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: 12/12/2019

    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.
  • Posted on: 12/09/2019

    Why do so many people say ‘no’ to retailer loyalty programs?

    I can think of a few reasons:
    1. First, if the retail brand itself is not compelling, no amount of perks or extra discounts will provide an incentive to join a loyalty program;
    2. Many shoppers would rather concentrate their "perk collection" on a smaller number of loyalty cards already in their wallets, including reward credit cards;
    3. The more loyalty programs, the more complexity ... some consumers would rather simplify the number of retailers they need to track and manage.
    Maybe the most important reason is the first one. If retailers think that loyalty is generated just by price incentives (instead of added service and other benefits), they are making a big mistake.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2019

    To localize stores or not, that is the question for retailers

    Merchandise mix is a large part of what makes a brand relevant -- nothing speaks to what a retailer stands for like the product it offers. So localization is an essential tool for making this happen, especially with the rapid growth of data science as a decision-making guide. "True to the brand" vs. "localization" is a false choice, because the two go hand-in-hand.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2019

    Do independent liquor stores need a rehab?

    There is still a market for independent liquor stores, just as there is a market for locally-owned hardware stores. (And yes, most of those stores have the combined buying power of Ace or True Value.) The customer who shops those stores is choosing personal service and convenience over the massive assortments of the big box DIY stores. The same can be said for the neighborhood wine and liquor store that puts the effort into product knowledge and extra services. It's hard to beat Costco on wine prices, and Total Wine on breadth of assortment, but shoppers don't always want an extra half-hour's drive for a good bottle of wine or liquor.
  • Posted on: 12/03/2019

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Kohl’s vs. Macy’s

    Lee, check out the "Scott Living" collection of home goods at Kohl's. It may explain why the brothers are in the commercial.
  • Posted on: 12/03/2019

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Kohl’s vs. Macy’s

    The Kohl's ad is a rehash of last year's Western-themed ad, and it checks the same boxes -- target customer (woman) as family hero, a place to find everything on your list, and the ubiquitous Kohl's Cash. It's fine as far as it goes, but lacks the emotional resonance of the Macy's ad. The latter spot is much more effective than last year's "Lighthouse" ad, even if it still lacks a sense of urgency about driving sales. So this early vote goes to Macy's -- but let's face it, whoever rings the register more effectively is the real winner of the commercial challenge at season's end.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2019

    Big things are happening as Small Business Saturday turns 10

    There is a sizable group of shoppers who would like to support local, independent retailers in addition to the national big-box chains (and online retailers) that we all buy from. The annual "Shop Small" campaign has motivated these consumers -- and it's not just about the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I believe American Express supports this campaign year after year because it's working, and it resonates with plenty of consumers.
  • Posted on: 11/26/2019

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Old Navy vs. T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods

    I'm not in love with either spot but I would give the nod to TJX. They do a better job than Old Navy communicating "brand," not just price. The spot also does a good job overcoming the "self-purchase treasure hunt" image of the TJX divisions in order to promote a more seasonal message about holiday giving.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2019

    Is Target killing department stores and specialty clothing chains?

    Target's gains are a credit to what it's done right, more than what its competitors have done wrong. Target has put a lot of effort into the creation of new apparel brands and the underlying product development to drive those brands. Clearly it's working, and it's a good lesson about the power of product to those losing market share -- whether Kohl's, Gap or others. It's also worth pointing out that Walmart recently talked about the strength of its food business vs. its general merchandise. No doubt Target's success in apparel is putting a dent in this part of Walmart's business, too. Target seems to have found the sweet spot in between Walmart and the midtier retailers right now.
  • Posted on: 11/20/2019

    Will a hack ruin Macy’s Christmas?

    Unfortunately, these kinds of data breaches have become routine, to the point where shoppers react with a shrug. Macy’s holiday outlook rests with its merchandising, store experience and marketing strategies...good or bad.
  • Posted on: 11/19/2019

    Can a Soho pop-up relaunch Tupperware’s party?

    What was an innovative brand in the '50s and '60s (with an innovative distribution network to boot), has become a commodity product, alongside competing brands like Rubbermaid. It suffers from the same "old" perception as legacy brands like Kellogg's and Campbell's. I'm not sure whether the buzz of a pop-up shop is enough to turn around the brand perception, but it's a start.
  • Posted on: 11/15/2019

    Walmart has a too much grocery problem

    The success of grocery and other commodity business at Walmart is a double-edged sword: It drives foot traffic and market share, but it throws off the potential margin mix of the overall business. As others have already pointed out, the general merchandise offering is subject to much more competition (Amazon and Target, to name the obvious), and Walmart's assortments are probably in need of an update. But Walmart's other opportunity to change the business mix is to get more aggressive on pricing in their non-food businesses. Lower margins in general merchandise don't happen in a vacuum, because they are still favorable compared to grocery. Something closer to a 50/50 mix of business would help Walmart's margins overall, and would help it recapture market share on the nonfood side.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2019

    Study: Consumers don’t enjoy doing their holiday shopping online

    Do the surveys uncovering dissatisfaction with online shopping ask the same respondents if they are happy with brick-and-mortar shopping? I'm guessing that there is an even greater dissatisfaction with physical stores, if the pace of store and mall closings is any indication. The biggest issues -- whether online or in-store -- are the quality of execution, the level of customer service, and the relevance of the product. If a retailer isn't nailing all three, the customer is likely to be unhappy with the experience.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2019

    Gap Inc.’s CEO steps down. What comes next?

    "Operational excellence" appears to be the Gap board's hiring goal, and operations appear to have been Mr. Peck's focus based on George's commentary. (Technology, store closures, and so forth.) But how about product development and brand management? A store heavily focused on brick-and-mortar locations (mostly mall-based) can't make it without recapturing some of the relevance and product pizzazz that made The Gap great in the first place.

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