Employment opportunities for women in the cigar business shouldn’t be limited to working in a cigar factory. Williams suggested that premium tobacco retailers should consider employing women from all backgrounds in their stores. This not only brings a female perspective to the business and the brands it carries but can also break up the male dominance that can make walking into a cigar shop an intimidating experience for a woman.
“An array of women’s voices will really help bring to light gaps in the market,” Williams said before encouraging women to be forceful and to know their worth. “Be strong and educated in the products that you’re selling. That can truly be a force.”
Events and social media can be just as important to gaining female customers as they are to a store’s overall customer base. Williams suggested being active at local festivals where someone who isn’t normally a cigar smoker might try one and discover she likes it. Retailers should also pick a charitable cause to support. “Women reinvest 90 percent of their income to families and communities,” Williams concluded. “Create a connection with them by supporting a cause.”
Harvey detailed how Smokers Abbey caters to its female customers by creating Instagram posts that tend to highlight cigar sizes that might be more comfortable for women to enjoy. She also described how the shop hosts a monthly ladies’ night.
“We market to both men and women, but we hope men bring their wives,” Harvey said. “This builds a family atmosphere, and the women tend to gather together to talk. They feel more comfortable asking questions and get to know each other. Hopefully, the next time they bring another friend or two. This builds their confidence so that they can feel comfortable at any cigar shop. We’re constantly highlighting cigars and experiences from these events to engage our customers.”
Ortez agreed and added that social media empowers women. She discussed her social media efforts to give credit to the women working at the Agrotabacos factory. Referring to the global anti-tobacco movement’s effort to stamp out smoking everywhere, Ortez has created a social media blog to highlight the stories of her family’s female employees. “This is a very important time for women, and we must fight together,” Ortez said. “Our social media encourages women to be themselves.”
Is there any better way to empowerment than allowing someone—anyone—the free expression of who they are and what they enjoy? Ultimately, that’s the key factor in respecting and treating everyone equally. Achieving that worthwhile goal will go a long way toward improving your sales to female customers, which is perhaps even more important than ever as business owners try to recoup losses they might have incurred while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
This story first appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.
– Story by Stephen A. Ross