Al McClain

CEO, Co-Founder, RetailWire

Al McClain is CEO and co-founder of, 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 management positions with Reily Foods, Bestfoods, Red Rose Tea, and Progressive Grocer (Trade Dimensions and Retail Insights divisions). He also co-founded in 1997, a precursor to

Al has worked with many major tech companies and spoken at Shoptalk, the National Grocers Association convention, IIR’s Shopper Insights conference, the Magazine Publishers Association conference, the d2 Digital Dialogue conference, the Category Management Association conference, and Future Stores Miami. He has written for publications such as Nielsen Wire, Loyalty Management,, and He lives in South Florida.

  • Posted on: 01/14/2022

    SCOTUS strikes down OSHA’s COVID vaccine/testing mandate

    It is disappointing indeed, Mark. It's also really disappointing the we as a society have been unable to pull together and collectively do the right things, by getting vaccinated, wearing masks, and distancing. Two years ago, I could not have imagined that so many people would die and a very significant minority of us would brush it off so cavalierly.
  • Posted on: 12/30/2021

    Are in-person trade shows safe (enough)?

    Trade show organizers will need to be willing to enforce mask and vaccine requirements. I've already heard of convention attendees who are planning to travel to shows with fake vaccine documents. As self-defeating and dishonest as that is, some anti-vaxxers will not let that stop them. For individuals, it all depends upon their level of risk tolerance, for themselves and their family members. Some are immuno-compromised or can't be vaccinated for some other reason. So, the only safe thing to do in that situation is to stay home. For the older age group, it all depends upon how comfortable they are being near others who may or may not wear their masks properly, or at all. For companies, it all depends on how badly they need to be there for business, and how much risk they are going to require their employees take on their behalf. The numbers in NYC at the moment are not good, with 30% of EMS workers out sick.
  • Posted on: 09/22/2021

    Who protects store associates when shoppers lash out?

    The job of store associate has always been tough, and now it's tougher. I agree with Gene - it is a cultural problem that is not going away soon. Our country's reputation for independent citizens has descended to the point that a large minority of citizens are "me first", whatever they perceive that to mean. For store associates, I'd advise getting your manager involved at the hint of a confrontation, and taking time off or even pursuing another career if retail has burned you out. (You can always come back).
  • Posted on: 09/15/2021

    Will the Kroger/Instacart deal redefine grocery shopping convenience in America?

    It's absolutely easier to select a substitution in-store, if it weren't for the pandemic and the sometimes inexplicable behavior of other shoppers ;)
  • Posted on: 09/15/2021

    Will the Kroger/Instacart deal redefine grocery shopping convenience in America?

    We are using Publix and Instacart often too, Paula. The out of stocks for the last 18 months have been high, as you said, and seemingly in almost all categories. What I really wonder, though, is if a 30-minute delivery goal for Kroger/Instacart is realistic. I've found Instacart service to be a bumpy ride, depending on the current state of the pandemic. They've ironed out some of the kinks, but are not consistent in delivering within a 2 hour window, so I seriously doubt a shorter window than that is regularly possible. Much depends on Instacart staff, and there seems to be a very high level of turnover.
  • Posted on: 08/27/2021

    FMI research finds normalcy is not in the cards, not yet

    There are so many factors to consider regarding consumers and their shopping habits that we never even thought of 18 months ago. Such as: willingness to risk health to make in-person shopping trips, risk vs. reward tolerance and calculation, virus transmission levels down to the zip code level, online and social media misinformation levels, entrenchment of new and old habits, etc. In a nutshell, it varies widely by locality and personal tolerance for risk and perceived risk. And, so it goes...........
  • Posted on: 07/29/2021

    Store associates shouldn’t have to be the mask or vaccine police

    There will be tremendous backlash if retailers try to enforce proof of vaccination. But, having been harrassed twice in one week FOR wearing a mask (in Florida) I'm all in favor of retailers requiring masks for all.
  • Posted on: 07/09/2021

