One month from now, the doors will open to the 2018 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show.
If you are a regular reader of this site, that fact is probably not lost on you. After all, there’s been a steady stream of articles for the last month mentioning that the 2018 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show begins July 13 in Las Vegas, Nev. But if you aren’t a regular or reader or just curious this particular year, here’s halfwheel’s primer on the cigar industry most important event of the year.
WHAT IS THE SHOW?
It’s both a convention and trade show. The convention part begins Friday, July 13, with a variety of seminars centered around legislative issues and retail strategy. It will also be the premiere of the cigar documentary, Hand Rolled. The four-day trade show part begins July 14. The first three days of the trade show are the busiest, the fourth day is a half-day and generally sees very light attendance.
The IPCPR Convention & Trade Show is the most important event of the year for the cigar industry. With little exception, namely Cuban, the most important people in the industry from manufacturers to retailers to suppliers, sales representatives, growers, brokers, legislative specialists, media and everyone else who works in the cigar business will be under one roof for the better part of three days.
It’s a selling first and foremost, retailers place orders with brands. Generally speaking, there’s a combination of new items as well as specialized prices to encourage higher sales volumes. And for many brands, the first three days of the trade show will be three of the four or five best selling days of the year.
In addition, it’s a massive networking event. Everyone from people who sell tobacco to people that sell plastic bags to the credit card processing specialists is there. It’s certainly focused on the American market, but the biggest retailers from around the world will also be in attendance.
The one notable exception is that the Cuban cigar industry won’t have a presence due to the legal issues surrounding Cuban cigars in America.
Of note, IPCPR is neither the largest nor most-attended cigar trade show. Germany’s InterTabac, which takes place in September, is substantially larger in both square feet (meters) and people. The difference is that the IPCPR is largely about cigars and cigar accessories, whereas InterTabac is a tobacco trade show that sees a huge e-cigarette presence as well as just about every other tobacco segment.
WHAT IS IPCPR?
The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association hosts the trade show. As the name implies, it’s a trade group for retailers that sell cigars and pipes. In addition to the trade show, the group lobbies on both the local and federal level.
WHERE IS IT?
Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Convention Center.
I THOUGHT IT WAS AT THAT SHITTY HOTEL?
While the Westgate is one of the official show hotels, the trade show is at a separate property, the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Yes. The show has been in Vegas quite a few times, but at the Sands Expo Center, which is part of the Venetian/Palazzo complex. Last year, the show moved locations to the Las Vegas Convention Center.
BUT NEXT YEAR IT GOES BACK TO THE VENETIAN?
Yes. After two years of being at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the trade show will return to the Venetian/Palazzo/Sands Expo Center next year.
WHY DO PEOPLE GO?
For a variety of reasons:
- Manufacturers — Because it’s a selling trade show. Over 750 retail stores attended last year’s show.
- Retailers — It’s a chance to see new products, sample new products and take advantage of special discounts.
- Media — There are lots of new products, plus most of the cigar industry is under one roof for four days.
- Consumers — Because manufacturers give out free samples. #freecigars
I THOUGHT FDA BANNED NEW CIGARS & FREE CIGARS?
As I said last year:
Yes and no.
Free cigars are pretty simple. FDA allows free samples in a business to business use. As noted below, the show is not open to the public.
As for new cigars, it’s a bit more complicated. Many manufacturers rushed to introduced thousands of new cigars before FDA’s Aug. 8, 2016 deadline last year. These products were oftentimes sold to just a few retailers and in very limited fashion. Now, many manufacturers are rolling out these products on a national level.
CAN YOU SMOKE INSIDE?
SOUNDS AWESOME, CAN I COME?
The trade show is not open to the general public/consumers.
If you work in the cigar industry whether as a retailer, manufacturer, supplier or media, you can go to the show, though you must be an IPCPR member, which starts at $450 annually and gives you three passes to the show.
That being said, there are plenty of people who attend the trade show regularly that probably don’t meet the qualifications.
SO YOU WILL BE THERE?
Yes. For the sixth consecutive year Team halfwheel will be there in full: Brian, Brooks, Patrick and myself. Please don’t steal our drone.
HOW MANY “NEW” CIGARS COME OUT?
A lot less than years prior if I had to take a guess.
