CSP Magazine

Opinion: A (Subject) Matter of Expertise

Talk to industry leaders about what drives success, and they’ll tell you it’s people: either those at the top setting the cultural tone for everyone else, or the store associates charged with front-line customer service. The power of the people is evident in the results of our annual mystery shop, in the chains changing the minimum-wage conversation by rolling out robust employment packages, and in the stringent hiring practices of many top companies.

At CSP, we’re driven by our people too. Last month, we put forth our vision to become an

intelligence tool through every medium—in your mailbox and inbox, on the stage and on your dashboards—all at the intersection of data and journalism.

At the surface, those are just a bunch of words, right? But at the nucleus of it are living, breathing people. Our people.

Meet Your Analysts

We’re tackling this very new way of journalism in a very old-school way. It’s the idea of beat-based reporting, or subject-matter experts. We’re challenged to not only master our subject matter, but also to think like CEOs of our beats, developing new ideas and products that best fit the need of its constituents (which is you).

Twelve-year CSP veteran Samantha Oller is our fuels reporter, and she has an intense command of both legacy fuels and those on the horizon.

Greg Lindenberg has long commanded our CSP Daily News e-newsletter. He has spent 15 years at CSP tracking breaking news on who’s being bought, sold, razed or raised, and will continue to do so on the chains beat.

Chris Lavelle, whom many of you know as the face of our CSPedia retailer database, is joining our team and covering the snacks and candy beat. We’ve already overwhelmed her with meat bars, breakfast biscuits, snack wave, snack hacks, protein-fueled everything and other category game-changers.

Steve Holtz continues to lead www.CSPDailyNews.com as well as the beverage beat, tracking the second largest sales driver inside the store that’s going through its own paradigm-changing disruptions.

Abbey Lewis, who’s at the helm of CSP’s sister publication Convenience Store Products, is becoming our general-merchandise and grocery expert. It’s a category we’re watching closely as retailers strategize to become that fill-in grocery trip and continue to join the ranks of Partnership for a Healthier America.

Angel Abcede, our longtime technology editor, showed a journalist’s thirst to chase the biggest stories when he raised his hand to take on the tobacco beat vacated by Melissa Vonder Haar. Some may see tobacco as a slippery category; Angel sees it not only as a great subject to sink his teeth into, but also one that remains critical to our industry.

Speaking of critical categories, we’re also welcoming a new member to the c-store universe: Aimee Harvey. Aimee has been with our sister research company Technomic for nearly 13 years. She has a depth of knowledge of the foodservice industry that will be a valuable asset to our own as she takes on the foodservice beat.

We also have a crew of contributing editors joining our team in the next month. These are fellow editors from the Technomic ranks who are in the middle of a crash course on our industry. Like Aimee, their background in research is going to help deliver us to that intersection of data and journalism. So watch for bylines from Aaron Jourden, our global and distribution subject-matter expert; Jackson Lewis, who will be leading the marketing, social media and Food 2.0 fronts; and consumer expert Jill Failla.

You’re Our People

In this issue and into October, you’ll hear from a lot of these folks through both farewell and welcome letters. Our hope is that you consider us an extension of your business, a team of analysts tracking various areas of expertise to help you build stronger, more profitable businesses.

Melissa’s farewell letter on p. 110 cuts to the core of why we take this subject-matter-expert approach. In three years, she’s given her all to the tobacco category. The one upside of her leaving CSP was that she was finally able to tell us what she really thought about tobacco regulations at last month’s Total Nicotine Conference. I’m pretty sure she’d been dying to take off her journalist cap (for just a minute) since she joined us.

I promise this is the last in a stream of letters about us (well, maybe). But, again, it all comes down to people, and it’s worth shining a spotlight on them even if it feels like chest thumping. There’s a thread binding our people to your people, a thread fueled by knowledge, ideas and intention—an intention to make our industry the best it can be.


Abbie Westra is director of Winsight’s Retail Content Group. Reach her at awestra@winsightmedia.com.

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