PROFILE

Al McClain

CEO, Co-Founder, RetailWire
Al McClain is CEO and co-founder of RetailWire.com, the expert discussion community for the retailing community. He has spent 30+ years in the retail, tech, and CPG spaces. Al's career highlights include sales and management stints with Luzianne-Blue Plate Foods, Bestfoods, Red Rose Tea, and Progressive Grocer (Trade Dimensions and Retail Insights divisions). He also co-founded IdeaBeat.com in 1997, a precursor to RetailWire.com. Frequent RetailWire clients include Oracle, IBM, SAP, IRI, Emarsys, Intel, iQmetrix, Infutor, Listrak, etc.

Al has spoken extensively at industry events for the National Grocers Association, the Institute for International Research, the Magazine Publishers Association, the d2 Digital Dialogue Conference, and the Category Management Association. He has written for publications such as Nielsen Wire, Loyalty Management, and Forbes.com. He also contributes to SupermarketGuru.com and represents Phil Lempert on speaking engagements, research, etc. He lives in South Florida.
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  • Posted on: 11/03/2017

    Was Amazon scamming or searching for its HQ2 location?

    As Paula said, this whole thing generated a lot of free PR for Amazon, and certainly put a lot of cities through a lot of hoops, all but one for naught. As a south Florida resident on the east coast, I hope we don't get it. Every time we're in a boom economy, like now, more of our natural areas get built on and/or paved over. What's happening in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties is great for the economy, but really bad for the environment and traffic. At some point, we'll have to get smarter and figure out how to repurpose abandoned areas instead of ruining pristine ones. What does this have to do with Amazon? 1. With their second headquarters they have a chance to build in a sustainable fashion and set an example for other large developments. 2. They have the opportunity to work with the chosen community to make sure they don't degrade it just because its leaders were desperate for more tax revenue instead of a better quality of life for its residents.
  • Posted on: 11/01/2017

    Would store associates benefit from acting lessons?

    I agree with you, Peter. There's an old joke about sincerity being the key to sales and when you can fake that you'll be successful. Although Disney has mastered the art of "showtime", training sales associates to "act" seems fake to me as well. I think a better approach would be to constantly reinforce the basics, as Bob Phibbs says, and then perhaps do weekly 30-minute sessions on various types of customer interactions, rather than trying to teach associates to fake the whole thing. In other words, build regularly on their natural talents and personalities, to help them succeed in genuine interactions with customers.
  • Posted on: 10/31/2017

    Corona owner is getting into the legal pot business

    I don't see this investment as a great idea, at least in the short term. The current US Justice Department could decide to make marijuana a big issue at any moment. I'd wait for a new, younger, more liberal administration if it were me.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2017

    Will customers let Walmart deliver in-fridge?

    I think the difference, Shep, is that we are home when the plumber, electrician, or cable guy enters our house. If we choose to let a handyman or cleaning service in when we are not present, it's usually people we know. With the Walmart service, it may well be a different, unknown person each time.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2017

    Will customers let Walmart deliver in-fridge?

    I agree with you, Zel, but it may be a generational thing. The Walmart nearest me is constantly a mess, inside and out. There is no way I would trust them to deliver the right goods, unlock and lock the door, and not screw something up. Publix, maybe.
  • Posted on: 09/22/2017

    Hilton Honors members go shopping with points on Amazon

    Hilton devalued their loyalty program a couple of years ago and it hasn't gotten better since. In my experience, whenever a hotel chain or airline program offers a new way to redeem points or miles, the ROI isn't there for the member. It's just another way for the hotel/airline to get customers to use points or miles and get reduced value. Their hope always seems to be that their customers won't notice. In this case, it drives more traffic, although probably not that much, to the 800 pound gorilla - Amazon.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2017

    Did this startup make a big mistake calling itself Bodega?

    I agree, Meaghan. This is a decent idea, that is insensitively named. I'm sure they could have found a punchy, cute name for this with a day of brainstorming. Even if they get PR out of the current name, it would still be a good idea to quickly rebrand.
  • Posted on: 08/30/2017

    Is there a ‘right way’ for retailers to help in times of disaster?