    Retailers still have a COVID-19 problem

    Unfortunately, retailers can't solve this problem — 30 to 40% of the population apparently is not going to get the vaccine, no matter what (perhaps unless a new variant is so severe that they very belatedly come to their senses). Also unfortunately, the unvaccinated put the rest of us at risk. Living in Florida and having recently returned from Arkansas, I see mask wearing in Florida is at best 50/50 and in Arkansas it is more like 10/90. My perception is that the unvaccinated are also least likely to be concerned for the wellbeing of others and least likely to wear masks. I recently had an acquaintance tell me she would not get vaccinated because she "has breathing problems" but that she was safe because she "always wears a mask". She told me this face to face with her mask under her chin. So, it's a societal problem now and I fear government and retailers can't solve it. We'll just have to ride it out and hope there are enough of us that still wear masks, get vaccinated, get boosters, etc. But that's a big maybe.
  • Posted on: 07/06/2021

    Is Domino’s two-minute curbside wait guarantee a big deal or no big deal?

    Yes, it will probably improve loyalty and provide a point of differentiation, for now. As a society, though, I'm not sure it's such a great thing to keep sending messages to consumers that they can have whatever they want as fast as they want it. It feeds false expectations and slowly but steadily undermines our need to be patient and work together sometimes.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2021

    What does it take for stores to satisfy their pickiest customers?

    There is selective, there is picky, and there is difficult. Customization and spending more time with the first two types may work, but if a customer is just picky because they are difficult, retailers are best to cut their losses. A small percentage of customers can't be pleased, no matter what. Best to devote time and resources to those who are winnable and let the unwinnable shop at the competition. They won't be happy there either.
  • Posted on: 05/14/2021

    Should retailers continue to require associates and customers to wear masks?

    The horse is out of the barn on this one here in Florida and there is no going back. Customers were walking around businesses without masks before the CDC announcement because of our governor. Shortly, everywhere, it will be everyone for themselves and I guess that's kind of how it's been for awhile. My advice to individuals is to get vaccinated, and wear a mask if you want to protect yourself further. And, we should all hope that new variants aren't able to work their way around the vaccines. Retailers can't police this.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2021

    Will climate action become less of a priority for retail post-pandemic?

    Climate change is a slow-moving crisis that government and business have ignored for far too long. We're already over halfway to the tipping point, according to some studies. Hopefully, consumers, businesses, and governments will wake up before it's actually too late. The retail industry has to make a choice between being on the right side of history, or not. As bad as the pandemic is, it certainly shouldn't be used as an excuse to do less on climate change. Execs who do nothing might ask themselves what their grandchildren will think of them in 50 years (or less).
  • Posted on: 03/29/2021

    King Soopers: Killed in the line of retail duty

    Gene, I agree with you. One of the primary reasons for these mass shootings is the easy availability of guns. Sure, there are other ways to harm and kill people, but how many videos and images of large arsenals of guns do we have to see to make the connection between the availability of guns and mass killings? I think a federal gun buyback program could be a great start, if the program is serious and robust. But, that's only if enough Republicans are willing to vote for some kind of sensible firearms sales restrictions, which I highly doubt. I'm guessing eventually the problem will become so bad that something will get done, but it will probably get a lot worse before it gets better. Then again, 500,000+ pandemic deaths have not been enough for us to really tackle coronavirus seriously as a country, so I'm not too optimistic.
  • Posted on: 03/12/2021

    Can Amazon avoid being dragged into the political cancel culture fray?

    Free enterprise. Those particular senators champion it a lot, except when it doesn't work for whatever they are pushing, or pushing against.
  • Posted on: 02/26/2021

    Is it the right time to reopen food bars?

    I agree with many of the commenters that salad bars can be unhygienic and that some consumers can't be trusted to behave properly when utilizing them. However, have you ever spent time in a restaurant kitchen? Having worked in a deli many moons ago, there were lots of gross practices that were out of view of the customer. Today, I have the "luxury" of reading the weekly restaurant inspection report in the Miami Herald. Suffice to say that chain and independent restaurants, high-end and low-end, often have major hygiene issues that are unseen by diners. Thank God for food and restaurant inspectors - we just need a lot more of them.

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