The IPCPR 2016 trade show is over and I wanted to do a write-up on my thoughts from the show.
Las Vegas is the proper location for the trade show. This is my 4th show. My first was in Vegas, the year after Orlando was the location and I heard that it wasn’t the greatest. Last year we were in New Orleans. The weather was horrible, a smoking ban had just gone into place and other than the convention center, I thought that the venues that events were taking place at were average at best. In Las Vegas, everything is quick to get to, it’s very easy for a large number of people to get together at the well know after hour hangouts, and for other events, there are plenty of venues that offer good amenities. The only real drawback to Vegas is how dry it is as it plays havoc on the the cigars and peoples hydration which affects their palates. I believe the trade show is slated for Las Vegas for the next two years and I hope that they can keep it there beyond that.
The main focus of the trade show is for cigar manufacturers to sell cigars to the people who own brick and mortar shops or online stores. In that aspect, from the number of people present and from what manufacturers told us, the show went well. We heard that the first day of the show this year equalled the sales of almost the entire show last year from multiple manufacturers in regards to their own sales. Now, I have to take their word for it as I obviously don’t have access to their sales records to confirm. In that aspect, it is a good sign. I don’t think it means that sales are up year after year, as last year was a down year, so it may be getting things closer to where things were in 2014.
With the looming deadline from the FDA of August 8th, it was clear that there was going to be a rush of new product for the show and that is exactly what happened. Lots of new cigars were present and lots that were just displayed but not actually present. The rush wasn’t only for the cigars, but that also entails bands and boxes. There were a good number of generic bands in place as the real ones were still in the manufacturing queue and the same with boxes. In this scenario, the missing bands and boxes doesn’t bother me at all. The most important thing is the cigar, and if the cigar is there, is it ready? We’ll find out soon enough as people continue to smoke samples and give their thoughts.
With Developing Palates being a site that was only 4 months old going into the show, I was a bit curious to see how we’d be received. I’ve attended 3 shows prior with the previous site I was a part of, so I wasn’t new to the trade show, but building a new brand is a fair amount of work. I was very happy about how things went. The relationships that we had built in the past really stood up and carried through to this event. Everyone that I had known through the previous site was very welcoming, some knowing that I had moved and the ones that didn’t just moved on along with me as we talked about this site and all of the great things we are doing here. And as has been the case in the past, the people we didn’t know before were easy to talk to and start new relationships with. This industry is a very welcoming one. It’s small and very friendly, which is one of the biggest reasons why I smoke and participate on this site.
I have two, and they seem to be the same two every year. The first is completely within our control, and that is not being able to visit all of the people and booths that we want to. It’s just impossible to do it with two people, even splitting up at times, but it’s just something we have to accept when trying to have meaningful conversations and build relationships. I’m sure if we just ran through the aisles and high fived everyone we could knock it out in a day, but that doesn’t produce anything, so we’ll just have to accept the fact that it’s tough to do and to to incrementally improve our efficiency going forward. The second disappointment is in regards entry time for the media on the first day of the show. It seems every year that no one is clear on if the media gets in an hour early on the first day of the show. Some years we have once we’ve talked to someone directly from IPCPR, but this year, expecting to get in that hour early, we were denied. That one extra hour can be very useful, so missing out on it was felt by us. Next year, I will make sure to coordinate with someone at the IPCPR ahead of time to be crystal clear on this scenario.
The trade show for next year will be very interesting. With the FDA regulations going into effect, we’ll have to see if any of the current litigation will delay or reverse some things going into effect. If things stay the same, the big factor will be what the cost, timing and success rate of getting new cigars approved. Those items will really dictate what the trade show looks like next year.