For the eighth consecutive year, the Cigar Coop brand will be providing coverage of the International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers (IPCPR) Association Trade Show and Convention. We are proud to be a part of a very small group of media to say that. Our four-part series has you covered whether you are going to the show or following from home.


IPCPR 2017 Pre-Game – The Basics

In this installment, we review some of the basics about the show and hit some of the questions we’ve encountered in the past.

What is the IPCPR?

IPCPR stands for International Premium Cigar and Pipe Retailers. It is an organization for tobacco retailers and represents the interest of the tobacco retailers.  Previously, the organization was called RTDA (Retail Tobacco Dealers of America) until it was renamed in 2007.  By definition:

The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association is the oldest, largest and most active trade association representing and assisting retail tobacconists. IPCPR members include retail stores throughout the world selling tobacco products and accessories (premium cigars, tobacco pipes, loose tobacco, cigar and pipe accessories and gift items) as well as manufacturers, distributors and service providers of high quality merchandise.

What is the IPCPR Trade Show and Convention?

It is an annual gathering that provides an opportunity for cigar industry to showcase and sell products to cigar retailers. Typically cigar manufacturers will use this event to launch and showcase their latest products. Often “show deals” will be provided by manufacturers to offer incentives to buy product.

In addition, there are a series of educational seminars and social networking events. In recent years, the education piece has been more of a focus of the IPCPR. This education has been set up with the retailer in mind.

The Trade Show and Convention is an event geared specifically for retailers, manufacturers and service providers. All attendees, including members of the media, must be members of the IPCPR. The 2017 show is the 85th edition of this event.

When and where is this year’s Trade Show and Convention?

The Trade Show and Convention returns to Las Vegas for the second year in a row. It is also the fifth time in seven years it is being held in Vegas.

Earlier this year, word came that the Trade Show was moving from its usual location in Vegas at the Sands Expo Center to the Las Vegas Convention Center. This move also required the Trade Show to be moved up from the planned July 15 start date to a July 10th start date. Since last year’s show opened July 24th, this show is two weeks earlier than last year.

July 10-14, 2017
Las Vegas Convention Center
Las Vegas, Nevada

Some seminars and the opening day reception are being held nearby at the Westgate Hotel and Casino.

What is the agenda?

July 10th

As in previous years, the first day of the IPCPR Convention focuses on educational seminars. For the most part, these are typically geared to the retail community and have a mix of retail best practices and FDA compliance education.

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Manufacturer FDA Seminar

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM: Turn New Customers into Repeat Customers

3:00 PM – 4:00 PM: How to Survive and Thrive as a Tobacconist Today

5:00 PM – 6:00 PM: 2017 FDA Regulatory Compliance Update

6:30 PM – 10:00 PM Cocktail Reception

July 11th

The IPCPR Annual Meeting and Breakfast will feature Rudy Giuliani as the keynote speaker. It is also anticipated IPCPR will issue its “step up” awards to the retail and even manufacturer community. This is followed by the traditional opening of the Trade Show.

8:00 AM – 10:00 AM: IPCPR Annual Meeting and Breakfast

10:30 AM – 5:00 PM: Trade Show Opens with early 9:30 AM access to those who make PAC Donations

12:30 PM – 1:30 PM: IPCPR Lunch Time Learning Series – The Welcomer Edge: Unlocking the Secrets of Repeat Business

4:30 PM IPCPR Daily Raffle

July 12th

10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Trade Show Open

12:30 PM – 1:30 PM: IPCPR Lunch Time Learning Series – Retailers Best Practices Panel

4:00 PM: – State Association Cocktail Reception

4:30 PM: – IPCPR Daily Raffle

July 13th

10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Trade Show Open

12:30 PM – 1:30 PM IPCPR Lunch Time Learning Series – Cigar Aficionado Manufacturers Panel

4:30 PM: – IPCPR Daily Raffle

7:00 PM – 10:00 PM IPCPR Cigar Bash – featuring 38 Special

July 14th

90:00 AM – 1:00 PM Trade Show Open

12:30 PM: $10,000 Grand Prize Giveaway

IPCPR 2017 Pre-Game – Additional Thoughts

The following is an editorial piece. Except where noted, it represents the thoughts of this author and this author alone.

