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: 10/12/2020

    Should Yelp be calling out businesses accused of racist behavior?

    It's not perfect, but with the chaos we have in this country right now and the lack of federal leadership, racists and all sorts of other haters are out of the closet and feeling more empowered than ever. So, large businesses like Yelp, who have some capacity to help call out egregious behavior are taking matters into their own hands. It's better than nothing so good for them.
  • Posted on: 09/24/2020

    Will homes of the future include ‘Amazon Rooms’?

    I'm with you on this one, Georganne. I get the sanitizing thing, sort of, but you can always bring the items inside and stick them in a closet, garage, or storage room, and leave them for a few days, and then wash your hands. And, are we buying so much stuff now that we need special intake rooms? At what point do even the uber wealthy say "maybe we have enough stuff and really ought to cut back" when there is a pandemic along with societal upheaval and vast inequality? PS: It's not just Hollywood that isn't like the rest of us.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2020

    Has COVID-19 revealed pickup’s pain points?

    In general, my experience with curbside pickup has been very good. However, there are some places here in South Florida that will not do it. J. Alexander's, a chain restaurant, is one. They reverted from having a "pop it in the trunk" option early in the pandemic to only doing in-store pickup now. With restaurants open at 100% capacity, that's not an option for some. Another glitch in many systems is retailers and restaurants not knowing which order goes with which vehicle. That is easily fixed by having a field in the app or online to enter one's license plate number, or it can be confirmed upon arrival by phone. No fancy technology needed.
  • Posted on: 08/12/2020

    Should marketers keep masks out of commercials?

    Living in South Florida, and in a state with over 500,000 cases of the virus so far, it astounded me early on to see local commercials with no social distancing and no masks. The same for local newscasts. But, I guess I'm immune to it now. Ads that don't take into account the "new normal" still seem a bit odd to me, but everyone down here is exhausted, and there are a lot of people who are going to shop, dine in, frequent clubs, not socially distance, and try to go back to the "old normal", science be damned. So, I guess it depends which group of people you prefer to appeal to, because it's totally polarized, at least here.
  • 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!

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