For the tenth 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 for the 2019 IPCPR Trade Show has you covered whether you are going to the show or following from home.

IPCPR 2019 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 interests of 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 the 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 2019 show is the 87th edition of this event.

When and Where is This Year’s Trade Show and Convention?

June 28th – July 2, 2019
Sands Expo Center
Las Vegas, Nevada

The Trade Show and Convention will be in Las Vegas for the third year in a row. This the sixth time in eight years it is being held in Vegas.

In 2017 the Trade Show moved from its usual location in Vegas at the Sands Expo Center to the Las Vegas Convention Center. The move has not been popular with many attendees due to the fact the Convention Center is not on the Las Vegas Strip. Last year it was announced that the Trade Show was moving back to the Sands Expo Center for 2019 and 2020.

The Sands Expo Center is connected to the Venetian and Palazzo hotel properties.

IPCPR Officers/Board of Directors

Every other year on an odd-numbered year, the IPCPR selects a new set of officers. This year it is expected that a new IPCPR President will be selected as well as new board members. Officers are selected for a two-year term. Ken Neumann is the current IPCPR President and his term comes to an end at the IPCPR Trade Show. It is anticipated that IPCPR Vice President John Anderson will succeed him, as typically the Vice President has succeeded an IPCPR President.

Smoking Policies

Smoking, in general, is getting more difficult in Las Vegas every year. Much of this is due to a combination of pressure from anti-smoking groups combined with opposition to the increased use of legalized marijuana in the state of Nevada. As a result, the Sands Expo Center has strictly limited smoking to designated smoking areas in the facility.

While smoking is allowed on the trade show floor during trade show hours, it is prohibited in common areas, hallways, registration areas, meeting rooms, ballrooms, guest rooms, and any other non-designated smoking areas in the Sands and adjacent Venetian and Palazzo hotels.

IPCPR has stated that the rules will be strictly enforced and that fines could be as much $7,500, removal from the show, and potential banning from future shows. With increased scrutiny of smoking in prohibited areas, it will be interesting to see what level of enforcement comes from IPCPR on this.

Since this year smoking will be prohibited in the meeting rooms, one big change trade show seminars will no longer take place there. Instead, seminars will be held in areas adjacent to the trade show floor.

2019 Agenda and Schedule

Note: This is the schedule as reported at press time.

June 28th

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

For the third year in a row, General Cigar Company is sponsoring the opening night cocktail reception. Since General Cigar company has listed its Cohiba brand as an IPCPR sponsor, it is expected that Cohiba will be the featured brand. In previous years, General Cigar has unveiled a new release at that year’s opening night reception.

The wildcard for this day is the “Major Announcement from IPCPR” which in all the previous nine years Cigar Coop has covered the Trade Show is something we haven’t seen before.

11 am – 12 pm: Manufacturers Seminar

12:45 pm – 1 pm Retailers Kickoff to Education! – Hall C

1 pm – 2 pm Retailer Education Sessions I – Hall C

215 pm – 3:15 pm Retailer Education Sessions II – Hall C

3:30 pm – 5 pm Federal Affairs Update – Hall C

5:15 pm – 5:45 pm: Major Announcement from IPCPR

6:30 pm – 10 pm: Opening Party sponsored by Cohiba – Hall C

June 29th

At the IPCPR Annual Meeting and Breakfast, the new Board of Directors will be announced.

The Breakfast will also feature Ken Schmidt, former Director of Communications of Harley Davidson as the keynote speaker. It is anticipated that IPCPR will issue its “Step Up” awards to the retail and/or manufacturer community. This is followed by the traditional opening of the Trade Show.

8:00 AM – 9:30 AM: IPCPR Annual Meeting and Breakfast – Hall C

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: Lunchtime Learning: TECH Talks – Changing the Game with Innovative Technology – Hall C

4:30 PM: IPCPR Daily Raffle

June 30th

10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Trade Show Open

12:30 PM – 1:30 PM: Lunchtime Learning: Cigar Aficionado Manufacturer’s Panel – Hall C

3:00 PM – Best in Show Awards Announced – Trade Show Floor

4:00 PM: – 1st Annual STATE FAIR and PAC-a-Palooza! – Government Affairs Booth

4:30 PM: – IPCPR Daily Raffle

July 1st

10:00 AM – 5:00 PM Trade Show Open

12:30 PM – 1:30 PM Lunchtime Learning for Retailers: Managing Cigar Events – Hall C

4:30 PM: – IPCPR Daily Raffle

July 2nd

9:00 AM – 1:00 PM Trade Show Open

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

IPCPR 2019 Pre-Game – Additional Thoughts and FAQs

The following is an editorial piece. Except where noted, it represents the thoughts of this author and this author alone. These are listed in no particular order.

