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: 05/25/2022

    Nordstrom is staffed, stocked and ready to serve as store traffic increases

    The Nordstrom results suggest some tailwinds for the retailer: First, its full-line customers are less vulnerable to inflation than shoppers at Target or Kohl's. Second, its Rack stores are more likely to gain share during inflationary or recessionary times. But the real momentum behind Nordstrom's results comes from changes in shopper behavior -- or, better stated, a revival of pre-pandemic behavior. Some of this comes from "return to work" (even if only a few days per week) and some of it stems from social gatherings and travel -- but mostly it reflects the simple desire to shop in an inviting brick-and-mortar store again.
  • Posted on: 05/24/2022

    Are ‘neighborhood stores’ what Google fans have been searching for?

    Google needs to move faster if it wants to use physical locations to push its hardware products like the Chromebook or the Pixel phone. Driving demand via TV ads isn't enough when customers expect "touch and feel" interaction -- understanding that Google sells its products through retail accounts like Best Buy. While localization is a proven strategy, I'm not sure the differences between Chelsea and Williamsburg will provide as much learning to Google as a more meaningful (and faster) expansion to completely different markets and formats across the country.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2022

    Walmart and Target report higher sales and lower margins

    The sales results are good considering the comps from Q1 in 2021, and the margins are not surprising. Along with higher supply chain costs, consumers are shifting from discretionary goods to essentials given the higher cost of groceries and gas -- and that kind of margin mix is never good for the bottom line. Stores like Target and Walmart are strong enough to weather the inflation storm, and to avoid passing too many price increases to their shoppers; they will win market share over the long run.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2022

    Should Apple have killed the iPod?

    Apple made a rational, not emotional, decision about the iPod. The costs of product development, sourcing and selling were hard to justify compared to tis contribution to Apple's volume. (And, as anyone with an old iPhone knows, it's still useful as a music player as soon as it's replaced as a smartphone.) Decisions to drop legacy products are never easy and are often emotional -- think about GM dropping Oldsmobile and Pontiac -- but they are justified in cases like this.
  • Posted on: 05/12/2022

    Will Kohl’s make a better deal for itself after an activist investor loses board vote?

    Starting with my usual disclosure (I worked at Kohl's from 1982-2006 and still own shares via an IRA), I'm certainly happy with yesterday's outcome. Macellum seemed totally misguided in its recommendations to Kohl's management, including the lease-buyback idea and the e-commerce spinoff proposal. I'm not surprised that their slate was overwhelmingly rejected because their plan appeared to be all about lining their own pockets. That being said, is Kohl's stock price where shareholders like me would like it to be? And is there clear evidence (yet) that their new strategies — including the Sephora rollout — will move the sales needle? The jury is still out, but any proposals to sell the company need to consider more than the "highest bidder." (I would personally hate to see the company that owns JCPenney acquiring Kohl's, not only because of my personal feelings but also because of their proposal to stop the Sephora rollout.) Any new owner needs to bring value and a viable strategic vision to the company's future, not just the best asking price.
  • Posted on: 05/11/2022

    Would grocery delivery be a healthy addition to Apple’s business?

    Apple has been a pioneer in high-margin businesses where it can control the "ecosystem" between hardware and software, and has become dominant as a result. It doesn't typically venture into a new category unless it can be "best in class." I don't see the grocery business fitting into its portfolio.
  • Posted on: 05/10/2022

    Is inflation the true cause of recent supermarket closures?

    In yesterday's discussion about grocery chains, I mentioned that rising costs of goods and labor are putting pressures on a low-margin business to begin with. (And you can add supply chain costs to the mix, driven by rising fuel prices.) This is a bad combination with disappointing sales, so the chains in question are right to trim underperforming sites from their portfolios. Is inflation part of the problem? Maybe, but so are factors like poor locations, increased competition and a host of other causes.
  • Posted on: 05/09/2022

    Grocers fret over how to pass higher costs onto customers

    I don't think grocers can dodge price increases indefinitely, given the pressures on costs of goods and labor. Loyalty programs are surely one way to maintain a value positioning, and tactical price promotions are another.
  • Posted on: 05/05/2022

    How should retail companies best navigate the abortion controversy?

