Cigar Event ”Wow” Power

Here’s how forward-thinking retailers plan on upping the ante on stogie happenings.

Jonathan Drew and Willy Herrera of Drew Estate at Rocky Mountain Cigar Festival

Ask top tobacco retailers to describe their current premium cigar business and you will hear words such as “growing,” “opportunity” and “comeback.” Ask about their cigar events, however, and many will report that while they can be closely tied to the state of the business, there is work to be done to make stogie happenings less staid and more relevant.
Recently, Rocky Patel told Tobacco Business that retail cigar events are a bit overplayed in the industry, meaning cigar retailers have an opportunity to “truly engage” with the premium cigar customer by moving beyond offering the same old weekly or monthly event deals inside the store.

Less But More
For that very reason, Blue Ridge Tobacco based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina recently cut out its lackluster weekly events. “We started out in 2016 doing traditional cigar events every Wednesday, and typically, three people showed up,” says Frank Armstrong, president. “So now we make it monthly.”

But it’s not just a routine, boring event, notes Armstrong. He asks a cigar manufacturer to commit to doing featured promotions throughout the month, along with a cigar dinner at the end of the month. Excitement reportedly builds all month in-store for the featured brand.

While this Southern tobacco chain streamlined its events to monthly, a tobacco chain in the Northeast cut events to seasonally. “Cigar events have definitely been played out,” agrees Doug Nolan, vice president of Rock Hill, New York-based Smokers Choice. “We still do them, but only during the warmer season at a few of our larger stores.”

Randy Silverman, president of Klafter’s, d.b.a. Smoker Friendly/Cigar Express in New Castle, Pennsylvania, agrees that events can be “somewhat overplayed,” and “you don’t always get the benefit from them.” He plans to continue to do events, both in-store and out-of-store, but with considerable forethought moving forward.

“We started asking ourselves, ‘What are we trying to accomplish? Are we trying to get people in our stores? Are we trying to gain new customers from offsite events? Are we trying to show appreciation to our existing customers? Is the amount of time and money we are spending worth having one event?’ Typically, if we can adequately answer these questions, we will proceed with an event,” Silverman says.