The PCA 2020 Convention & Trade Show, the cigar industry’s most important event on the calendar, has been canceled due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The event was scheduled to take place July 10-14 at the Sands Expo Center at The Venetian in Las Vegas.
After months of public statements that the trade show would go on, the organization has decided to cancel the event. Last week, multiple manufacturers indicated they had been informed by the organization that its intent was to cancel the event this week, less than 60 days before the start of the trade show.
Scott Pearce, executive director of Premium Cigar Association, did not reply to an email this morning from halfwheel seeking comment on those plans.
Prior to this year, the event was known as the IPCPR Convention & Trade Show.
“After much deliberation and careful discussions of every aspect of our annual convention and trade show, the PCA Board and the Associate Member Advisory Board have made the difficult decision to cancel our current event scheduled for July,” said Pearce in a press release. “The annual event is an important fixture in the premium tobacco industry, and we were very excited to bring a whole new experience to the industry this year. However, the public health and safety of our attendees, staff and volunteers outweighed any other considerations in our collective decision-making process.”
“We understand how important this event is to the business needs of both our manufacturers and our retailers, so we are redoubling our efforts to create innovative new ways to aid our members this year.”
The organization said it will release further details about those programs in “the coming weeks.”
Due to a variety of rules, The Venetian—like all other Las Vegas casinos—is currently closed. It has published health and safety plans for when it reopens, though it also seemed likely that it would be subject to additional rules that might prevent the trade show from happening, such as a ban on gatherings of 250 or more people.
In recent weeks it became clear that the PCA was moving towards canceling the event. It likely was navigating the costs surrounding canceling the event, specifically whether the PCA would be forced to pay for or be refunded for some of its trade show-related expenses such as the rental of the trade show floor, food and beverage contracts and thousands of hotel room nights.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, this year was already going to be a trying year for the Premium Cigar Association and its trade show. In January—after months of speculation—four of its largest exhibitors—Altadis U.S.A., Davidoff of Geneva USA, Drew Estate and General Cigar Co.—announced they would not be attending the trade, representing a loss of 18.17 percent of the trade show floor space.
Following that announcement, other companies like Phillips & King pulled out, while some other large companies began to trim the sizes of their booth. In short, the trade show floor was on track to look radically different even without the coronavirus pandemic.
As recently as last week—less than 70 days out from the trade show—the PCA had yet to publicly announce registration for the event, another in a long list of complications surrounding the 2020 event.
Since early April, halfwheel had surveyed over 200 companies—either listed exhibitors for 2020 or companies that exhibited in 2018 or 2019—and responses indicated that event amongst companies that had paid their deposits there would be further dropouts due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Those exits were due to both health concerns as well as cigar manufacturers skeptical that the retail stores at the trade show would provide enough purchasing power to make it worthwhile. Because of stay-at-home orders, cigar shops in most states were forced to either close their lounges or their stores outright. Many of those shops have begun reopening in recent weeks, but like other businesses, there are complications with staffing and oftentimes a reduced customer turnout.
The expectation amongst many manufacturers was that those shops—the core audience of the PCA Convention & Trade Show—would be unwilling to spend both the money on travel to the trade show, but also on new products at the trade show.
Update (May 15, 2020) — An earlier version of this story indicated the PCA has not opened registration. Registration was open, but the organization never publicly announced that it has opened registration.