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Commentary: Final Thoughts on the 2011 IPCPR Trade Show

27 Jul 2011

After a hectic trip to the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) Trade Show in Las Vegas, I’ve finally had a few days to reflect on what was my fourth consecutive show. All in all, it was successful show, and a healthy industry is a good for cigar fans.

I asked Chris McCalla, legislative director for the IPCPR, about the exact figures, and he said attendance was up about 20% from last year’s show in New Orleans (although he cautioned that because Las Vegas is closer to West Coast shops it always tends to draw more attendees). This year over, 1,000 retail shops were represented (New Orleans 2010 had 755) and nearly 2,000 retail badges were picked up (compared to 1,786 last year). There were 5,000 attendees in Las Vegas.

More importantly, the consensus among those on the show floor selling cigars seemed to be that although foot traffic was down (compared to what was expected) those who did attend were there to buy. Even after the initial rush on day one, sales held for most cigar makers on the all-important day two.

While individual cigar makers each will judge the show on their own bottom line, I wanted to look deeper at the trends that I saw from one booth to the next. To that end, three trends were particularly notable from this year’s show:

Small Smokes — Cigar makers have taken notice. With increasingly busy schedules and smoking bans forcing cigar smokers outside into the summer heat or winter cold, we often don’t have time for robustos and coronas, let alone Churchills or toros. The answer seems to be lots of new cigars that are smaller sizes (i.e., 4 x 40, 4 x 42, etc.). Larger than a cigarillo, these little sizes do their best to combine the flavors and complexity of a large premium cigar in a shorter 20-30 minute smoking time. (It’s also worth noting that the uncomfortably large super toro size (6 x 60) has become a staple of the industry because—as more than a few people told me—even though few people in the industry seem to smoke them regularly, they continue to be a big seller.)

Connecticut is Back — In the past few years, cigars with shade-grown Connecticut wrappers have gotten a reputation (unfairly in my humble opinion) for being simple, mild, beginners’ smokes. But, like so many things, these trends tend to be cyclical. This year I noticed many new Connecticut-wrapped smokes. However, unlike past versions of many Connecticut cigars, new releases this year tended to be more medium-bodied than mild. I think it’s a reflection of the fact that many of the hardened smokers who used to smoke only full-bodied flavor bombs are now looking for more balance. Cigar makers are hoping that these more flavorful versions of Connecticut-wrapped cigars will be a welcome new addition. Whether it’s successful or not, only time will tell.

Less News, More Sales? — I certainly didn’t get to stop by every booth, but more than in past years I didn’t feel that stopping by every booth was necessary. That’s because more than in previous years, cigar makers had announced (or “leaked”) what was coming ahead of time. Part of it is because Cigar Aficionado‘s long-held monopoly on cigar news has been broken by the online cigar media (a trend we’re fans of here at StogieGuys.com). But I also think cigar makers see the role of the Trade Show as place to open new accounts, rather than sell new releases to existing accounts. To that end, paradoxically, even though the largest cigar companies with the largest booths pay the most to be at the annual convention, it is the smaller cigar makers who need the convention the most to grow their businesses and add accounts.

Next year the show moves to Orlando, and it will be interesting to see if the IPCPR can prevent a drop-off, as Las Vegas always seems to attract a great crowd. Orlando certainly has plenty to offer those who use the show as a chance for a family vacation, but the extent to which California (and other West Coast) retailers are willing to make the long trip across the country is not clear. One prediction I feel comfortable making: The well-stocked bar at the downtown location of IPCPR Board Member Jeff Borysiewicz’s Corona Cigar Company will be very busy.

Beyond that, the only thing left to do is smoke all the new releases. That alone will determine for me the real winners from the 2011 Trade Show. Look for plenty of reviews of the new releases in the next few months.

Patrick S

photo credit: Flickr

Drew Estate

4 Responses to “Commentary: Final Thoughts on the 2011 IPCPR Trade Show”

  1. Spence Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    Patrick, Have you gotten a chance to smoke the Oval by San Lotano?

    • Patrick Semmens Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

      I smoked my first one at the show. I remember enjoying it very much but given that I was smoking quite a few cigars a day I don't remember any more details.

      Fortunately I have a few samples and I do plan on doing a full review in the future.

  2. Mike Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    Since Florida's clean indoor air act snuffed smoking at the Orange County Convention Center about 8 years ago, where will attendees sample product? The area's cigar bars and shops are not big enough for a trade show.

    • Patrick Semmens Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

      I don't know the details but I'm confident that smoking will be allowed at the convention center for the show. My understanding is the IPCPR even includes a clause in their agreement with the host convention center that should local law prevent them from smoking at the show they can back out with minimal or no penalty.