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: 12/02/2020

    Sephora to set up shops in 850 Kohl’s stores

    Lee, Target recently announced a similar collaboration with Ulta so I don't think Sephora is in the cards for them anytime soon.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2020

    Sephora to set up shops in 850 Kohl’s stores

    You're right about women's apparel, which Kohl's has already promised to edit. The growth of women's active at Kohl's came at the expense of floor space in misses' and juniors' apparel, but a 2500-square foot Sephora shop will require a more cold-eyed look at these businesses.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2020

    Sephora to set up shops in 850 Kohl’s stores

    Sephora was a rare bright spot for J.C. Penney, even during its toughest days, so this is a blow even though the two companies already agreed to part company. Between Sephora at Kohl's and Ulta at Target, it's hard to imagine J.C. Penney finding a suitable beauty partner. Penney's road to recovery just got harder. As to Kohl's (where I bought and then merchandised beauty from 1982 to 2006), this will be a big win -- just as it was for J.C. Penney in the first place. Kohl's has made inroads in recent years, after the re-introduction of beauty in 2004, but this will take the footprint (space, staffing, content) to a whole new level. It will be interesting to see if the traditional department store brands inside Sephora (Clinique, Lancome, etc.) will be part of the Kohl's assortments, and also to see how the Sephora business aligns with Kohl's promotional posture. But it's a big deal!
  • Posted on: 12/01/2020

    Does COVID-19 provide retailers with new opportunities to bond with customers?

    Consumers are looking for safety and predictability from their preferred retailers, whether they are shopping online, curbside or in-store. Stores like Target are filling these needs, and gaining market share in the process. The trust factor, which was already high at companies like Target, Walmart and Amazon, will continue to drive these stores' sales long after the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror. The evolution of consumer behavior (and retailers' responses to it) has become a revolution in 2020.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2020

    Was Black Friday a bust?

    I haven't done the math, but it's no surprise if Friday mall traffic was indeed down 50 percent while online shopping was up 20 percent. Retailers made the deliberate (and responsible) choice to spread out their "Black Friday" promotions and to reduce traffic jams in the middle of a pandemic. So that's hardly a bust based on lowered expectations. Whether this plays out by the end of the holiday season with the 3.7 percent increase projected by the NRF remains to be seen. The NRF wears rose-colored glasses under the best of circumstances, and nobody has seen a situation like this with so many stores closed or disrupted. If consumer spending is able to break even this year, it should be considered a triumph of logistics management -- and a testament to the central role of e-commerce.
  • Posted on: 11/25/2020

    Are the best Christmas commercials made outside the U.S.A.?

    Woodie's, hands down -- and it would play well in the U.S. too. A warm holiday message with a not-too-subtle reminder that Woodie's is a DIY retailer. Also one of the rare spots in this year's contest that avoids an explicit reference to COVID-19 but still celebrates the virtue of helping others. I found the Myer ad off-putting and missing relevance to Myers's core business. The concept was over the top, and the cheeky treatment of the pandemic would definitely strike a sour note if shown in the U.S.
  • Posted on: 11/24/2020

    Target CEO points to one-stop shopping as key to chain’s success

    Target's footprint in groceries and commodities allowed it to stay open when many other retailers closed their doors. As I said last week when Target reported its earnings, its apparel and soft home businesses were able to thrive while competitors like Kohl's were limited to e-commerce sales. So, it's clear that Target's variety of categories and tight assortments are part of its winning formula. That being said, Target worked since Mr. Cornell's hiring on upgrading those assortments (especially in apparel) and had been gaining share even before the pandemic. Combine this with the "easy shopping" messaging and execution, and it's no wonder Target is emerging from 2020 stronger than ever.
  • Posted on: 11/19/2020

    Do masks and social distancing matter in 2020 Christmas spots?

    To George's headline question, it's noticeable now when retailers run ads portraying groups of people in public without their masks on, or without social distancing. I wish it weren't so, but that's the situation we find ourselves in now. As to the two ads in question, I think the Macy's ad takes the "walking in Dad's shoes" idea about as far as it can go -- or maybe too far -- without really selling the Macy's brand effectively. I prefer the Target ad (realizing that it was filmed a long time before we were all warned against larger indoor gatherings) -- because it exudes more spirit of holiday fellowship. It speaks to the Target brand without being heavy-handed about it.
  • Posted on: 11/18/2020

    Target and Walmart’s 3Q results are just – Wow!

    The third quarter numbers may reflect Walmart's recent commentary about softening of demand. Its customers have typically felt economic stresses more than Target's, especially now that COVID-19 is spreading to less urbanized areas in the middle of the country. Nevertheless, I'd expect Walmart to perform well during the fourth quarter especially if customers start stockpiling essentials again. But Target's results are outstanding. It's clear that the "ease of shopping" angle is working, but that's not the only factor. When you look at Kohl's 13 percent decline in third quarter sales (driven in part by the impact of virtual learning on back-to-school business), it's clear that they are losing share to Target in apparel and soft home -- a trend that started before the pandemic. Combine this with Target's improved execution of groceries and commodities, and it's a winning formula.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2020

    Are retailers cutting their way to profitability or slowly bleeding to death?

    Rich, I think it's been a C/W/T world for a while and we're just living in it. Department and specialty apparel stores have been struggling for years, not just during this Year of the Plague. That's not to say that a better model can't emerge -- think Amazon for one.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2020

    Are retailers cutting their way to profitability or slowly bleeding to death?

    I'm thinking, I'm thinking...
  • Posted on: 11/17/2020

    Are retailers cutting their way to profitability or slowly bleeding to death?

    In many cases, retailers can't cut centralized costs fast enough to keep up with the lost sales from store closures. And when these stores pull out of markets entirely (think Sears), they become irrelevant in the minds of shoppers who might be considering omnichannel options. While it makes sense for stores with hundreds of locations to prune the least profitable sites, the pace of closures from some national chains looks like a harbinger of doom. It's no accident that stores like Walmart and Target -- both with massive physical footprints -- were already leading the pack on omnichannel sales. The pandemic has only solidified their market position, thanks in part to all those locations offering curbside pickup of online orders.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2020

    Costco makes everybody mask up

    Far different from calling them "stormtroopers," thank you.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2020

    Costco makes everybody mask up

    Tony, I sympathize with your challenges actually operating a store these days -- but when you refer to your governor's "stormtroopers," you might consider why this kind of rhetoric causes our country to be "deeply divided with no end in sight." The original stormtroopers were out of Nazi Germany (not Star Wars), and these metaphors are never helpful coming from either side of the political aisle.
  • Posted on: 11/16/2020

    Costco makes everybody mask up

    I agreed with Costco's "mask mandate" back in May, and in fact I have felt more secure shopping there ever since, compared to other retailers whose policies were less strict or whose enforcement has been more lax. This is for the protection of associates and other customers in the midst of the worst outbreaks, and is the only weapon in stores' arsenals short of capacity restrictions to force social distancing.

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