The Premium Cigar Association (PCA) has announced that the 2024 PCA Convention & Trade Show will take place March 22-25 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. While the dates and exhibition center are subject to significant changes, the Saturday-Tuesday format of the trade show remains the same.
“From pretty much my first day on the job, I have heard from numerous members that moving the trade show earlier in the year would be better for the annual business cycle,” said Scott Pearce, executive director of PCA, in a press release. “Over the past couple of years we have sent out several surveys inquiring about time of year and location and we held a town-hall style meeting with the membership at last year’s trade show to elicit feedback from our members. Our board has listened and put in some good work to respond to the voice of our membership.”
This marks a significant change to the PCA Convention & Trade Show, which historically has been hosted during the summer; for most of the last decade, the event has been held in July. At last year’s trade show, the PCA told its members it was considering two options for 2024: New Orleans in April or Las Vegas in July. In the end, it chose a different path.
“With the move to March, the board really feels that this an optimal time for the industry as retailers will be able to place orders before the busy season hits and get the new and exclusive products on their shelves when demand is the highest,” said Greg Zimmerman, president of the PCA Executive Committee. “Plus, we anticipate that many retailers who are not able to attend in summer when business is at its peak, will be able to attend our industry’s largest event.”
This will mark the first time the trade show has been at the Las Vegas Convention Center since 2018, a trade show best remembered for a small fire that broke out in the AJ Fernandez booth. The water and fire suppressant that was deployed to put out the fire damaged other booths and ultimately delayed the opening of one of the days of the trade show. Since then, the trade show has been at the Venetian Expo Center, formerly known as the Sands Expo Center, with the exception of 2020 when the trade show was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2023 PCA Convention & Trade Show takes places July 8-11 at the Venetian Expo Center.
For many years, the organization and attendees have looked into moving the trade show to an earlier time of year to give retailers more time to take advantage of the traditional discounts offered around the trade show and to make the trade show more attractive to attendees who don’t want to go to Las Vegas during summer. Retail attendance at the trade show has declined since 2016 and exhibitor participation is also in decline, likely at a much steeper rate.
For the organization, which historically had relied on the trade show for upwards of 80 percent of its revenue, the hope is that moving the dates earlier will increase the attendance of both retailers and exhibitors.
Moving the dates to March could create a logjam of major cigar events in the first quarter of 2024. Historically, the first quarter plays host to the three major cigar festivals: Nicaragua’s Puro Sabor, the Dominican Republic’s Procigar and Cuba’s Festival del Habano. Furthermore, there are prominent consumer events like Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smoke Meets Whiskyfest and Smoke Inn’s The Great Smoke that take place during this time.
There are also two competing trade shows that take place in Q1: TAA and TPE.
In the press release, Zimmerman mentioned that the Tobacconists’ Association of America (TAA), a smaller retailer organization, will be moving its annual event, which typically takes place in late March. Zimmerman did not mention the new TAA dates.
TPE—a trade show that includes cigars, other tobacco products, vaping products, and cannabis and CBD-related products—takes place in Q1. In recent years, TPE has grown both its cigar section and the trade show as a whole to the point where it is now larger than the PCA Convention & Trade Show in terms of exhibitor space. PCA remains a much more important trade show for the cigar industry, but the gap is closing as TPE was once a trade show with less than a dozen cigar companies exhibiting and now hosts more than 100 cigar exhibitors.
It is clear that PCA is trying to differentiate its trade show from TPE. On its website, the organization makes a point of mentioning some differences between the trade show (emphasis added):
The only show of its’ (sic) kind, the PCA Show is put on by The Premium Cigar Association, and is the only event that puts ALL proceeds back into representing and advocating for its members. While other trade shows exist simply to make a profit, the PCA Trade Show offers an unmatched buying/selling event while simultaneously unifying and strengthening our industry-the premium cigar and pipe tobacco family. Whether you’re a manufacturer, retailer, broker, supplier, distributor or industry media, the PCA Trade Show is the one event of the year you can’t afford to miss!
Kretek, a large tobacco distributor, owns TPE.
TPE 2024 will take place Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. That means there will be fewer than 50 days between the end of TPE 2024 and the start of PCA 2024.