Five Ways to Move Past the Freeze

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How To Grow Your Cigar Business

By know you know that running your stogie business on what’s new isn’t going to cut it moving forward, thanks to the halt on stogie innovation/new products as of the FDA’s August 8, 2016 deadline.

In July, thousands of new cigar brands were launched, for what many fear might be the last time, at the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association show.

“The question I throw out to retailers is ‘how many [of those new cigar brands] really represent a new experience?’” asks Bill Sherman, executive vice president of Nat Sherman International. “Look at what we’re doing now—building a cigar business on new brands and brand innovation. Here you are, as a retailer, cultivating a customer by encouraging them to come in and try something new—they get excited, then the next week they come
in looking for something different. That whole evolution of continuously selling something new is a new phenomenon in cigar selling. In the past there was much more brand loyalty.”

Sherman sees the shift already beginning to take shape “towards a balance of brand loyalty versus relying on new product introductions.” He believes that the name of the game will be to cultivate not only what’s existing in the market right now, but for retailers to cultivate what he calls the “humidor experience” to continue to drive business in a confused marketplace. He is far from alone. In the tobacconist world, retailers are honing “back to business” skills that tobacco outlets could learn from, particularly those that want to grow
a strong cigar business and be sustainable for future growth, under regulation or not.

1. Invest in staff, even more than cigars. If you want to get serious about selling premium cigars, consider fully investing in cigar-dedicated salespeople.

2. Sell the experience. Selling premium cigars requires leaving customers with a premium experience. Details matter.

3. Use online review sites as surveillance. Get in the online game across platforms and use customer feedback as a serious business tool.

4. When cigar SKUs are bad tenants, evict them. Falling in love with inventory can cost you your cigar business. SKUs have to be tracked and manufacturers have to be informed.

5. Think outside of the box with events and programs. Go big and go original when planning your future cigar events. Loyalty will be the payback.

Read this full article in the November/December 2016 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription. Click here for details.