While we are still a month out for the show, all indications are that there will probably be no more than 500 new SKUs at this year’s trade show, which would be less than last year.
We’ve contacted over 150 companies who are slated to attend this year’s show or who exhibited at one of the last two trade shows and we’ve already been told that 18 won’t be here and another 15 won’t have anything new. Both numbers will increase as the weeks go on (we’ll publish those full lists shortly before the trade show), but two big companies—Ashton and Oliva—have stated they won’t have anything new. Those trends suggests that it’s going to be a less exciting year in terms of the sheer volume of new products.
I HEARD ATTENDANCE WILL BE DOWN?
Every year we go through the same cycle with many people.
- A Month Before The Show: No one is going to attend
- Two Weeks Before: This will be the worst show ever
- Day Before: It’s going to be awful
- Day One: “I could roll a bowling ball down the aisle and it wouldn’t hit anyone.”
- The evening of Day Three: Best show ever
- Post-Show: The IPCPR lied about attendance
It’s the same story every year, but last year definitely was a problem. The IPCPR announced attendance figures and it showed a 16.6 percent decline in the number of stores and a 20.5 percent drop in the number of badges issued to attendees. That said, it didn’t feel like it was dramatically fewer people.
The real issue with attendance is that the trade show has gotten dramatically larger in the last decade, while the number of retail stores in America is declining. Furthermore, consolidation, shifting markets, increase trade show costs and a lack of exclusive discounts has meant there are the fewer incentives than before to go to the show. Those two things, along with some others, create a feeling that the show is a lot less busy, but some of that is just due to the fact that there are fewer people walking around aimlessly booth to booth.
There are significant issues and this year’s trade show is going to be under increased pressure both because of last year’s numbers, but also because the Tobacconists Association of America (TAA), an alternative retail organization, held two large buying events in the spring, as opposed to the one that organization normally held.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how many people show up, how many booths there are or how much new product is on display. It’s all about the orders. In that regard, there’s reason to be concerned.
If you are wondering about attendance, my guess is that increases from last year, but perhaps doesn’t recover to 2016 levels. But that’s just a guess.
IS THAT ANNOYING AD GOING TO BE THERE AGAIN?
We made it better last year, but yes, Davidoff of Geneva USA will be sponsoring our trade show coverage. Drew Estate will also be sponsoring our pre-show coverage, which will include a lot more video content.
SO WHAT ARE YOU GIVING AWAY?
I don’t know yet because that meeting takes place next week. What I can tell you is that we will have more giveaways than last year, including a half dozen or so on Friday, July 13 (details to come).
Last year we partnered with Davidoff to give away four prize-packs:
- Davidoff Winston Churchill Whiskey Glasses + Dalmoral Cigar Malt
- Davidoff Winston Churchill Ashtray
- Davidoff Gift With Purchase Set (Ashtray) + Dalmoral Cigar Malt
- Davidoff Winston Churchill Humidor ($1,550)
AND WHAT WILL HALFWHEEL’S COVERAGE BE LIKE?
On May 19, 2017, I created a new project within our project management software for IPCPR 2018. For context, the 2017 IPCPR Convention & Trade Show began July 10. We were gathering notes and suggestions for this year’s show before last year’s even started. And we’ve been continuing to add notes and work through issues from last year’s show.
My hope is that it produces not only the best coverage we’ve published so far for you, the reader, but also that it makes our time in Las Vegas a lot more enjoyable than it usually is.
We’ve focused on three things for 2018:
- Consistency — We noticed a lot of small inconsistencies in how posts were formatted, pictures were edited, writing, etc. We’ve tried to make the coverage more seamless from post to post, writer to writer.
- Video — We’ve invested a lot of money and time into better equipment for both live and non-live video. There are microphones with mic flags, backdrops, lights and who knows what else. We’ve also tried to work on smiling more.
- What this looks like for the reader — It’s easy to forget that we need to produce content for people to consume. I’ve tried to make sure that as we evaluate our 2017 coverage and look forward to 2018 that we put ourselves in the shoes of the reader, to figure out what’s of interest them.
With all that said, our normal booth coverage will return, hopefully, improved. For those unfamiliar, you can see our 2017 coverage here.
As always, if you have further questions or suggestions, the comment section is below.