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: 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.
  • Posted on: 05/01/2017

    How can small retailers avoid the seven reasons most fail?

    Beyond the seven issues outlined by Bob, and those from other commentators, there is the need to be unique. You have to have a reason for being. It is almost certainly not price if you are a new retailer, and probably not a broad assortment. So, what do you carry, where are you located, what is your value proposition, and what unique customer experience do you offer? If you don't do at least one or two things much better than your competition, it's going to be very hard to get a new retail business off the ground.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2017

    Has CVS crafted a promising new drugstore shopping journey?

    I'm with you, Paula. I think they are starting from a low point with regards to their current service levels. If they can't hire more helpful store associates and pharmacy personnel, which seems to be the case based on store visits in several states over a number of years, redesigning the self service experience might be the next best thing. And, I couldn't agree more with the idea that consumers don't want to share their health issues with floor personnel, even if the internet has caused that information to be in a lot of unwanted places already.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2017

    Are consumers’ AI fears rational?

    OMG, Ian, you are on to us! We're all avatars at RetailWire except for the one behind the curtain running things, and we aren't saying who that is.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2017

    Have hacks damaged Amazon’s relationships with third-party sellers and customers?

    I'm surprised at the lack of comments on this discussion. Probably, high volume sellers on the marketplace have nothing to worry about, as Amazon will take best care of their biggest/most important sellers. But, the small seller quoted in the NBC News source article sure seems to have a major issue, especially for a small business. I would also think there is some risk that consumers will think twice about buying something from a seller on the marketplace that appears to be very small. Maybe Amazon just doesn't care much about the small/niche sellers, although that could be short-sighted.
  • Posted on: 04/07/2017

    Should stores charge customers extra to use disposable cups?

    I agree with you, to a degree, Gordon. It's not that all large corporations are "bad," but some have great incentives to do environmentally damaging things, turning a blind eye. It will take strong corporate leadership, which we see from some, to really improve the environment. Currently, the federal government has no interest in subjects like these, so private enterprise needs to step up to the plate and leaders of important corporations need to lead the way, along with innovative start ups. Sidenote: I agree that a discount for bringing your own cup is better than a charge for not. 7-Eleven currently does this on soda, and I see a little traction there.
  • Posted on: 04/07/2017

    Should stores charge customers extra to use disposable cups?

    Personally, I'd love to see this sort of thing happen, but we are such a disposable society that I think it will be a slow slog. There's this mentality out there (at least in the U.S.) that "no one tells me what to do". I'm constantly amazed at the lack of recycling by many consumers even when it is made easy. For example, in airports with recycling bins clearly labeled as to what goes in them, right next to trash bins - there is always a mix of trash and recyclables in each. A program like this might work for retailers like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Starbucks (although maybe not) and the like, but it definitely won't work for Walmart or Target. The few states that have put refundable fees on cans and bottles have seen reductions in roadside litter, but it still hasn't motivated the 40 or so states who don't do that to do it. It's all about "don't tell us what to do" until we reach a real crisis point in landfills or pollution, or a combination. We aren't there yet, at least in the minds of many.

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