    Lyle - side note on insurance companies. We had a tornado come down our street in January, seriously damaging about 15 homes, and totaling a few of them. Here we are 8 months later and 5 of these homes are still in limbo, with tarps on their roofs, etc. At least in south Florida, it is an arduous process dealing with some insurance companies, so some of these homeowners have to go through hurricane season without proper roofs.
  • Posted on: 08/30/2017

    Is there a ‘right way’ for retailers to help in times of disaster?

    The devastation is on such a scale that these donations, nice as they are, are a drop in the bucket. The latest estimate of damage I've heard is $30 billion, with a "b." So, it's great for retailers and brands to pitch in, but it is going to take a lot more than what is listed above, and local, federal, and state governments are going to have to come up with much of the money for recovery.The term "authentically charitable" is troubling because it implies that charity is often or sometimes not authentic. It rubs me the same way as the term "fake news." Either it's news or it's charity, or it's not.It also seems that brands and retailers should sometimes try doing things without issuing press releases to pat themselves on the back. If it is really about charity, just do it without the fanfare and PR department. (Like the mattress store owner who opened his store to all displaced residents, without any PR). I saw a Ford press release announcing a donation of $100,000 to the area, as another example. About the cost of one luxury car, when up to half a million cars have been totaled. Nice, but incredibly insufficient.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2017

    What to do when shop local turns into look local and buy online?

    Keep it positive. As Max says, make it about the great service and the experience. Free shipping and/or delivery is a great idea. Price matching can be done on a case by case basis. And, a few signs around the store saying "Thank you for shopping locally!" wouldn't hurt either.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2017

    Does Dunkin’ need donuts?

    Some of this brand positioning is above my pay grade. Is removing "Donuts" from the name supposed to make us forget that they sell donuts? In another era, Kentucky Fried Chicken changed itself to KFC presumably because they didn't want customers reminded that their chicken is fried. Deep fat fryers and batter fried chicken visible from the cash registers and the smell of the place weren't enough of a reminder? Regarding DD, my wife commented, what does the name Dunkin' even mean without Donuts attached to it? But, it's evidently all perception and PR.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2017

    Are there too many grocery stores?

    Yes, there are too many stores selling groceries (and everything else) in the U.S., but it varies widely by region. Shop at Publix in southeast Florida, where I live, and you will almost never have to wait in line, and never, in my experience over 10 years, have to wait 5 minutes, so there are probably too many stores. Shop in Southern California, and it seems to be the complete opposite, with shoppers sparring for a single parking space in many retail shopping centers, and waiting in line to buy almost anything, anywhere. In that case, we have enough stores, but too many people in a confined space. Growing vertically is probably the only long-term answer, as the people keep on coming.Karen Short's comment indicates the problem. "Everybody should stop growing.". It's generally true about food retail and retail, at least in terms of space, but no one wants to do anything for the collective good. It is all about taking share from the other guy so THEY can stop growing or go out of business, and satisfying antsy shareholders. The shakeout will continue in retail.
  • Posted on: 07/11/2017

    Will Prime Day give Amazon an insurmountable advantage online?

    What I wonder, Sterling, is how many directions Amazon can go in at once, before they become so much of a conglomerate that they lose focus? Not saying they will, but it amazes me how many new projects they announce. Almost daily, it seems.
  • Posted on: 07/11/2017

    Will Prime Day give Amazon an insurmountable advantage online?

    Lee, I've also noticed that the comments questioning Amazon's ability to make a profit seem to be getting a lot of thumbs down votes. Wondering if maybe we have some Amazon investors reading the thread.
  • Posted on: 07/05/2017

    Are scheduling mandates good or bad for store associates?

    If we want retailing to be a career path of choice for desirable workers, as I've heard over and over again that we do, we have to be able to provide associates with work schedules at least 14 days ahead, and 30 days ahead would be even better. Most office workers have very predictable schedules, whereas retail employees have rotating schedules, evening and weekend hours, and are often needed to work holidays. With AI, machine-learning, and workforce management systems, the retailing industry can't keep saying the basics are a burden, if it wants to attract good workers.

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