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: 01/20/2020

    Best Buy CEO faces alleged misconduct probe

    This is unfortunate on several levels, especially because of the collateral damage being done to the families caught up in the story. But let's be clear: The definition of "wrongdoing" depends on Best Buy's specific policy about relationships with co-workers. If there isn't a blanket prohibition, and the policy involves only those with reporting relationships, this story is still complicated. (Ms. Barry reported to Mr. Sanft, not the other way around.) There is probably heightened scrutiny of CEO behavior inside Best Buy given its history, but the process needs to be fair to Ms. Barry.
  • Posted on: 01/16/2020

    What does Target’s Christmas miss mean?

    Target’s numbers were okay compared to other retail reports, but we'll see how they stack up against Walmart. (We already know how well Costco performed by comparison.) The company seems to have a viable strategy, but keep an eye on what the new lead merchant and stores director decide to tackle in 2020 for a clearer idea of what Target needs to fix.
  • Posted on: 01/15/2020

    Will Walmart become a fashion destination in 2020?

    Walmart has tried (and failed) for years to raise its fashion profile in its stores. There is a big difference, however, between the cachet of its e-commerce acquisitions and its ability to translate this into mass appeal. Target’s newly reported results should be a cautionary note. It’s made headway in apparel (with some impact on Kohl’s women’s sales) but still had a disappointing holiday season — due to toys and electronics. Message to Walmart: Focus on what you do best instead of trying to become something you’re not.
  • Posted on: 01/14/2020

    Consumers want up-to-date online reviews

    This makes sense especially for restaurants — think how a change in chef, management or ownership can change your experience for better or worse. Or think about how you wish you had known about that construction project before booking your hotel. The more current the information the better.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2020

    Will ‘five pillars’ provide the foundation Bed Bath & Beyond needs to succeed?

    While the "five pillars" echo the "four Ps" from my 1970s-era marketing class, Mr. Tritton makes a valid argument about the number of areas where Bed Bath & Beyond needs repair. As a former merchant, I would always start with "product," because that's the main reason why anybody shops any retailer -- the relevance and execution of the assortments. There will be some short-term pain involved in cleaning up Bed Bath & Beyond's overstuffed and overassorted stores, but opportunity awaits.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2020

    Pier 1 to close up to 450 stores as it faces uncertain future

    From my experience, Pier 1 locations tend to be "neither here nor there." Some of them are in or near regional malls, others in power centers, but a large number of them are in random neighborhood strip centers. They aren't destination stores, and the merchandise mix doesn't help, either -- it's dated, along with the company's brand identity. Closing a lot of unproductive stores is a good first step, but Pier 1 faces a lot of the same challenges as Bed Bath & Beyond -- they need to rethink the entire business model top to bottom.
  • Posted on: 01/07/2020

    Do alcohol and shopping mix?

    The first example I thought of is Nordstrom in Chicago, which installed a bar/cafe in the middle of the men's floor. It's always busy, along with the rest of the store, but is definitely a magnet for shoppers. It may not allow "open carry" but clearly adds an element of socialization to the retail experience -- essential these days. But yes, retailers do bear some responsibility -- if they turn into bartenders -- to control their customers' intake. The liability and possibility of collateral damage (at the mall or on the drive home) is just too high to avoid being responsible.
  • Posted on: 01/02/2020

    Are return rates out of control?

    The costs of high return rates are the flipside of the costs of "free" shipping. Customer expectations have gotten higher and higher -- driven partly by Amazon -- and stores' efforts to tighten up their return policies are going to meet with resistance. It doesn't help matters when retailers encourage purchases of multiple colors and sizes as a consumer incentive, knowing that most of these products are going to be returned.
  • Posted on: 12/26/2019

    Is Super Saturday rivaling Black Friday in importance?

    I used to manage the "last-minute" businesses at Kohl's, like jewelry and cosmetics, so the final Saturday before Christmas was always a bigger deal than Black Friday -- even in its heyday -- in many of these areas. At the same time, the calendar has a big impact on sales on any given day. When Christmas falls on a Wednesday, the last-minute sales tend to be more spread out over several days instead of being compressed into one day. But other issues have changed the importance of last-minute business vs. Black Friday sales. First, as others have pointed out, Black Friday lacks the urgency of the past because of the over-promotion before Thanksgiving and store-opening hours on Thanksgiving itself. Second, and more important, the migration to online retail has an "expiration date" for holiday shoppers if e-retailers can't promise delivery. This forces "need to buy" shoppers to do something more and more unusual these days -- go to a physical store and buy merchandise.
  • Posted on: 12/20/2019

    Are dirty sweaters treason to the reason for the season?

    It's a free country for people to buy whatever they want, but that doesn't mean it's right to subject the rest of us to their bad taste. It's an unfortunate sign of the coarsened times we live in, including (not to get too preachy) the President's routine use of profanity in his public speeches or declining standards on network TV. I'm no bluenose, but religious holidays (and that's what Christmas is) should be treated with a modicum of respect. Retailers need to work harder to prevent bawdy from becoming blasphemous when they put their assortments together in the first place.
  • Posted on: 12/18/2019

    Bed Bath & Beyond’s CEO cleans house

    Based on the tenure of some of the departed executives, I'm guessing that Mr. Tritton ran into plenty of "we've always done it this way" thinking. That sort of mentality doesn't work in a successful company trying to keep on its toes -- much less a company with broad challenges like BBBY. If the next layer of management needed any evidence that there is a new sheriff in town, they just got it. The next key will be to retain talent among that group without instilling a culture of fear.
  • Posted on: 12/17/2019

    The Beatles Play SoHo

    I admit I'm showing my age, but the Beatles aren't a "nostalgia act." Yes, for people of a certain generation like me, the Beatles Channel on satellite radio is our go-to music -- but there is also a reason why my adult children are hooked, why my Millennial son collects Beatles vinyl, and why the crowd at the McCartney show I attended this summer crossed at least three generations. So a simple answer to Tom's question about the pop-up: Absolutely huge appeal, and anything less than a big success would be a surprise. As songwriters/musicians, and as a cultural phenomenon, the Beatles have no equal.
  • Posted on: 12/16/2019

    Is the trade deal an early-Christmas present?

    We can only hope that the administration recognizes the bad economics and bad politics behind the tariff wars. But I would be cautiously optimistic, because most of the announcements so far have been coming from Washington, not China. The biggest sticking point going forward -- whether a deal affects consumer goods or not -- will be the intellectual property issue, where I'm skeptical about China sticking to an agreement no matter what.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2019

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Best Buy vs. Big Lots

    The Best Buy ad is an extension of their ongoing campaign where associates in blue polos show up unexpectedly to problem-solve. It reinforces the message that shoppers can find knowledgeable help inside a physical store, but it doesn't shout "holiday spirit" despite the humorous twist. The Big Lots ad, on the other hand, is much more appealing as a holiday-themed ad. It pushes the right buttons (the music, the home decor) and dresses up what can be a pretty drab shopping trip. The trick for Big Lots is to ensure that the store experience lives up to the spirit of the ad.
  • Posted on: 12/10/2019

    Will female-led pop-ups add pop to Macy’s Christmas?

    It's a worthy idea (especially if the product is great), but as with so many Macy's initiatives we talk about on RetailWire -- how is a seven-store initiative supposed to move the sales needle? The idea might register on social-networking platforms, but what about driving volume? This seems far too typical of the cautious Macy's mindset these days.

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