With the move to the Las Vegas Convention Center, where will the hub for after-hours activities be?

In previous years, since the Sands Expo Center was adjacent to the Venetian and Palazzo Hotels, those hotels served as hubs for after-hours activities and networking. In particular, the Bellini Bar (aka “Circle Bar”) at the Venetian and Laguna Champagne Bar at the Palazzo were popular because both allowed smoking.

This year, the Westgate Hotel will serve as the main host hotel for the IPCPR Trade Show. As a result, I anticipate the International Bar located just off the main lobby will take the place of the Bellini and Laguna Champagne Bars.

A second hotel where IPCPR attendees have received special rates is the Encore. The Encore is adjacent to the Wynn hotel.  I have not found these hotels to offer a wide selection of smoking lounges. While there are places to smoke, they lack the “lounge” feel of the International Bar of the Westgate. As a result, I expect there could be some overflow to the Davidoff Lounge located across the street – especially since Davidoff is hosting three after-hours events there during the IPCPR week.

Is the FDA the reason for an estimated reduction in attendance?

My answer: partially, but not entirely….

Before I answer further, let’s be clear. We do not know if attendance will be down. We will have to wait and see once the trade show opens, but the talk of attendees and exhibitors staying home seems to be getting a lot of chatter.

Some manufacturers have opted not to go to the trade show because of direct reasons related to the FDA.  Some do not have new product, and some have compliance costs they would rather put the money into.  These are impacting mostly small manufacturers and some retailers may stay home if their favorite small manufacturers are not at the show.  While this most likely won’t impact the segment of retailers with significant buying power, it could still affect attendance numbers.

There are also other reasons:

  1. California Cigar Tax: On July 1st, Proposition 56 will raise the tax on cigars by 153 percent, meaning it will be 69.2% of the wholesale cost. Faced with potentials of having to pay big tax bills, it is anticipated many retailers from California will stay home. Since California still is one of the largest markets for cigars, there are many retailers and this could be an impact.
  2. Change In Venue: The move from the Sands Expo Center to the Las Vegas Convention Center has not been completely popular. The Sands Expo Center was located adjacent to the Venetian Hotel and provided a central place for networking outside the show as well as access to the Las Vegas Strip. The move to the Convention Center will make both of those things more difficult.  On top of that, some of the smaller manufacturers who have opted to stay home have told Cigar Coop that they have been unhappy with the booth selection options they have been given for the new venue as opposed to the Sands Expo Center.
  3. (An incorrect) Perception that there is no “new” product. (We will cover this separately below)

Did you say last year you would no longer cover attendance?

Very true. Here were my words….

This will be the last time we will talk about attendance in our IPCPR coverage – ever. The conclusion I have reached is that there is no point. For one thing, while it is possible to get the attendance numbers, I’m not sure it does anything in the long run. In the end, the Trade Show is a selling event and unless the sales numbers are disclosed, there is really no point in having a debate. For example, Company XYZ has 50 retailers come to the booth and closes $50,000 in business. However, if 25 retailers come to the booth and the company closes $75,000.00 in business – which is the more successful booth day? To me, sales are what matters.

Flip flop?

The problem is that this year, the attendance question is so much in the forefront, it has been hard to avoid. That being said, because sales numbers will never be disclosed, we still believe it is a moot point chasing it down as ultimately sales numbers dictate the success of the show. As a result, we will not report on the attendance numbers.

You said last year there would be new product at IPCPR, but the news coming out has been slow…

True, and I stand by it.

First up, keep in mind that “new product” has a different meaning now. Under the FDA Regulations a new product introduced after August 8th, 2016, requires FDA pre-approval to go on the market. Those products introduced after February 15th, 2007 have until November 2018 to apply for an FDA pre-approval to remain on the market.

