4. Do something more interesting with events. Rocky Patel recently told TB that retail cigar events are still relevant to the industry but are overplayed, and that to truly engage with the premium cigar customer, cigar retailers need to get a bit more creative than offering the same old bi-weekly or monthly deals inside the store. Roberts agrees—to an extent. “We agree, but continue to do such events due to the competition doing the same,” he reasons. However, he does think it’s important to “one-up” that by offering creative themes and venues such as craft beer pairings and value-added food elements like having local food trucks at the event.
Regarding the craft beer, Big Sticks has 12 varieties on tap, and at least half of those are from local breweries that are all too eager to partner up with the lounge at events.
5. Disseminate industry information. When Roberts or one of his staff attends an industry association conference or town hall meeting, or reads an industry-related article that he deems valuable in some way, he makes sure to “share the wealth” with managers, who then share it with co-workers. “It’s not good enough to just know it yourself as the owner,” he says.
6. If you want to make a change, get customer input, which might turn out to be a bigger contribution than you think. Last year, Big Sticks was forced to relocate to a new store, so Roberts took advantage of turning a 1,600-square-foot retail space into one that is now 4,500 square feet. But before he chose the location and built up the store, he shared the news and solicited the input of his customers. Much to his surprise, they had a lot to say—and contribute. The new store’s humidor utilizes 60 percent of the old humidor’s Spanish cedar that a skilled customer repurposed and rebuilt for Roberts—free of charge. “He saved us a lot of money, but also he saved some wonderful old wood [for us],” Roberts relays. “He builds and repairs cigar [humidors], so he had the skill set and he wanted a place to call his own. He really wanted this lounge.”
Roberts adds that “if you speak out, you really get help from the people you are building the lounge for.” Other customers came forward to help Roberts with the HVAC system and the plumbing.
This story first appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.