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: 10/19/2020

    Should local book stores be taking on Amazon?

    Independent book stores have complained about Amazon since it began its original business -- selling books online, usually at a discount, and shipping them to customers' doors. Many small booksellers fell victim to the Amazon business model, especially with the development of e-readers, but others managed to adapt, survive and even thrive. While it's easy to blame Amazon for the impact of COVID-19 on their business, I'm not sure whether the #BoxedOut campaign will work. Those booksellers who had already adapted with their own websites -- or the ones who scrambled to offer curbside pickup, home delivery or other innovative services -- are likely to survive. And have booksellers, publishers and authors embraced the idea of virtual book tours with "personal appearances" via Zoom?
  • Posted on: 10/16/2020

    What’s holding back Black advancement to leadership roles?

    Two comments: First, to place the blame on the "feeder system" suggests that companies aren't trying hard enough or looking in the right places. Not to pick on Wells Fargo, but are they recruiting at HBCUs, not just the "usual suspects" of the Ivys or top-tier state universities? Are they partnering with HBCUs to endow strong B-school programming in order to develop that feeder system? Second, it's a top-down issue not just a bottom-up issue. If companies aren't modeling success in their own organization by recruiting people of color to their top ranks -- not just their training programs -- they aren't providing enough role models to have a meaningful impact. Systemic inequality isn't a given if employers try harder to combat it.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2020

    Will FAO Schwarz make Target a bigger player in toys?

    Walk a typical store and you'll see the space and inventory commitment that Target has made to the category. While FAO Schwartz may not be a huge volume driver, it certainly provides a halo over Target's overall toy business. As to the category's prospects for 2020, if families are stuck inside for awhile (including kids learning from home), it should be a big season. (Plenty of Baby Yoda toys under the tree, even though the lack of other big theatrical movies this year could be a handicap.) Early results from Prime Days and competing events will be a bellwether for the category.
  • Posted on: 10/12/2020

    Should Yelp be calling out businesses accused of racist behavior?

    I agree with the concept in principle, but I worry about Yelp's ability to execute it. Yelp already has credibility problems because its crowdsourced reviews often have an agenda or an axe to grind. I can foresee a disgruntled ex-employee at a restaurant setting an anti-racist narrative in motion -- whether it's true or not -- without enough safeguards in place to prevent real damage being done to the business.
  • Posted on: 10/09/2020

    NYC startup promises 15-minute grocery delivery

    15 minutes seems like a difficult brand promise to keep, and the very limited assortment (800 grocery items) is going to be another handicap. As New Yorkers become more willing to venture into their own neighborhood grocery stores, is Fridge No More really scalable when it can only meet that 15-minute window within a mile of its handful of stores? I may be wrong, but I'm a skeptic on this one.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2020

    Retailers say the new stimulus plan can’t wait until after the election

    I like to avoid politics in these posts, but yesterday's sudden announcement about ending negotiations falls into the "What was he thinking?" category. Barely three days earlier, President Trump had urged negotiators to forge a deal and by last night he reversed course again. Maybe the Trump team recognized the political damage to the DJIA earlier in the day, but the whipsawing is hazardous to our economic health. As to the elements of a new plan, I'd like to see funding directed toward those industries who will be more likely to keep people employed if they receive stimulus. This might include airlines, but it also might include a number of small businesses like restaurants and retailers. (Local governments are hurting, too, and shedding jobs.) Keeping people on the payroll would have more lasting benefit than a more politically expedient tactic like another $1200 stimulus check.
  • Posted on: 10/05/2020

    Are employees or execs holding back data-driven cultures?

    Organizations need to be data-driven, especially with the more advanced tools available today, but not at the expense of some judgment calls that might be based only on experience and instinct. The debate rages in all sorts of industries, including Major League Baseball, where a new generation of metrics-driven executives has displaced a lot of old-school understanding of players' character and mentality. The smart teams (like the smart organizations in any industry) have found room for both.
  • Posted on: 09/30/2020

    Will same-day deliveries be a difference maker for Bed Bath & Beyond?