    I admire the companies that have already taken a stand in support of its employees who may wish to use the 50-year-old protection of abortion rights. But the Disney situation in Florida -- in which the company was punished by the state for taking a stance in support of its associates -- is probably giving other companies some pause. I'm not sure there will be a rush to take one position or another until the Supreme Court issues its final ruling.
  • Posted on: 05/04/2022

    Will ‘shrinkflation’ grow into a big problem for CPG brands?

    "Shrinkflation" has been a growing practice long before genuine inflation became a problem. (I've noticed it in several of the CPG items I buy regularly.) In some cases, it's so obvious that nobody is fooled, and the CPG companies are betting on consumer loyalty to specific products and brands. If the topic has been surveyed, I'm wondering if most shoppers would prefer paying a little more for the "regular size" instead of the deceptive practice of "shrinkflation."
  • Posted on: 05/03/2022

    Family Dollar has a big rodent problem

    There is a lot of blame to spread around here, including the Arkansas AG who needed 15 months after the FDA action to file a lawsuit. Clearly most of the responsibility belongs to Family Dollar and its parent Dollar Tree, by allowing this problem to spread unchecked to hundreds of stores and by allowing its warehouse workers to work in unsanitary conditions. Just an appalling story.
  • Posted on: 05/02/2022

    Are Walmart and Abercombie too late for the activewear party?

    True athleticwear (as opposed to "athleisure" meant as streetwear) is a permanent part of customers' wardrobes and not a passing fad. If anything, as people return to the gym and to outdoor exercise, the growth in this category should continue to be strong. There is absolutely room for retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch and especially a giant like Walmart to turn this into a sales opportunity.
  • Posted on: 04/28/2022

    Is timing more important than speed for grocery delivery?

    Timing matters more than speed, but having your order completed as placed (or with acceptable substitutes) trumps both; shortages continue to plague grocery shoppers long after the start of the pandemic. Getting your order delivered within an hour of placing it is an exercise in futility if half the items delivered are unwanted brands or (worse) total stock-outs. Stores that take a little extra time to get it right (and set realistic delivery times) will be rewarded by loyal customers.
  • Posted on: 04/26/2022

    Are JCPenney’s owners a good fit to take over Kohl’s?

    As I've often stated on RetailWire, I worked for Kohl's for 24 years and continue to hold some shares in an IRA after my retirement -- so perhaps I am not the most objective person to comment on this thread! That being said, Kohl's has been a stronger company than JCPenney for many years, and continues to be despite its more recent tepid sales and stock growth. It is financially sounder, further advanced in omnichannel and other retail technology, and with a much more attractive real estate portfolio. Maybe these are things that attracted the Simon/Brookfield partnership to Kohl's in the first place, but recent retail history suggests that acquisitions of stronger companies by weaker ones do not work out well for either brand. One more note: The reporting about JCP's interest suggests that the buyers will immediately end the Sephora rollout at Kohl's, set for 400 more stores this year. Assuming the initial results drove sales and were not a drag on capital spending (otherwise why add 400 stores?), it's hard to understand the motivation of Penney's owners.
  • Posted on: 04/25/2022

    Is Abercrombie & Fitch’s exposé a crisis or an opportunity?

    I haven't watched the documentary, but I do know that Abercrombie & Fitch has evolved past the mistakes and excesses of the Jeffries era. (If the filmmakers don't make this clear, shame on them.) A&F has not only corrected these practices, but they have also pointed their merchandise mix toward a 30-something customer who is responding. I hope the company can continue to move forward past the inevitable bad publicity that the Netflix doc will produce.

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