Because of that August 8th, 2016 date, many companies put product into the marketplace without any marketing or fanfare. The idea was to introduce it to before the deadline and then defer marketing and mainstream sales until a later date.  I call these “Stealth Products”. While there will likely never be as much new product announced as in 2016, I still stand by my assessment that there will be enough “new” product to keep us interested. I’ve heard enough “off the record” conversations to be sure some of these products will be at the show.

I don’t think Stealth Products have had a positive effect on the retail community. One retailer said to me, “why do I want to go to a show and see products when I can’t be sure what a manufacturer is showing will ever get to or remain on the market?“.

There has been a slow trickle of cigar news and I believe this has less to do with FDA and Stealth Products and more from a pushback from print media against online media. Based on what we are hearing from manufacturers, some larger print media outlets are now asking for exclusives for press information. In fact, we have been told by several manufacturers they could not give us information on what is being released at the trade show because they were waiting on print media to publish (plus an exclusivity window).  Back during the cigar boom, print media was the only way press information on new releases got published. Today in the internet age, online media has been able to publish press information within a matter of minutes, and it has put pressure on print media outlets. As a result, print media has pushed for exclusives and the heat has been turned up on online media.

Whether the manufacturers realize it or not, I believe the introduction of Stealth Products combined with a slow trickle of information is having more of an impact on the trade show than people think.

Many will argue that IPCPR still is a buying event and not an expo event. This is true, but few small retailers are in a position to make large purchases, instead using the event for networking and education. As one retailer told me, a big component of the “education” is not the seminars, but learning about new product. If there is uncertainty about this, then he is reluctant to incur costs to go.

Are Early Show Specials hurting IPCPR attendance?

With IPCPR being a trade show, many manufacturers offer “show specials” to retailers who buy at the show. In recent years, it has become more common for these specials to be honored pre or post IPCPR – regardless of whether the retailer attends the show or not.

Yes it’s a problem, and unfortunately it is not going to ever go away. The month before the show, it is challenging for many sales teams in the cigar industry to make numbers, as IPCPR is often looming with big specials. Many retailers choose to wait as there is usually more incentive to do so. Good or bad, the early show specials have been a way to counter this problem.

Sometimes companies offer exclusive limited product to those who attend the show. In the end, I don’t think this has an impact and hasn’t really created enough buzz on attendance at the show.

What do the new FDA regulations mean for free samples?

For at least this year, free samples are allowed. This is covered by a “Business to Business Exchange in the FDA’s Draft Guidance on Free Samples of Tobacco Products.

As per the IPCPR:

Under FDA’s guidance, it is permissible for a business to distribute free samples in a limited quantity (i.e., no more than necessary to achieve a business or marketing goal, such as awareness of and exposure to the product for the purposes of product or inventory selection) to another business as part of a genuine effort to sell or market a tobacco product to that business.

There still is some gray area here, but samples will be given out at the Trade Show. Keep in mind this is still “draft” guidance and it could change before it becomes final guidance.

Isn’t media at IPCPR just for free samples?

Fake News.

Many retailers and even some manufacturers still believe media attends the show for the free samples. As we discussed in 2015, Cigar Coop incurs a considerable cost to cover the IPCPR Trade Show. Many online media outlets also invest considerable time and money to come to IPCPR and while free samples help offset some operating costs, it is not a driving factor for any of these outlets being there. I have pretty much given up arguing with the retail community. By now I had hoped that the quality coverage that Cigar Coop and many media outlets do would have proved my point.

These days, it seems IPCPR gets blamed for everything that goes wrong, and this is unfair. However, if there is one area where I will level criticism, it is the IPCPR’s ban on media asking for free samples. This is a policy that I have stated is outdated and not in line with other industry trade organizations where online media is present. I believe that if free samples are ultimately allowed at the trade show under the new FDA regulations, IPCPR needs to do away with media restriction of asking for samples for future trade shows. While Cigar Coop disagrees with the policy, we have also complied with it.

