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: 08/03/2020

    Trader Joe’s says ‘never mind’ on private label name changes

    This decision may not stop many people from shopping there, but it's still an unforced error by a retailer that so many have respect for. As Bob said, it's better to slow down in the first place, then announce a reasoned decision. Better still to get rid of product names that are in the gray area of possibly making fun of groups and/or cultures, even if you just do it because it's the right thing to do.
  • Posted on: 07/01/2020

    Anti-mask shoppers find themselves publicly shamed

    Yet another way in which the US has handled the pandemic worse than any other country in the world. This is what happens in the absence of governmental leadership: we are all left to fend for ourselves, with predictable results.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2020

    Is Apple being too cautious?

    Unfortunately, here in Florida, I believe we re-opened too soon. By not following the 14 day decline rule in terms of positive tests, along with ignoring other federal guidelines, cases are now soaring. Younger people seem to be ignoring what state, city, and county guidelines we have been given (which are all over the place) and common sense as well. But, the cases are apparently less deadly. The big issue will be how much spread there will be to older people, which will be much more serious. Meanwhile, I'm afraid Apple's store closings could only be the beginning. One mayor this morning said Florida may have to close down again (not that it really did the first time).
  • Posted on: 06/18/2020

    Can a box of pancake mix be racist?

    The old Hemingway quote about bankruptcy happening "slowly then suddenly" seems to apply to the dizzying pace of change and awareness today. Many of these changes were long overdue, but our collective willingness to overlook huge issues slowed the pace.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2020

    The face mask rule is now simply a suggestion at some H-E-B stores

    Cathy, I think we're such an impatient society now that many states are relaxing their approach and opening up (with urging from the top) even though they shouldn't. Here in Florida, cases are steady to up (with an all time high daily number yesterday), and we're essentially at another peak now, a few weeks after things started reopening. But, the reopening continues unabated, with fits and starts, even in hot spots and counties. There have been many instances of businesses not enforcing social distancing and other rules. Texas cases have also been rising similarly. So, I think H-E-B is essentially throwing in the towel because they know a certain percentage of customers will react in a hostile manner to being told to wear masks, in the absence of better state and federal leadership and role models on the issue.
  • Posted on: 05/18/2020

    The new normal will look a lot like the old normal

    I sure don't see the part about valuing frontline workers happening. The majority of businesses seem to be opening as fast as local and state governments will allow, putting frontline, low paid workers at risk. And, customers in many areas are ignoring social distancing and not wearing masks while they shop. The new normal is indeed looking like the old normal. Frontline workers are undervalued and underpaid.
  • Posted on: 05/11/2020

    What should retailers do about social distancing renegades?

    It's just not reasonable to ask store associates to try to enforce these rules, when some customers are so confrontational, at risk to their health. The answer to me is to hire more security officers and make them more visible everywhere, but especially at entrances, to explain and enforce the new normal. And, have a good relationship with the local police department.
  • Posted on: 05/04/2020

    Should face masks be mandatory for shoppers?

    I agree with you in principle, Ryan, but how is this enforceable? Michigan can't even keep armed citizens from threatening legislators INSIDE the state capitol. Ohio gave up on insisting that citizens wear masks. NYC cops ended up in a brawl with citizens who wouldn't distance from each other. On and on it goes. So, if a retailer like Costco mandates masks to enter its stores, they are putting the lives of their greeters at risk from hostile potential customers, in addition to the risk from COVID-19. The federal, state and local governments really have to step up and in many cases they haven't. So now we have semi-organized chaos where retailers need to play law enforcers while those demanding their "rights" to not comply are egged on from on high.
  • Posted on: 05/04/2020

    Should face masks be mandatory for shoppers?

    First, it's sad that we have so quickly reached the point where some of us are unwilling to put up with a little inconvenience (masks), to try to reduce the ever growing death count from COVID-19. With that as the new reality, however, I think Costco has it right. Recommending and asking customers to wear masks and put some distance between each other is the best approach. For those customers who are aggressive about not distancing, I guess calling the police would be the next option, although, that didn't work out too well in NYC this weekend. What a state we are in. Sigh.
  • Posted on: 04/17/2020

    Some customers play bait and zero tip tricks on Instacart shoppers

    Hi, Ken. My favorable comments about Instacart relate only to my personal experience. I certainly agree that their shoppers should have masks, gloves, and whatever PPE they need. Just checked the app, and they are offering delivery here within 5 hours today, or within about ten different two hour windows tomorrow. Yes, the prices and fees are high, but considering the circumstances, I can deal with that, and the fees are disclosed in the app before you check out, although the percentage of the markup is not.
  • Posted on: 04/17/2020

    Some customers play bait and zero tip tricks on Instacart shoppers

    I agree with having a minimum tip for the shopper and banning problem customers, perhaps after this issue happens more than once, since there could have been an issue a single time. My own experience with Instacart here in southeast Florida has been very good. Yes, there have been delays, substitutions, and mistakes. But overall they have done a great job and are bringing groceries to our front door, literally saving us from the possibility of getting sick, or worse. I have found that the shoppers have done a solid job. Thanks, Instacart!
  • Posted on: 03/30/2020

    Should working in retail warehouses be safer than stores?

    Inherently, warehouse and distribution center workers are not safe now. Perhaps they are a little safer than store associates because they aren't interacting with random customers all day long, but they still aren't safe. I'd suggest hazard pay for those who want to work, extra PTO for those who don't, and fulfilling orders for essential products first, as Amazon is doing.
  • Posted on: 03/30/2020

    Is Kroger’s pick-up only store a solution for grocers now and in the future?

    Supermarkets and other essential retailers should all move to pick up and delivery only, as much as possible for now. It protects the customers and really helps protect the workers, who will be exposed to many fewer potential carriers of the virus. Yes, some consumers sacrifice a teeny bit in that they can't make impulse purchases as easily or as often, but setting up a weekly order is easy and if an older person can't do it, a relative, neighbor, or friend can walk them through the process. Until and unless we get more people out of stores and staying at home, the curve won't flatten as fast.
  • Posted on: 03/24/2020

    What’s the right messaging amid the coronavirus outbreak?

    I agree, Brandon. I've gotten dozens of the "we are there for you" e-mails from companies I do business with, as we all have. Some of them have value, but a number of them have sent messages letting me know all the great things I can do with their websites and apps, since their physical locations are closed and their phone lines are jammed. There is something that rubs me the wrong way about it being 2020 and my bank telling me they have a website.
  • Posted on: 01/07/2020

    Group says Amazon wants workers to keep quiet on its climate change strategy

    Amazon is certainly entitled to enforce public communications policies. Unfortunately, governments and businesses have dragged their collective feet for so long that climate change has become a global crisis/catastrophe. In that light, it's going to be difficult to muzzle workers who care about their future, and that of generations to come.

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