1. What is the Major Announcement from IPCPR?

(Updated 6/20/19)

When the Trade Show schedule was first announced, IPCPR put on the schedule that there will be a major announcement at 5:15pm Pacific Time on June 28th. On June 19th, IPCPR Executive Director Scott Pearce hosted a short livestream on Facebook and announced that IPCPR will be going through a rebranding. At the time he said this would include a name change and a fundamental change to the framework of the organization. Peace also stated the actual name and details around it would not be revealed until the major announcement. However, this ultimately resorted in opening Pandora’s box.

The plan originally was to use the June 19th Facebook livestream to generate some interest for the June 28th “Major Announcement” which would reveal the name change and roll out the details. The problem was that announcing a name change is not something that could not be kept a secret. Those in the cigar industry are very familiar with trademark searches, and it prompted many to search for trademarks the IPCPR had. As a result, later in the day, word leaked out of the name change to “Premium Cigar Association” (PCA).

Before the end of the day, confirmed the name change would be to the Premium Cigar Association and reported that the first day of the 2020 Trade Show would be changed to a Consumer-oriented event known as CigarCon. Due to legal restrictions, no Trade Show activity (i.e. wholesale buying) would take place on that day. Instead, the actual Trade Show component would take place on Days 2 through 4, which Day 4 being expanded to a full day as opposed to the usual half day. From discussions Cigar Coop has had with industry people close to the situation, we can confirm the accuracy of most of this information. The IPCPR itself has not confirmed nor denied the report.

The name change and consumer event reflects a movement within IPCPR to expand its mission beyond serving the retailers. Over the past year, evidence of this movement has been seen – namely with the launch of represents a grassroots effort by the IPCPR to inform consumers and launch calls to action against the many regulatory challenges the industry faces.

Ultimately the IPCPR has now created a public relations disaster heading into the trade show. Over the ten years, Cigar Coop has covered the Trade Show, a Consumer event has always been the most controversial argument. It’s clear from the Halfwheel report and our conversations with manufacturers and retailers that many are not on board. Unfortunately, now the messaging IPCPR hoped to introduce directly to its members and the media has been taken out of its own hands. As a result, the organization is going to spend the time between now and the “Major Announcement” doing lots of damage control.

This is unfortunate because 2018 saw a positive vibe heading into the start of Trade Show – most notably due to the premiere of Hand Rolled and Marcus Luttrell’s keynote address.


2. How easy is it to smoke in Las Vegas?

As mentioned above, there are increased smoking restrictions at the Venetian/Sands/Palazzo. This is reflection of a trend I noticed two years ago. Here is what I wrote:

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 revamped 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. There is probably more demand for hospitality suites that allow smoking since it is banned almost everywhere, but there are fewer suites which allow smoking.

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.

3. Will Bar Luca replace the Laguna Champagne Bar as the after-hours Hub?

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. The last couple of years IPCPR was at the Sands, the Laguna Champagne Bar emerged as the defacto after-hours hub.

The former Laguna Champagne Bar; Photo Credit: The Palazzo

In the autumn of 2017, the Laguna Champagne Bar was shut down as part of a major renovation that the Palazzo underwent. Arguably, the Laguna Champagne Bar was the most popular after-hours gathering spot for IPCPR attendees because of its proximity to the Sands Expo Center. This was enhanced by the fact it allowed smoking, served drinks, had couches, and was open 24 hours.

The Palazzo

The area where the Laguna Champagne Bar once stood

A new 24-hour casino floor bar called Bar Luca replaced the Laguna Champagne Bar, but it had more of a sports bar feel. The Bellini Bar is still open.

Even with the move to the Las Vegas Convention Center in 2017, the Laguna Champagne Bar remained popular. Part of the reason is many people had hotel reservations at the Venetian and Palazzo Hotels at the time the Trade Show was moved from the Sands to the Las Vegas Convention Center. Last year, for the most part, the show was detached from the Venetian and Palazzo, so Bar Luca didn’t become that hub. It will be interesting to see if Bar Luca becomes that hub with the show now back in the proximity of these hotels.

4. Will this year’s show dates impact attendance?

In 2016 I said I would no longer cover specific attendance numbers, but last year IPCPR took a more pro-active approach to reporting the attendance numbers, and I felt it was time to change my policy. Following the 2018 Trade Show, this is how we summed it up based on the attendance numbers.

Overall IPCPR is reporting attendance numbers were increased by 3.3%, with an increase in retailer badges by 6.6%. While IPCPR has disclosed the overall numbers, a breakdown of the foot traffic per day was not provided. It is this author’s assessment that the numbers were accurately reflected from looking at Day One, but as consumers left the show, the numbers diminished.

While IPCPR doesn’t report a breakdown of foot traffic, my observation was many attendees came in for Saturday and Sunday, but returned home on Monday and Tuesday. Once again the show takes place from Saturday to Tuesday.

