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Commentary: Big Questions for the 2015 Cigar Trade Show

16 Jul 2015


On Friday I’ll be flying to New Orleans for the annual International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) Trade Show. It’s always a flurry of activity, not to mention a great way to take the pulse of the cigar industry and see many friends.

We’ll have lots of coverage (check back Saturday for more details). But in preparation I’ve been thinking about the questions that will come up repeatedly. While part of our coverage will, of course, be getting the scoop on the new cigars being introduced, I also anticipate these three questions coming up a lot:

What’s hot?

What’s good? What’s getting the buzz? What new cigar surprised you (in a good way)? After a day or two talking with people you tend to get an idea for which cigars have the most buzz. Two days out, we already know many of the new cigars that will be introduced, but there are still many that won’t be known until the show floor opens Saturday.

Here’s an early prediction for “buzziest” cigar: Padrón’s new Connecticut line. Full new lines are few and far between for Padrón, which makes this one highly anticipated. Until attendees get a chance to smoke it, though, you never know what the reaction will be. Inevitably, at the cigar shops and bars after the show floor closes, when the booze starts flowing, you get the unvarnished opinions about what’s surprisingly good and what’s underwhelming.

When do we go back to Las Vegas?

I’ve attended two previous Trade Shows in New Orleans, one in Orlando, and three in Las Vegas. Every time the show isn’t in Las Vegas, you hear complaints about how it should be. (Not to mention the humidity of New Orleans in the dead of summer.) Invariably, manufacturers say foot traffic and attendance are better in Sin City. Plus, let’s face it: The entire city is built to host such events, with limitless hotels, restaurants, and venues for events large and small.

So why isn’t the Trade Show in Las Vegas every year? IPCPR officials have their reasons. They want the show to be closer to East Coast, and they want to vary the off-site entertainment offerings (not everyone loves Las Vegas) especially since many retail shop owners bring their spouses along who aren’t all that interested in spending every hour of the day negotiating cigar deals.

Still, I think there is an even more fundamental reason why the Trade Show doesn’t just stay in Vegas every year. There are only a few places large enough to host the show that also allow for smoking in the convention center, and moving it around keeps the potential hosts in line. Officials in Las Vegas and New Orleans know their city could be eliminated from consideration if their anti-smoking policies go too far, so keeping multiple places in the mix serves an important purpose. Nevertheless, next year the show will be back in Las Vegas, and I’m sure most manufacturers will be happy to be back.

Ready for the FDA?

As my colleague pointed out last month, FDA regulation is the cloud that hangs over everything at this year’s convention. The regulations were due in June and could drop at any moment. I look forward to asking cigar makers about what preparations they are making. For example: Have they begun to think about which post-2007 cigars they will push for FDA approval if the process costs hundreds of thousands of dollars as expected, and which will they simply just stop selling in the U.S.?

I’ve already noted how prices are likely being impacted by the pending regulations. If the FDA adopts Option Two with an exemption for cigars over $10, it will encourage more $10+ cigars, but at that price consumers expect something special. Every year a significant number of new releases disappear, or are at least relegated to the discount bins before the next show. My biggest worry is that most new cigars from this year’s Trade Show are just walking dead, not because of natural competition, but because even cigars that have limited success won’t be worth the high cost of attempting to seek the FDA approval necessary to keep them on the market under the FDA regime.

Exactly how prepared the industry is remains to be seen. I suspect some companies are flying by the seat of their pants, while others have been working FDA regulation into their plans for years. It is certainly something I look forward to asking cigar makers about. I only hope the answers are comforting about the future of the industry.

Patrick S

photo credit: IPCPR

6 Responses to “Commentary: Big Questions for the 2015 Cigar Trade Show”

  1. Reggie Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 9:24 am #

    Please also ask about the changes to Cuban policy. I know nothing has really changed in the short-term, but the outlook for U.S.-Cuban relations has shifted significantly since the last IPCPR. Would be interested in the various viewpoints of cigar makers big and small.

  2. Mike Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 11:43 am #

    I expect the IPCPR couldn’t move the trade show on short notice, but I was a little surprised they didn’t consider moving when Nola passed its stricter smoking ban earlier this year. They have an exemption for their event, but the city can no longer be considered friendly to smokers.

    • Reggie Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 11:50 am #

      Good point, but I don’t think Las Vegas or Orlando can be considered friendly to cigars either. For that matter, what U.S. city is?

      • Mike Friday, July 17, 2015 at 10:00 am #

        By today’s standards both Vegas and Orlando are far more cigar friendly than most US cities. Nevada’s smoking ban exempts hotel rooms, tobacco shops, bars, enclosed adult-only sections of restaurants, casino floors and convention facilities for tobacco events.

        Florida’s ban, passed in 2003, is lenient by today’s standards. It is a statewide, preemptive law, and exempts tobacco shops, hotel rooms and stand-alone bars that serve little food.

        New cigar bars are opening up in Florida all the time, and if you go to Vegas, you’ll find cigars sold and smoked everywhere in and around the casinos. Many tourists, if they never leave the strip, wouldn’t know Nevada has a smoking ban at all.

        I have never had a problem finding a place to have cigars in either city.

  3. Tom Friday, July 17, 2015 at 9:26 am #

    New head of the IPCPR was on KMA Radio this past Saturday. He said they are under contract to have the next three shows in Vegas, 2016-2018.

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