The premium cigar industry is an industry whose products are founded on social acts. Cigars are smoked in lounges in groups, in backyards among family and friends, at trade shows, during graduations, and while celebrating the birth of children. So what happens when none of those social occasions at which cigars are typically the centerpiece can be held? That’s a situation the entire cigar industry—from the manufacturers to retailers and consumers—has been facing for the past few months due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Companies began recognizing the potentially dramatic impact of the coronavirus as early as February, and marketers across the cigar industry began realizing that it was going to call for a change in the way they promote their products.
Tobacconists across the United States began facing temporary closures as states began to issue stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders; airlines began pulling back on flights to cigar manufacturing countries like Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Honduras; and events such as the Tobacconists Association of America (TAA) convention and the annual Premium Cigar Association (PCA) trade show were forced to be cancelled.
“The handmade cigar industry is really focused on new launches on a continuous basis,” says Regis Broersma, president of General Cigar Co. “Of course, due to [COVID-19], and now also the PCA show being canceled in the summer, which is a big season, there are now a lot of launches backed up. I think the change for the rest of the year is that companies will have different strategies. Going forward, we [General Cigar Co.] will actually continue the online platforms and events and interact in that way.”
COVID-19 is unique and has presented a challenge for cigar manufacturers who have had to come up with new strategies and plans for ways to engage with their retail and consumer customers. Tobacco Business talked to marketers from several leading premium cigar companies who shared their insights and experiences and explained how they’ve pivoted in the face of the pandemic to keep their brands at the forefront of their customer’s minds.