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: 06/24/2019

    How do consumers define cleanliness in grocery stores?

    One area not mentioned so far is the parking lot. When customers drive to a store, it is literally the first thing they see. Many retailers and specifically supermarkets have fairly clean stores inside, but do a terrible job keeping the trash out of their parking lots, and maintaining shrubbery, etc. so the place looks inviting on the way in. Locally here in South Florida, Publix does a bad job with their parking lots, which has always surprised me, and Walmart does a horrible job, which doesn't surprise me. Costco is ok but not great.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2019

    Shake Shack founder says, ‘Do it. Don’t talk about it (sustainability initiatives) until asked.’

    I just can't totally buy everything Danny Meyer is selling. It's great to talk about sustainability and clean food and all (all the while saying you aren't talking about it) but when a double cheeseburger alone has as much sodium as is recommended an adult get for a whole day, it makes me suspicious about the other claims he makes.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2019

    Will a city’s ban on tobacco sales catch on across the nation?

    As a personal matter, and as a reformed smoker, I love it. But there are issues. Smokers will indeed go to wherever they have to to get their smokes, so this won't stop anyone from smoking, just make it a tiny bit harder. Smoking is highly addictive and those still smoking are simply unable to stop, regardless of health concerns. The idea of exempting upscale cigar bars and hotels is laughable. Bottom line: we can't outlaw cigarettes and/or tobacco until and unless we come up with a treatment plan to help seriously addicted smokers get off tobacco. It would be nice if we could just wish away things we don't like, but it isn't that simple. If Beverly Hills truly wants to ban the sale of cigarettes, they need to come up with a plan to help retailers and smokers who will be affected. But they won't.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2019

    Are retail HQs and stores suffering a communication breakdown?

    Communications between retail HQ and store associates is generally a one way street, and one could argue the street is going the wrong way. Many retail HQ execs rarely if ever visit stores and when they do it is a "roll out the red carpet" situation, so they don't get the real picture of store-level conditions. Retailers often say how important store associates are, yet the strategy and many of the tactics come from execs far removed from the customer, who are executing based on vendor payouts or direction from the top of the pyramid, which is even farther removed from the customer. Make communications a real two way street and results and conditions will improve.
  • Posted on: 04/04/2019

    Chrome extension shows Goodwill to shoppers, not to Amazon or Walmart

    This may or may not work, and it may or may not have much of an impact on Goodwill's revenue - I kind of doubt that either will happen. But, I really give them kudos for innovative thinking. They seem to be rewriting the rules for secondhand shops in a number of ways.
  • Posted on: 03/26/2019

    Can baristas keep up with their robotic challengers?

    We're in for a bifurcated future. As the price of robotic systems declines, we'll see them when efficiency, convenience, and price are the keys. Where the experience is the thing, we'll still need humans, at least for now.
  • Posted on: 12/26/2018

    Nike sees online eclipsing offline sales

    Some of this is due to consumers' changing shopping habits and some is due to improved technology. And some of this trend is because retailers are panicking and devoting extra attention to their e-commerce business, at the expense of stores. I know of one department store retailer who is offering better deals online than off and offering extra incentives to shop online, while losing money on free shipping and trying to save money by failing to spend on upgrading their stores. This may be penny wise and pound foolish, as shoppers will be less enthused about getting out to explore physical stores as the experience deteriorates.
  • Posted on: 11/09/2018

    Why are Wall Street analysts so irked over Apple’s reporting changes?

    While there is no mystery here, in that large retailers and brands try to present themselves in the most favorable light, it should give investors and consumers pause. When companies aren't transparent about their financials, what else aren't they transparent about?
  • Posted on: 11/08/2018

    Will Walmart’s bring your own device policy work for it and its associates?

    Yes, it potentially makes communications with store associates easier for Walmart. But, the quote from the store associate seems scripted from corporate, and I think we'd hear how much the phone bill discount was if they were proud of it. In this new gig economy, where the individual bears more and more responsibility for everything, I guess it is unsurprising, but large corporations should provide what their employees need in the way of communications tools. If they are not going to do that, they should discount the phone bill AND the phone purchase heavily.
  • Posted on: 11/06/2018

    Why aren’t women buying Amazon’s private label clothing?

    The case has been well made for Amazon's lack of success in private label apparel, so far. And, there are other categories where they have not succeeded, so far. But, "so far" is not forever, and it strikes me that they are testing and learning. Eventually, they will address manufacturing and quality issues, as well as marketing. And, don't be surprised if they acquire an apparel retailer (at a discount), that provides locations where shoppers can try Amazon apparel in-store before they buy.
  • Posted on: 09/28/2018

    What would the nation’s strictest plastic ban mean for New Jersey’s retailers?

    In terms of whether NJ has a litter problem, I was appalled at how bad it was every time I drove there when we lived in the Northeast. The problem was demonstrably worse than in CT where we lived, or in NY, alongside the major roads. That said, this is a good start. In addition, state and local governments need to DO THEIR JOBS and pick up trash from the sides of their roads. In many cases, states and localities have outsourced this to volunteer groups, and some of those programs work and some don't. Here in Palm Beach County, FL, volunteers pick up an average of 50,000 pounds of trash per year in the 17 natural areas. That is just in one small part of one county! We need to do more collectively, and soon.
  • Posted on: 09/26/2018

    What’s Dunkin’ without Donuts in its name?

    Seems to me it revitalizes the brand a bit and puts them in a better place to compete with Starbucks. Their new cups also look a bit hipper to me. The risky part is getting rid of donuts, even if they aren't really getting rid of them. Another coffee and donut chain (Tim Horton's?) might sneak in there and grab some of the donut business. And, donuts might not be "in" right now, but they could make a comeback. Anyone remember what happened to bacon?
  • Posted on: 09/21/2018

    Will the EU’s anticompetitive investigation follow Amazon back to the U.S.?

    Something has got to give eventually with Amazon. There seems to be literally no business at this point that they don't want to get their tentacles into. (Christmas trees, anyone?) I like the service and convenience of Amazon, but I think it is coming at a great cost to competition. With Trump, Bernie Sanders, and the EU against them (for different reasons), they may be facing some stronger headwinds.
  • Posted on: 09/06/2018

    ‘Cosby Show’ star’s experience shows work is different at Trader Joe’s

    Unfortunately, this situation also shows the value, or lack thereof, that many place on retail workers. Store-level employees work long hours, irregular shifts, do hard manual labor, and are expected to wait happily on every customer, regardless of the customer's conduct. For that, they are often paid bottom-tier wages. Top execs at retail companies would be well served to pay living wages, and take care of their employees in other ways such as offering better health care, better 401K plans, etc. and let their customers know how hard their employees actually work.
  • Posted on: 08/24/2018

    Will Kroger’s ban mean the end of plastic bags in grocery stores?

    Its a start. It's not fast enough for me and many others, but Kroger will no doubt get plenty of complaints. Plastic is such a huge pollution issue, but still gets overlooked by those who don't look in rivers and streams, or even out their car windows along the roadsides, and don't pay attention to their own habits.

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