3 Jan 2013
In recent years, the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) has gone out of its way to crack down on non-members visiting its annual Trade Show. The IPCPR made it clear that not only were consumers not welcome, but that legitimate members, especially retailers, who brought consumers to the show could face repercussions. (Complicating matters was a debate about the status of internet media outlets.)
Now the IPCPR has officially moved to change that, and welcome consumers—specifically the cigar smoking public—to their show, for at least part of one day. Just before the new year, John Anderson, chairman of the IPCPR Board Trade Show Committee and co-owner of W. Curtis Draper’s in Washington, DC, sent an email to IPCPR members (of which StogieGuys.com is an online media member) announcing the changes, which he says are already being planned:
In an effort to raise funds for our continued and ever more expensive legislative battles, the IPCPR Board Trade Show Committee is planning two events to take place at the 2013 annual Trade Show in Las Vegas.
The first event under consideration is a Consumer Day that will take place on the last half-day of the show.
- The goal of the event is to generate $100,000 for our legislative battles.
- Each ticket will include a pre-packaged assortment of select cigars purchased by the IPCPR from volunteer manufacturers, as well as a chance to walk the Trade Show floor to meet and interface with the individuals behind the brands in the industry.
- This event will be limited to the first 500 consumers who purchase tickets (ticket price TBD based on cigar selections & cost).
The second event under consideration is a Roast. This will be an elaborate event featuring:
- A celebrity comedian as the host, a panel of well-known industry “roasters,” and a carefully selected “roastee.”
- Tickets for the Roast will cost $ (TBD based on catering selections) and will include entry to the event, heavy hors d’ oeuvres, and an open bar.
- Tables and sponsorship opportunities will be available for purchase.
- The roast will be open to the consumers who attended the Consumer Day as well as the industry and will make for a lighthearted conclusion to a busy week of work.
All money raised from the events will go directly towards funding legislative pursuits.
The move represents a radical departure for the IPCPR, which has maintained that the Trade Show is primarily an event for buying and selling cigars. But it is not an illogical move. As we’ve noted many times, there is much for the cigar industry to do when it comes to protecting cigars from government regulation, taxation, and prohibition, and the IPCPR is one of the groups doing important work to defend cigars from anti-tobacco zealots.
While the goal—more funds to protect cigars from legislative attacks—is clearly worthwhile, the proposal raises a number of issues which should be addressed.
First, it’s worth noting that an IPCPR Consumer Day puts it in competition with other similar events. Some of the largest retailers already hold similar events, but the biggest is the Big Smoke put on by Cigar Aficionado. It’s hard not to see this proposal as an acknowledgement of the lessening power of the magazine, which is no longer the primary way that consumers get their info about cigars. Proposing an IPCPR-endorsed alternative to the Big Smoke no longer means jeopardizing the cigar industry’s primary outlet to consumers, which now is made up of of websites like this one and alternative cigar magazines. That’s a significant development.
It should also be noted that the burden of a Consumer Day will not fall evenly on all cigar makers. For large manufacturers, 500 extra samples for consumer attendees (as proposed) is a small cost relative to the expense of a fancy display at the show, the numerous staff attending, and the already significant monies expended for lobbying. However, for a small company with a single booth hoping to exit the show with 20 or 50 new retail accounts, 500 samples can be a significant cost. Presumably smaller cigar makers would be able to opt out but, for consumers, access to small, newer cigar makers may be one of the reasons for attending.
When it comes to the Roast event, you seriously have to wonder if the costs justify the return. While the small number of consumer attendees would represent additional revenue that can be used to lobby for cigars, I would expect most of the tables and seats sold to be bought by manufacturers and retailers who already pay to attend the Trade Show. While they may be willing to pony up for the cause, you have to ask: Is this really new money added to the defense of cigars, or just a diversion of funds that could be used more efficiently without the overhead of a cigar roast? I have my doubts.
A Consumer Day (or half day) at the show gives consumers a new, worthwhile experience while raising needed revenue for the IPCPR. The Roast may do that too, but it also may just divert money from industry sources who would be willing to give, absent an event, if the need was properly demonstrated. Ultimately, only time will tell.
photo credit: IPCPR