Profitable Tricks of the Trade

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    Now, for those trade tips. The first tip is probably the most extreme of practices that I always love to give to retailers. There is a shop that sells all sorts of products and has a nice walk-in humidor. It had two older ladies working, and literally everyone who knew them called both of them “Mom.” On the front of the counter they had a large poster that read, “Please donate cigars to our deployed troops! If you do not, we will be mean to you.” As I said, this is extreme, but it worked for them. They also had a box of cigars that were not moving on the counter and gave a discount if a customer purchased it for the troops. If a customer didn’t know about cigars, they happily pointed out the box where they could purchase as many as they wanted. These retailers also incentivized through their words for the customer to buy more than one cigar for our deployed troops. There is a reason why they had the highest donation of cigars for almost a year and a half. They knew their customers and could get away with something that extreme. It was simple but very effective, and while it’s probably not something I would recommend to everyone, even in lesser degrees it could be very profitable for your company.

    Another example, and probably one of the biggest questions on your mind constantly: “What do I do with overstock that for whatever reason I can’t sell?” There are several things you can do with CFW to move that product. For example:

    • Do a special promotion. Offer a 10 percent discount where the customer purchases three cigars and the shop will donate a fourth cigar to CFW on behalf of the customer. At the end of the day, you are still making a decent profit while getting rid of that overstock and supporting the troops. On top of that, you can get a tax write-off for those donations that the shop donated.
    • Offer overstock at a discount. Do a promotion where you discount the overstocked cigars by 30-50 percent. I strongly suggest keeping the unwanted cigars on the counter, a move that could encourage customers to buy a discounted cigar that can be donated to the troops.
    • Host a raffle. You can probably get raffle items from the manufacturer of the stock you can’t push. For every overstock cigar purchased, the customer will receive a raffle ticket. For every two non-overstock cigars they donate, they could get an additional raffle ticket. This move has been used at hundreds of CFW shops during regular in-store events. Also, rather than focusing on an overstocked cigar, you can focus on a particular vendor’s products. Work with the vendor on creating specials that will complement a raffle. Most vendors will turn over their normal incentive items for the raffle. A good vendor can easily upsell with CFW present, but with this type of raffle, they can greatly upsell their own specials. When you start promoting the event, you can let your customers know about the raffle and encourage them to bring cigars from home to donate to CFW for raffle tickets. The more they bring from home, the more the shop makes, as the customer is typically going to buy more cigars from the event. For cigar customers like myself, I can’t leave any space in my humidor for any length of time. I am going to buy more sticks to fill in that space.
    • Put on a cooking competition. Another simple idea that I have seen work very successfully is hosting an amateur cookoff. You can do anything from barbecue to a chili competition. Don’t stress over the rules, and don’t try to make it like the professional food competitions. This will get a lot more participation, and it will make it a lot more fun for everyone involved. Make the rules very simple. The buy-in is 10 cigars to compete as a cook. For the judges, their buy-in is one cigar for three judging tickets, and they can get as many judging tickets as they want. The judges will choose where to put their tickets. For either a barbecue or chili competition, the competitors will have a cup at their station for the judges to put the tickets in. The judges can put one or more tickets in the cup. Then you count how many tickets each cook collects to determine the winners. If you invite two to three vendors to participate in the event, you can have them sponsor the prizes.
    • Take pieces of each of these ideas and create a promotion that you like. You know your customer base the best, so you know what will work and what won’t work.
      All of these ideas will bring in more donations to CFW, and they will also put more money into everyone’s pockets. It is a win-win setup for everyone involved. The nice thing about these recommended events is that you can keep it small or go as big as you want. I have been present at each of these suggested events and have seen over 300 cigars collected and $450 donated to the charity from just one event. One of these cookoffs had 35 cooks, different raffles, and three cigar vendors and two beer vendors. That event brought in $3,800 and 625 premium cigars that were donated to CFW. The cost of these events were very little to the store owner and helped generate great profits. According to the shop owner who did a smaller cookoff event, it was his second-biggest event in 12 years, profit-wise.

    These are a few ideas to help you use CFW to make good money. It also keeps things fresh with your customers and gives them all a cause they can get behind. All of these are good, solid business practices. As always, think of a customer that you would be willing to vouch for to become an official volunteer CFW event coordinator. He or she can be a huge help in multiple areas that will support your business while also being a great volunteer for the charity. We will continue to go over additional ideas in future issues of Tobacco Business. #Live2Serve

    This story first appeared in the May/June 2022 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.