    Same-day delivery may not be a game-changer for Bed Bath & Beyond but it's clearly necessary to catch up. Mark Tritton's prior experience at Target taught him just how much work Bed Bath & Beyond needs to do on the technology and logistics front, not to mention assortment planning and the store experience. This won't vault the company past its competitors but it's one piece of the formula needed to survive and thrive.
  • Posted on: 09/29/2020

    Did CDC’s announcement boost retail’s online sales prospects for Christmas?

    The kinds of massive crowds I used to associate with Black Friday have become a thing of the past anyway. Between Thanksgiving Day store openings (not a factor in 2020) and online shopping, the significance of that one big day has been fading for over 10 years. There is no doubt that COVID-19 will play further havoc with high-traffic days -- at least I hope so, for the sake of public health. But the credibility of the CDC has been so compromised in recent months that it has little effect on risky behavior -- it's up to the retailers to manage the promotional calendar and crowd control to keep things safe while keeping up their sales volume.
  • Posted on: 09/25/2020

    Will curbside pickup be Costco’s Achilles heel?

    Costco was the first major retailer to require masks in order to enter the store. Despite the absence of curbside pickup, the company earned credibility even among nervous shoppers who avoided other stores for months. Based on results so far, it’s hard to fault Costco’s decision — I still believe e-commerce is a bigger opportunity.
  • Posted on: 09/22/2020

    Will Walmart’s new private clothing line have ‘staying power’?

    Based on a rollout to only 250 stores (for now), this seems to be a play for more apparel share on Walmart.com. Walmart can't sit on its hands while Amazon and Target continue to gain online share in apparel, and at some point it needs to leverage whatever it's learned from Bonobos and other similar acquisitions. However Walmart's history of upgraded apparel offerings goes back years and has not been particularly successful. Free Assembly may turn out to have a halo effect on the rest of Walmart's clothing business without turning into a huge sales driver on its own.
  • Posted on: 09/21/2020

    Will 2020 be the year the holiday selling season changed forever?

    "Forever" is a long time, and it would have been hard to predict a year ago the predicament retailers find themselves in today. There's no doubt that stores will be pushing the promotional buttons as hard as possible, and as early as they can, this year. But if they're counting on in-store vs. online traffic, they may be disappointed -- especially if they are selling apparel. Part of the motivation for added events in October is the expected decline of Halloween sales -- usually a huge seasonal event. As to whether these conditions will repeat in 2021 -- and require a similar promotional strategy -- let's all hope not.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2020

    Are older shoppers wiser amid the pandemic?

    I'm also skeptical of the low "anxiety and stress" experienced by those over 65 (myself included). They may be better settled financially and without careers or kids at home to worry about, but they are the most vulnerable population in terms of health. The only explanation may be that accumulated life experience gives them some perspective on this crisis, or that they are more willing to trust the advice of medical experts. As consumers, they have become more astute and tech-savvy because of COVID-19 -- without becoming reckless in their behavior.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2020

    Can IKEA drive a used furniture movement?

    It's not clear whether the furniture needs to be disassembled before taking it to a local IKEA store for resale. (Anybody who has put together IKEA furniture knows that doing the process in reverse would be challenging.) The subject raises a different issue -- the perception that people trade up and away from IKEA as they "age away" from the brand. For those shoppers bringing their own sofas and coffee tables back to the store for resale, are they finding the next level of quality in the store so that IKEA can keep their business?
  • Posted on: 09/15/2020

    Could Authentic Brands be the lynchpin in J.C. Penney’s turnaround?

    J.C. Penney's merchandising model has been built for years on its own private and exclusive labels, but it has been guilty of over-assortment and duplication among these brands. Is there room for more national brands inside J.C. Penney, especially if they are moderately priced and not carried by either Macy's or Kohl's? The answer is probably yes, but only if J.C. Penney cleans house first instead of adding product on top of more product.

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