toy category’s pandemic sales boon coming to an end?

    I see toys and games falling into two separate categories. As long as the vaccine rollout takes, sales of both products should stay strong. Long-term, consumers may discover that "family game night" is a custom worth keeping, even post-pandemic. This should maintain volume of board games, jigsaw puzzles, etc. at higher than pre-pandemic levels. Toys geared toward keeping kids entertained at home are another matter, especially with the movement to reopen schools sooner rather than later. It's not hard to imagine sales of toys settling back into their pre-pandemic pattern -- still a very large and healthy business.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2021

    Should retailers ask workers to return to their offices?

    Even with an accelerated pace of vaccinations, it may take the rest of 2021 to lure office workers back to the office. Industries like retail that benefit from face-to-face collaboration between merchants and design teams may want to consider a phased reopening, where other functional areas like finance can return more slowly. The LVMH mandate to its staff looks impractical and (worse) inhumane, given that very few of its workers have access to both rounds of vaccine in the next two weeks.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2021

    Will Men’s Wearhouse’s new digitally-equipped next-gen stores be a must shop?

    By chance, I spoke to a vendor yesterday whose business was hurt by Men's Wearhouse's Chapter 11 filing and store closures. While the improvements in store experience and inventory management sound promising, it reminds me of the JCPenney test store in Hurst, TX. Is it too little, too late? If the company has emerged from bankruptcy with a smaller footprint and more financial constraints, it's going to be hard to roll out the next-gen concept fast enough to impact the brand.
  • Posted on: 02/10/2021

    Does Walgreens’ nursing home experience portend a slow retail recovery?

    I see just the reverse problem, at least here in Wisconsin, where demand among the general population is far exceeding supply -- even among groups that are "authorized" by the state for their first dose. Walgreens is finally starting its in-store vaccinations this Friday, but the news stories around the country about shortages at mass events point to the same issue. Survey data also suggests that popular opinion pro-vaccine is gaining strength, and I expect this to continue. I wouldn't read too much into the early anecdotal reporting about nursing homes.
  • Posted on: 02/09/2021

    Will retail pharmacies be the cure for America’s ‘vaccine deserts’?

    Walgreens opened up for appointments here in Wisconsin, beginning on Friday when they should have availability of direct Federal shipments. The effort has not yet been expanded to CVS or other competing pharmacies, but putting this program into the hands of national chains that already administer millions of other vaccines yearly is the smart play. Just one catch, at least today: The Walgreens website has basically crashed today because of high usage, and I'm sure the issue isn't just a local one. Every step of the way needs to be handled the right way, and this isn't it.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2021

    Who won this year’s Super Bowl ad contest?

    I would probably rank the GM spot #1, because it talked about EV cars in a funny but pointed way. It was outside the norm of a typical car commercial, which tends to aim for a loftier mood during the Super Bowl. (See: Springsteen's ad for Jeep.) I would also rate the Michael B. Jordan ad for Amazon high, purely for its entertainment value. Overall, not an especially memorable crop (or a memorable game), and there must have been a fair amount of unsold time considering the barrage of ads for Paramount Plus.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2021

    Who won this year’s Super Bowl ad contest?

    Fellow Packer fan here, George. After what Brady did to the Pack and then the Chiefs, Rodgers and Mahomes may want to look for a new State Farm agent. Maybe Jake is a jinx.
  • Posted on: 02/05/2021

    The retail apocalypse didn’t happen last year, despite the coverage

    It's true that many of the stores that closed multiple sites in 2020 were already in trouble, or were unable to adapt to new ways of shopping. (It's also clear that the big box stores with the most robust omnichannel or biggest breadth of assortment fared the best -- think Target, Walmart, and food retailers.) But more than one thing can be true at the same time. There is no denying that thousands of independent retailers closed their doors last year -- mostly because they had to shut down for an extended period of time, or couldn't maintain their payroll given lack of demand. "Apocalypse" may be too strong a word (closer to the truth for the restaurant business), but 2020 was a difficult year for many. In every city where panelists live, I'm sure there are plenty of examples of retailers lost to the pandemic.
  • Posted on: 02/03/2021

    A new era for Amazon as Jeff Bezos hands over CEO role

    Good point about Bezos (hopefully) not leaving this world like Jobs did! Both companies seem to benefit from succession planning, which is another "lesson learned" for founder-centric companies.

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