PROFILE

Al McClain

CEO, Co-Founder, RetailWire
Al McClain is a co-founder of RetailWire.com, the online community for the retailing and CPG industries. 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 clients include Oracle, IBM, SAP, Cisco, Intel, IRI, Junction Solutions, Bronto, NetSuite, and Marketing Lab.

Al has also spoken extensively at industry events for the National Grocers Association, the Institute for International Research, the Magazine Publishers Association, the d2 Digital Dialogue Conference (AAF/dunnhumby USA) and the Category Management Association. He has written for publications such as Nielsen Wire, Loyalty Management, and Forbes.com. He is a member of the Luxury Marketing Council and lives in Florida.
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  • Posted on: 09/26/2016

    Will Walmart’s ‘restorative justice’ reduce shoplifting?

    This has a slight ring of vigilante justice to it, so I'm not wild about it. Many of the folks who shop at Walmart do not have $400 or $500 in four increments. The education part of the program sounds ok, but I'd let it go with a one time warning, the merchandise gets returned, and the "offender" participates in a one hour class. They then get entered into a database of those who have been warned, and the police are called the next time, for real. Side note: I remember using a Walmart restroom years ago and seeing a sign that said something to the effect of "Steal from this store and it will haunt you for the rest of your life." I guess this new approach is better, but I'm not sure by much.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2016

    Can crowdsourced price data change shopping habits?

    It seems some of the commentors are missing the point, in that this app can compare entire shopping lists or baskets. If so, it could be the difference in where to make a weekly stock up trip for price conscious shoppers, assuming they haven't figured it out already themselves. And, it is a free competitive price comparison tools for smaller retailers.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2016

    Happy Meal fitness trackers are now an exercise in crisis management

    The fitness trackers were a nice try, and I applaud McDonald's for the idea and for removing them quickly when a problem came to their attention. As to them being a "visibly cheaper product than adult fitness trackers," well, if not, how could they afford to give them away as part of Happy Meals? Finally, for the parents who are seriously worried about a minor skin irritation, they might want to spend some time thinking about the man-made environmental catastrophes that are upcoming, and pressing governments to try to stave those off, as they will be more than a little "irritating" for their kids in a few years.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2016

    Will Wegmans take Publix on in Florida?

    In markets where they compete, this will be a "win-win" for consumers, but could be a "lose-lose" for Publix and Wegmans. They are both top notch operators with Publix having the advantage of scale, but Wegmans seemingly ahead in perimeter departments and store design. I've been impressed with Publix since living here in Florida, but their prepared foods operation remains less than impressive, and I haven't seen much change in 8 years, even though our local store has been remodeled recently. And, while their customer service is consistently very good, it is sometimes not great. The question is will both operators get better as they bang heads or will they just erode each other's margins and revenue?
  • Posted on: 07/25/2016

    White lies, sales fibs and the customer experience

    While these are great ideals, I'm not sure how grounded in reality they are. Retailers often have difficulty hiring marginally qualified individuals to fill out their staffs these days. If associates were terminated after the second minor infraction there would be no one to run the store, and legal fees would skyrocket. I think managing behavior and expectations is great, but expecting perfect behavior is unrealistic. Look at the behavior of many of this year's presidential candidates and then tell me again why minimum wage associates are held to a much higher standard.
  • Posted on: 07/01/2016

    Will Kellogg’s cereal café snap, crackle or pop?

    Nope. I agree with Max -- $7.50 for a bowl of cereal -- that would buy you a really "big breakfast" at most fast food joints. Seems to me they have three things working against the category: convenience, carbs and boredom. Let's face it, cereal is boring. Unless manufacturers can come up with some really exciting cereals, which I doubt, the long slow decline will continue and a cafe in Times Square will do nothing more than generate PR for a few months. The one plus is perhaps Kellogg's will learn a couple of things about eating habits and taste preferences if they spend a lot of time observing consumers here.
  • Posted on: 06/30/2016

    Can retailers sell anything without sales?

    I agree with you about Trader Joe's, Max. Costco also has truly every day low prices. While they do offer items on sale, somehow their sales seem secondary and it seems shoppers go there for the fair prices, fun experience, and of course the samples, which they do better than any retailer, IMO. There are several gourmet food retailers in our area that really don't do sales but offer outstanding quality and tremendous prepared food offerings, so shoppers go there for the quality, and think of the price as secondary.
  • Posted on: 06/30/2016

    Marc’s sends recipes via beacons

    I really like the idea of pushing a recipe made from items on sale. The shopper gets a fresh meal idea AND the items are discounted. What's better than that? I do think retailers have to be careful with messages they push and how they connect the dots, though. I was recently in a Verizon corporate store being told "no, no, and no" by a store manager with regards to helping with an issue I was having. The store and the manager got very low marks on the survey in real time, while I was actually trying to talk with him. Out the door I went to Costco, who solved the problem, and gave me a few perks. Verizon never followed up on the survey or the issue, of course, demonstrating the great service at Costco, the negative results of the cell phone oligopoly, and the need to pay attention to responses when you send customers mobile messages.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2016

    Walmart promotes and takes heat for ‘Made in USA’ goods

    If a retailer can't figure out where products are made, does it have any idea what's IN them?
  • Posted on: 06/28/2016

    What do celebrity chefs know about food retailing?

    Hey, Ralph, I'm as anti-nanny state as the next guy, for the most part. But, with 68.8% of U.S. adults now overweight or obese, where does it end? Without a concerted campaign by the government, we'd have a much bigger smoking problem than we currently have. Many overweight and obese consumers develop diabetes and other diseases caused by weight gain, so I'm not sure why public sentiment is so much in favor of personal freedom at the expense of illness/dying. But, since it is, I think retailers and food producers have a moral responsibility to educate us on what's good for us. Push it on us, no. Educate us, yes. But, do it before the government gets more involved.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2016

    Amazon Dash gets a smart button rival

    If this doesn't work, something else similar will. We live in a hedonistic society, where many consumers can't be bothered to actually write out a list, go to the store, or even pick up the phone. The fact that they can push a button to get pizza and/or beer says it all. Reminds me a lot of the Simpsons, only for real. Remember, emojis accomplish pretty much nothing and they are everywhere now.
  • Posted on: 06/24/2016

    FMI Connect recap: Households now shopping as teams

    Kim, of course the conundrum for many retailers, with all the new technology and price comparison schemes, plus the millennials push to have it all (price, taste, convenience), is how is a food retailer supposed to lower prices while improving quality and service, and still make a buck?
  • Posted on: 06/24/2016

    FMI Connect recap: Households now shopping as teams

    Rich, to be fair, Ms. Sarasin did mention that they forecast online grocery shopping to go from 3% today to 10% in ten years, but the focus of her presentation was on team or collaborative shopping.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2016

    Does Publix have an unrealistic share of Florida’s grocery market?

    Publix is a very good operation, but there is a large hole in prepared foods and a modest one in the rest of the perimeter. There is an opportunity to compete with them, but it won't be easy.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2016

    RFID goes to the dogs

    Hey Ken, I agree with you on all points except the last one. I'm sure there is a start up somewhere working on this for kids - anything for personalization - i.e. to make a buck.

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