the choice is yours

Convenience Store Decisions celebrates its first annual Reader's Choice Awards issue by recognizing the Top Performers in two dozen categories and subcategories. The awards are a significant milestone for CSD as we move forward with our commitment to helping convenience store marketers find the solutions they need to grow profitability.

The Reader's Choice Awards are also a must-read because the Top Performers and Honorable Mentions were chosen directly by you, the retailers. Nearly 100 chains participated in surveys and phone interviews with Hagen Marketing Research Inc. as part of our 2005 Sales Tracking Study. The 2006 Reader's Choice Awards (p. 18) are based on supplier performance in this study.

While the purpose of these awards is to honor the leading suppliers in the channel, the bottom line is retailers need supplier partners that are willing to listen to their needs and offer innovative and profitable new ideas in this very complex industry. An occasional phone call is not enough.

"Research found that retailers are not receiving information on new products and promotions on a timely basis or in enough detail," Hagen reports.

So while vendors have improved, there is still a considerable amount of work to be done in the supplier community. In most product categories, there wasn't a true leader that emerged as the "preferred supplier." The convenience industry in general was found to be "undecided" when it comes to which suppliers offer the best programs and services. Therefore, a great opportunity exists for all in this market.

In the few cases where marketers achieved "preferred supplier" status, each demonstrated high levels of sales calls and a clear understanding of convenience store customers' special needs, merchandising, package size, promotional support, distribution and proven sales demand. In other words, suppliers must take the first step in reaching out to decision makers and category managers with solutions that work.

Forty-two companies operate more than half of the convenience industry's chain stores. Since most supplier companies that service the industry were found to be calling on less than 50 companies, "smart suppliers have to use different mediums to communicate their sales messages to all the other buyers in the $395 billion convenience segment," the Hagen study found.

Congratulations to this year's Top Performers and Honorable Mentions.

Expanding our ranks
As CSD transitions into growth mode, we are proud to announce three additions to the staff. First, Ross Markman, as retail relations editor. Ross has seven years experience as a beat reporter for several major daily newspapers including Greensboro News & Record and the Athens Banner-Herald. He has worked on freelance projects for the New York Post, Savannah Morning News and Florida Times-Union. Acting as our version of Charles Kuralt, his primary function is to be out and about the industry strengthening our relationships with retailers and suppliers, and cultivating new ones.

If you are noticing subtle changes in our design, that's the work of new inhouse graphic designer Steven Lawrence. Steven comes to us after completing a bevy of freelance projects for ESPN Magazine and Timex. Steven will lead CSD through a major redesign in the coming months with a focus on creating additional value in our print products and making CSD the go-to source for industry trends and information.

On the sales side, Sean Hamel joined CSD in February and brings with him a dynamic background in sales and marketing. Sean began his career in sunny San Diego at a startup called Media All Stars. He helped grow the business 10-fold before inexplicably packing his bags and heading back to his Philly roots last year. He joins us as a former advertising representative for the Philadelphia City Paper.

Sean's primary focus will be expanding our conference business and special supplements, which we'll continue to grow in 2006 with sister company New Hope Media Natural and through our exclusive partnership with

css.php