Finding Your Flavor

Mitch Morrison, Vice President of Retailer Relations

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The clatter of manual typewriters may have been replaced by the anticlimactic clicks of computers, but that doesn’t mean things are tranquil in the CSP newsroom. We are debating and passions are rising about our cover story. Actually, the story is deep and comprehensive and informative. It’s about the opportunities to grow your business and your profile, whether you are a massive national chain or a one-store op in Rochester, N.Y.

The fight is over the cover itself— the design. If you are reading my column, you might have looked at our cover by now, and you’ve seen that we went with a more traditional piece of art, one that reflects the opportunity for even the smallest players to occasionally knock off a giant or, at least, change the strategy of the game.

Other cover ideas, arguably more creative and imaginative, were not only considered but also rendered by our design partners, Keystroke Graphics. For your edification and feedback, pictured here is another, a somewhat abstract yet dramatic illustration that was rejected in the 11th hour of our editorial process. The beauty of journalism is its deadlines. Debate is effusive, passionate and occasionally personal. But when the bell chimes and the clock strikes 12, a decision is made.

It’s no different for you. Many of you are looking to improve, to grow, to increase your bottom line. In so doing, you are mulling some very fundamental questions not only about your operation, but also what makes you tick. In our cover feature by editors Angel Abcede and Linda Abu-Shalback Zid (p. 36), you will find great advice and illuminating anecdotes.

But beyond the insights is something deeply personal only you can answer. And that is who you want to be. In our candy feature by editor Samantha Oller (p. 75), some advise retailers to center their strategies around core products to maximize their strengths. Such thinking is perfectly sound and echoes a coach’s famous admonition: Play it safe and play it smart.

But there is another view. There are others who savor risk and daring, swashbucklers whose defiance wins attention and whose success can swing from thrilling to confounding. Those great daredevils of the business world certainly include Google and Amazon, upstarts that challenged the very fundamentals of our imagination. In our industry, they might include the bold Sam Hirbod, our cover feature last month, whose cunning and know-how took him from obscurity to suddenly operating one of the largest chains in the convenience channel. It could also include Robert Buhler, who is deliberately razing perfectly profitable stores to build an even better—and more expensive—box at Open Pantry.

For each Google and Sam Hirbod, though, are scores of people and players whose names never made headlines and whose dreams dissipated lifelessly like soap bubbles and fell inconsequently like New Year’s confetti.

As the magazine’s group editor, I struggled with this tension—to go for, as one editor says, the vanilla look, one that is spot-on but hardly original; or to go for the potential Google that just as well could be that forgettable soap bubble.

In this case, vanilla was my favorite choice. What about you?

(E-mail your thoughts on which cover you prefer to Mitch Morrison at [email protected].)

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