As the show gets ready to open up for its final day, it certainly sets a proper stage from which to look both backwards and forwards.

Beyond the normal prep work that goes into covering an event such as IPCPR, my week began with a seminar on the FDA and legislative issues that didn’t offer the kind of attendance that I expected or hoped to see. I know IPCPR is often seen as a celebration, it’s Las Vegas, etc. But this is the FDA we are talking about, and they have two options on the table, one of which will be implemented at some point–possibly even before next year’s trade show–and it seemed like too many people had other things to do than learn about how the industry that is the reason for this event could be effected and how to step up and join the fight against it.

On the show floor, I didn’t get the clear and concise vibe about whether the pending FDA regulation was affecting buying or selling. Certainly retailers have to keep their shelves filled and manufacturers aren’t going to fold up shop, but beyond that it just didn’t seem clear, especially for what could be the last trade show before FDA regulation is a reality, notwithstanding the period that manufacturers will have to submit products for testing and whatnot, should that be the option selected.

Cigar wise, one thing that kept catching my eye was the number of more expensive releases were coming out. Padrón’s booth was one example, General Cigar will be releasing a high-end Cohiba shortly, and while I wouldn’t call it an industry-wide trend, the price ceiling certainly seems to have been raised. On the other end, there were certainly some value options introduced, mainly via smaller sizes, but I can’t say that I felt the same push to compete for the $5 cigar as I have in years past.

It’s also been interesting to see which companies have been increasing booth space or the presentation within their booth: RoMa Craft, Drew Estate, Espinosa, Viaje, Kuuts and General Cigar/Foundry all come to mind. The investment in a well built trade show presentation is a huge one for many companies and one that will be used for several years. If a company doesn’t think it will grow–or at least hold steady–for the next couple of years, it would be hard to justify the cost.

We’ve touched on attendance several times, and all I will say is that I’m interested to see how the show floor looks and feels on this final day, a half day that runs from 9 am – 1 pm. It’s almost always the most sparsely attended day of the show, which could create an interesting conclusion to a show that has been described as somewhat lackluster in terms of attendance. Whether or not the IPCPR reveals attendance numbers remains to be seen, but this would be one year I’d be particularly interested to learn how many people entered the show floor.

When the doors close, the carpets get rolled up, the forklifts roll in and the tear down starts, it’s time to start looking ahead towards New Orleans and the 2015 IPCPR Convention and Trade Show. One thing that will certainly be interesting to watch is how FDA and its ruling on pipes, e-cigarettes and similar products–with the exception of cigars for the purposes of this point–will affect how big the 2015 IPCPR show is. I’m no legal expert nor am I plugged into the industry of pipes, e-cigarettes, hookahs and the like, but it would make sense that a ruling sooner than later could have an effect on which companies are buying booth space, and how much of it at that.

Then there is what a decision by FDA could do to premium cigars, and how that would affect the trade show. We’ve covered a number of scenarios in our FDA guide; with the comment deadline quickly approaching, it means that the affects of that ruling will begin to be felt sooner than later.

Finally, I can’t help but think that the IPCPR and the manufacturers will have to find ways to attract more retailers to the show. At some level it’s a simple math equation for them about how much it costs to go to the show versus how much you might save via show deals and how much you value the relationship and business building that goes on there. This is supposed to be the industry’s big annual gathering, but what happens when one of the most key parts of the industry–the retailers–simply aren’t showing up?

On a few lighter notes, we learned that one of our good friends in the cigar industry will be proposing to his girlfriend this weekend, so we wish him the best of luck with that and hope to report that she said yes. Congratulations are in order to all the Davidoff Golden Band Award winners, including Curt Diebel of Diebel’s Sportsmens Gallery in Kansas City, Mo. on winning the Zino Davidoff Legacy award. If you get the chance to see the Bella Electric Strings perform, they put on a pretty good show, as witnessed at the Golden Band Awards. Finally, safe travels to everyone who will be departing Las Vegas in the coming hours…may the roads and skies be smooth to wherever you head next.

 

Patrick Lagreid

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.