Some can argue that established media should have no problem getting samples. Again, I point to other industry trade shows and I would challenge one to find me another industry trade show where requesting samples (regulations permitting) is not allowed for the media. There is no reason why the cigar industry cannot be in line with other industries.

One side note. Unlike many media outlets, Cigar Coop will rarely use the IPCPR samples for cigar reviews. We will smoke IPCPR samples to get a feel for the smoking experience. We feel the conditions many of these samples are subject to are not ideal for our comprehensive review format. We disclose this policy when we are offered samples.

How easy is it to smoke in Las Vegas?

While Las Vegas offers more in the way of areas to smoke than New Orleans, it is getting increasingly more difficult to find a place to enjoy a cigar. This is not your father’s Las Vegas.

For starters, getting a smoking room in a hotel is more difficult. In fact a little over a year ago, MGM Resorts changed all of their properties to have smoke-free hotel rooms. While you can still obtain a smoking room at certain hotels, it’s becoming more and more difficult. In fact, I’ve also found that some of the travel websites are not correct on whether a hotel has smoking rooms available or not. My advice, call the hotel directly to check the availability of smoking rooms and make sure you have one reserved.

I believe there are two factors driving hotel rooms to become smoke-free. First, I believe the anti-tobacco movement is at play here. Second, I think the hotels prefer to have people smoking on the casino floor rather than being tucked away in a hotel room away from the temptation to spend money. The reduction in smoking rooms has impacted the availability of hospitality suites during the trade show.

I am also noticing that the casinos, lounges, and restaurants are reducing the space where you can smoke. It seems like each year, there are more “smoke-free” areas popping up in the casinos and lounges. In fact, over the past three years, I’ve seen a great reduction in smoking areas. The majority of the sports book areas are now smoke-free. As for a restaurant – good luck finding one where you can smoke. And it’s not just the indoor areas, I’ve seen several areas that had restrictions in some of the outdoor areas as well.

I’d also like to note that casinos consider the smoking areas to be one size fits all. Cigar and pipe smokers will be mixed in with cigarette smokers. Not an ideal arrangement for many cigar enthusiasts.

If all seems like it is bad news, the good news is there are some premium cigar lounges where you can enjoy a cigar. The strip is now home to cigar bars such as Casa Fuente, Davidoff, and Montecristo. While you will pay “Las Vegas” prices for your cigar, the good news is you will be in a cigar-friendly environment where you can also enjoy a fine spirit.

What about the booths?

Some are very simple with a table and a chair or two, others are elaborate.  This really gives the trade show its own signature. With the challenges regulation is putting in terms of creativity and innovation in the cigar industry, it’s nice to see the booths continue to have charm.

IPCPR gives awards to small, medium, and large-sized booths each year.


Can anyone go to the IPCPR Convention and Trade show?

No, it is not open to the public. This is strictly enforced by the IPCPR. In fact, the messaging is “consumers are not welcome”.   There is a reason for this – and it goes back to the fact that while on the surface it might seem like an Expo, it still very much is a retail buying show.

In 2013, IPCPR considered a Consumer Day. It was quickly defeated. As much as we know consumers want to come (the trade show floor a great thing to see), it just wouldn’t work. We gave our thoughts here on we felt this was the right decision.

How is Cigar Coop getting into the show?

We are considered Internet Media members of IPCPR and have credentials to cover the Trade Show.

Isn’t there friction between the IPCPR and Internet Media?

Fake News.

As we have stated in the past, we consider this more of a few isolated cases with specific media outlets and are not making judgment either way. We have covered the show for seven years and have had a positive experience each year. We have been welcomed each of the past seven years, and we appreciate the support IPCPR has given us.

How does Cigar Coop cover the IPCPR Trade Show?

2017 will see some considerable changes to our coverage strategy. We will cover this in our July “Editor’s Corner”.

Other Installments of the IPCPR Pre-Game Series

6/25 A Look at This Year’s Trade Show and Convention
7/2 The Trends to Watch
7/9 Predictions for the Five Hottest Cigars
7/11 Around the Show Floor