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: 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.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2017

    Should store associates be allowed to use their personal devices?

    Yes, store associates should be able to use their mobile devices at work. It is simply not realistic to try to stop smartphone use at work anymore. A much better idea is to provide guidance to employees about what store business they should use their own phones for, and when they can use them for personal things. Blanket policies such as "no cell phone use at any time" are just not effective in today's world. Perhaps customer information needs to be kept on retailer-issued devices, but those are often tablets, which can be a hassle to carry around the store when you are trying to help a customer. At some point, the retailer either has to have some faith in its employees, or not. If they can't even trust them to handle their own phones properly, perhaps they have hired the wrong employees.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2017

    How can grocers capitalize on small brand allure?

    It is about the story, Ian, but often, unfortunately, these new "authentic" brands get bought by the old guard. So, the story becomes less authentic as the new ownership is not usually mentioned on the label.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2017

    Are consumers ready to use automated purchasing tech on a wide scale?

    Good point, Paula. I've noticed with Amazon that not only do prices tend to go up a lot on items frequently reordered, but they often charge much more per unit on multi-pack buys. My strong suspicion is Amazon is hoping consumers get on auto-pilot and forget about price. That could be playing with fire, especially with most shoppers having at least some presence on social media.
  • Posted on: 05/26/2017

    Will independent grocers turn it around in 2017?

    Shep, I think there is another factor. All supermarkets and grocery stores don't have to sell the same products. As shoppers leave the center of the store, operators have a fresh opportunity (pun intended), to differentiate themselves on the quality and variety of their produce, prepared foods, deli, meat and seafood. And, in-store events and sampling. It is time to get creative.
  • Posted on: 05/10/2017

    Is facial recognition a viable solution for reducing shoplifting?

    It's an invasion of privacy. Alleged shoplifters agree to have their faces scanned in order to avoid prosecution, so they have probably been scared into the system, without access to an attorney. What about minors or perhaps an 18 year-old who makes an adolescent mistake? We seem to be headed inevitably into the area of taking away people's rights whenever it serves the interest of the more powerful.
  • Posted on: 05/02/2017

    Will giving associates mobile devices enhance the shopping experience?

    Yes. Many valuable customers who shop, especially in higher-end stores still enjoy the experience of shopping, and want a full service experience, where the associate can show them anything in the store, and beyond. To me, there is much more potential for retailers in equipping associates with tablets than throwing self-service kiosks on the retail floor and hoping customers won't notice or care that there are fewer staff available.

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