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PCA 2021 Post-Show Report

July 18, 2021 By Matthew Tabacco

The largest booth in attendance was the Gurkha Booth, yet it seemed fairly empty most of the time.

There was laughter, there was business, there was smoking, and there was drama. The 2021 Premium Cigar Association Trade show has come to an end. Much different than years past, including that it was one of the first tradeshows Las Vegas has hosted post COVID 19 pandemic- you could say that it was still a success. A lot of credit needs to be given to Scott Pierce, who despite uncertainty that the show would happen, did a great job putting it together in 100 days. Read on if you’re interested in hearing my thoughts on the trade show, including what was showcased, what I liked and disliked, and what I think the Premium Cigar Association needs to change to bring the trade show to the next level in 2022.

 

Compared to previous shows, there was a severe number of manufacturers missing, which contributed to the overall feel of the show floor being smaller. However, not everyone had the same reasons for not attending. The absence of some of the largest booths of years past, including Davidoff, General Cigar, Altadis, and Drew Estate was felt among all attendees. I think it is important to note that these manufacturers did not attend the trade show for politically differences with the PCA. Other manufacturers who didn’t exhibit such as La Flor Dominicana, Micallef, Casa Cuevas, United and RomaCraft among others, had a plethora of reasons that were not political. These include ongoing complications from COVID-19, delays in production and availability of product, and as well as the cost to exhibit at a trade show after a turbulent year from the pandemic. Some also decided to inject the money they would have used to exhibit back into its workforce. Judging by the foot traffic and busy booths we saw; you would have never known booths were missing. In fact, many smaller manufacturers were pleased that there were less brands exhibiting as it gave them more of a chance to shine. Enough about who wasn’t at the show- let’s talk about who was and what exactly was showcased. 

 

I think the most anticipated booth of the 2021 PCA show was Ferio Tego. Michael Herklots did a great job showcasing his new brand. While they did not have any of the new Ferio Tego cigars to exhibit or sample, they supported the PCA and spent time educating their potential customers and clients on what their brand has to offer. The message they had was simple; many of the brands that they know from Nat Sherman will continue without any interruptions or changes under their new family-owned company. What was most intriguing was that they did have a sample of the box for their new house blend.  It was a very regal looking navy box with gold lettering and the new Ferio Tego family crest. You can tell with such a presentation that they are looking for this to be a higher end offering.

 

The second booth that was very interesting to me and was also was exhibiting for the first time at PCA, was El Septimo. While commonly known in Europe, Asia, Africa and other parts of the world, this is only their second year of availability in the United States. The cigars they offer are highly priced, and have an “upscale’ feel to them. What is most interesting to note is that they are made in Costa Rica, and they do offer a Costa Rican Puro in the line. While we did receive some samples, we have yet to smoke them to see if they live up to the hype. El Septimo showcased a very unique and brightly colored acrylic style box, but informed us they were moving to a more traditional cedar box due to feedback from American customers and retailers who preferred them. The cigars are already available at an estimated 200 retailers across the United States. 

 

The most anticipated new cigar debuting from an already established manufacturer was the Stillwell Star from Dunbarton Tobacco and Trust. The new line consists of four different blends made with pipe tobacco fillers. All of the cigars are 6 x 52 toros and use the same Ecuadorian Habano wrapper over a Mexican San Andreas binder. 

 

The four different blends are:

•       Aromatic No. 1

•       English No. 27

•       Bayou No. 32

•       Navy No. 1056

 

Rocky Patel made a splash by debuting three new lines-  Sixty, White Label, and Disciple. He also showcased a new size in the “ALR” Second Edition line, a 5 ¾ x 58 / 50 Perfecto, or the “Bala’ as part of a limited edition release in a Bala humidor. Only 250 humidors were created and each comes with 100 ALR Bala cigars. 

 

7-20-4 announced the new “Hustler Five & Dime” cigar. This is an extension to the Hustler series and is a 6 x 52 barber pole toro using Brazilian habano and Mexican San Andreas wrappers over Ecuadorian Sumatra binders and Nicaraguan/Pennsylvanian fillers.

 

There were plenty of other new releases and size extensions showcased but we feel like the above were most notable. As a media company and it being our first trade show, we were not able to get to all booths. Our apologies to those we missed! But there were some accessories too. One accessory that I really enjoyed was the new Space Odyssey collection from ST DuPont.

 

Aside from what was new and noteworthy, I did want to discuss the drama surrounding the end of what was a very pleasant show. A group picture of manufacturers was taken on the last day, and many of them re-posted the photo with the caption “If you aren’t here, you’re irrelevant.” This sparked a lot of backlash from those who didn’t attend, as it was perceived as an attack on anyone who doesn’t support the PCA. It would appear the message was meant for the “big four’ Davidoff, Drew Estate, Altadis, and General Cigar- not everyone. Very quickly apologies were issues and more well thought out captions took place. In this day people need to be very cautious in what they post- especially when it is necessary and more beneficial for us to be inclusive.

 

I have two things to note involving what I think could be improved on for future shows. First, there were a handful of exhibitors that decided to pack up and leave early. This should be addressed as there still are people conducting business and many media folks who are still creating content. One manufacturer in particular, Caldwell Cigars, left Monday afternoon. Leaving early wasn’t the many issues- they left behind a mess of packaging, cigar boxes and other trash/materials on their booth space. Taking it to the next level, a photo was taken and posted on Instagram with the following caption: “We left yesterday to get burritos. Thank you to the 73 retailers who attended the show this year. PCA2021.” Caldwell had a fairly simple booth in comparison to others- the lack of interest from attendees could have been chalked up to that. We approached them for an interview and information, but they seemed uninterested in chatting with us and Smokin Tabacco decided not to spend time forcing someone to do an interview. This was disappointing to see at the trade show and we expect exhibitors to be excited to educate newcomers on the
ir product. We hope that something can be implemented in the future by the PCA that would prevent people from packing up early. 

 

The second thing that seemed to be an issue were certain individuals who came in with badges from the manufacturers- but, were not associated with those brands at all. To attend the show you must be an exhibitor, retailer, distributor, or media company. This includes registering and paying membership dues to the PCA that go towards their legislative efforts. A few of these individuals claimed to be “media’ but were rejected from membership as they do not create a substantial amount of content to allow them access or membership. Some of them are media personal who are no longer active, Instagram influencers, and people with blogs that have very few posts. Some manufacturers complained that they treated booth space like a personal cigar lounge and took up limited seating that was meant for retailer attendees to conduct business. For one manufacturer, it even cost them a large sale. Many of these “media’ attendees walked the floor with cell phones creating subpar content. We are not the largest media company by any means, but we have invested thousands of dollars into professional video and audio equipment, subscriptions to editing and broadcasting software, and lawyers and fees so that we are a fully-fledged business. It’s hard enough to get time with manufacturers at these shows for us, without other people eating their time. Perhaps in the future they can create a “partial-media’ PCA membership so that the PCA can receive funds from these individuals and let them in for one or two days at the show rather than all four days. 

 

All in all, it was a decent show with a few things that can be improved on in the future. It was a visibly smaller show, but with plenty of action and business to be had. Again, most brands seemed to only showcase line extensions and some small PCA exclusives which is understandable as many are still trying to get caught up on production. Here’s to PCA 2022.  

                        – Matthew Tabacco

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