Tobacco: The Best Gift You Can Give

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Some may lament that whenever someone else buys cigars for them they’re not the ones they like. But this is easily avoidable with help from their friendly tobacconist and an opportunity for you to help select an assortment of cigars artfully arrayed in an empty cigar box. This is always a crowd-pleaser and offers that “custom” look while minimizing the chance of selecting the wrong cigars.

Another tack is for the smoker to discreetly hint how much he or she enjoys a particular strength or shape of cigar. If nothing else, as long as the purchase came from their regular tobacconist, it can be exchanged for a favorite brand or size. And most retailers will happily exchange unopened, fresh cigars or tins of tobacco, providing the product is something they carry, even if they were purchased elsewhere.

As a savvy retailer, you can prevent an inappropriate purchase either by knowing your customer’s preferences or by asking the right questions to determine the smoker’s tastes. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your knowledge as a professional and alleviate the customer’s ambivalence.

Selecting a pipe or accessory can be a bit trickier, as many view these as items of personal taste. Once again, though, asking a few questions can guide you to making the right suggestion. For a pipe, you might ask how tall the smoker is, fitting the pipe to his physique, or if he usually smokes while active or while relaxing. This can help with whether the pipe should be large or medium, straight-stemmed or curved. For accessories, as well as pipes, try to determine the recipient’s style, whether flashy or conservative. By this method you can avoid recommending the wrong color or too much ornamentation. It’s not a science, but it helps to narrow the field, making it easier for your customer to make a selection.

The same can be applied to recommending cigars or tobacco. The questions you ask might not nail down a particular brand or strength, but it enables the purchaser to attempt to personalize their selection. They might even base their decision on the appearance of the cigar bands and the box’s artwork, or the label on the tobacco tin, as they would when selecting cologne or other products. Packaging can be a determining factor, so it’s worth suggesting something stylish and attractive to make the customer feel good about her choice. (Hint: Gift shoppers love wooden cigar boxes. And the glossier the better!)
If the customer is still undecided, you can recommend a gift certificate or gift card, relieving them of having to make a choice while at the same time salvaging the sale.

It can be helpful to remind the gift shopper that cigars and tobacco, unlike clothing or other personal items, are seldom the wrong color (wrapper leaf aside), and, for the most part, you won’t get the size wrong (OK, a 60 ring gauge versus a Lancero might make a difference). But even if you do, the average smoker will probably give it a try. While many of us are creatures of habit, we love cigars and tobacco and often enjoy trying something new and different. The chance to experiment may lead someone to a new favorite discovery. There’s very little downside, especially if the purchase is facilitated by a knowledgeable tobacconist.

So go ahead, recommend your merchandise with confidence and don’t let the skeptics and naysayers deflate your enthusiasm. Remember, you’ve got what your customers want: tobacco, the perfect gift!

This story first appeared in the September/October 2016 issue of Tobacconist magazine.

– Contributed by Larry Wagner