And welcome to the 2018 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show.
Today (Saturday) marks the first day of the trade show portion of the cigar industry’s most annual important event, but Friday, July 13, was technically the first day of the event. As in years past, today plays hosts to registration, final set-up, seminars, an opening party—and at least this year, a documentary.
But now begins the real part. Where dreams are made, cigars are sold and the hope of sleep evaporates into the dry desert air just like the water I very much should be drinking.
I’ve been at Las Vegas for a few days and here’s my annual rundown of initial thoughts.
1. The SLS is the de facto Host Hotel — Last year we stayed at the SLS and were one of maybe a half dozen non-retail companies to stay here. A quick scan of the SLS’s main bar at 11 p.m. the day before the show looked like the Venetian’s Circle Bar or Palazzo’s Champagne bars of yesteryear. There are now dozens of manufacturers here at the SLS.
There’s a lot of reasons: it’s a nicer property than the Westgate, it’s a cheaper property than Westgate, it doesn’t have any known outbreaks of stomach flu and SPG points.
2. New Booths — There are a lot of companies with new booths; that is, existing companies with new physical structures. Davidoff and Ashton will be the largest, and likely, most notable redesigns. But companies from RoMa Craft Tobac to Warped to CLE are in different spaces than last year.
3. Optimistic About Attendance — For the first time since the 2012 trade show in Orlando, people are legitimately talking about how attendance might be up. Scott Pearce, the new executive director of IPCPR, told me that attendance is up compared to last year, though not tracking to be as high as 2016.
That’s a massive change in the normal narrative where manufacturers begin the trade show by spending the three months before complaining about attendance.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many people show up, it matters how many buy cigars. But this is optimism, a rare feeling when it comes to the question of how many retailers are at the show.