The June 28 through July 2nd dates have been controversial this year. Many retailers consider the July 4th holiday period to be very important to retail sales  Add on top of it many graduations in the northeast are at the end of June and it is believed this timeframe could lead to a decrease in attendance this year.

5. Are early show specials hurting IPCPR attendance?

Same story as last year:

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.

6. Is the TAA Convention in the Spring affecting IPCPR Sales?

Many manufacturers have also told Cigar Coop that the Tobacconist Association of America (TAA) Convention that takes place in the Spring has affected sales at the IPCPR Trade Show,

The TAA retailers represent a powerful segment of the buying power of the retailers. Each year at the TAA conference, there is an opportunity for these retailers to make large volume purchases at a substantial discount. Not every manufacturer or brand goes to the TAA, however those who do not go told me that they believe the large volume purchases are impacting the annual budgets of many of these retailers going into IPCPR. As a result, they feel it is impacting sales at the IPCPR Trade Show.

7. I keep hearing some media and pundits say there is no new product, but all I see are new product announcements prior to the show.

Same story as last year:

Two words – Fake News.

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.

Keep in mind several companies are reintroducing “grandfathered products” – i.e. those introduced before February 15, 2007, which were somehow discontinued since then. Some, like Illusione and now Alan Rubin of Alec Bradley have acquired somewhat dormant grandfathered blends.

Many companies are taking advantage of the ability to rebrand products. This came about in 2016 as the result of a court decision that labeling changes do not constitute a packaging change. Many grandfathered products and even pre-August 8th products are now being rebranded, cleaned up, and released as something different.

8. What do the FDA Regulations mean for free samples?

We covered this one last year as well. Free samples are 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.

9. Isn’t cigar media at IPCPR just for free samples?

Ongoing Fake News. We have covered this past two years:

Many retailers and even some manufacturers still believe media attend 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 quite a bit of 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 some 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.

Under the B to B rules, it has been clarified media can receive samples.

10. Can anyone go to the IPCPR Convention and Trade Show?

While a consumer day appears to be coming next year, in the meantime consumers cannot attend the trade show. The trade show is only open to IPCPR members, including those of the media. The irony is that the current messaging states “consumers are not welcome.”. This is because the 2019 IPCPR is still very much a retail buying show..

It will be interesting to see how the “consumers are not welcome” changes with the 2020 PCA Trade Show.

11. How does Cigar Coop’s IPCPR coverage differ from other media outlets?

Cigar Coop is one of the few media brands devoted to comprehensive product coverage. Many media outlets have focused more on personality coverage of the trade show. Over the years, Stogie Review and Cigar Federation have provided this type of content through video coverage  It is expected Cigar Dojo will pick up video coverage with Rob Rasmussen (formally of Cigar Federation) joining the team.

Cigar Coop will continue its focus on product coverage. This will be done through product reports and booth coverage. Our goal with the booth coverage is not to report on booth size or foot traffic, nor is it to rehash the detailed product coverage. A big component to our booth coverage will be to try to look at a theme the company is trying to accomplish and provide a high-level view of what each company is trying to accomplish. Outside of Cigar Coop, Halfwheel, and Cigar Aficionado, product coverage has been on the decline – and that is somewhat concerning.

Last year the big change we made was increasing our booth coverage up to 71 booths. Our goal is to get closer to the 100 number. Both I and Bear Duplisea will be visiting the booths in parallel, and while 100 is an ambitious goal, we are going to strive for it.

12. Will Prime Time be doing any broadcasts from the Trade Show?

It was considered this year, but ultimately a decision has been made not to do this.

Logistically it is challenging to do a live show during the trade show business hours as many companies are more focused on sales and marketing. Plus, we find bringing the guests into a more relaxed atmosphere such as Prime Time or Special Edition makes for a better broadcast.

We considered an option to secure floor space to set up a potential area to do a podcast. We ultimately ruled against it as the costs did not justify the ROI. There are costs for the floor space as well as costs for internet and electricity. Even if IPCPR covered some of these costs for media, there are other logistical problems.

The 3 1/2 days are for business between retailers and companies. Our experience with multi-vendor events is that to get guests to a podcast area would be an impossible and thankless task. While it was considered for recaps, it would involve bringing in a larger team to accomplish this – and once again this simply was not a viable option from a cost justification standpoint.

We did consider an offsite podcast, but the same problems of prying guests away from the trade show floor remains a challenge. As I have noted in the past, most of the cigar industry still has not figured out how to leverage cigar media at events.

Other Installments of the IPCPR Pre-Game Series


Feature Stories

6/16 A Look at This Year’s Trade Show and Convention
6/23 The Trends to Watch
6/28 Predictions for the Five Hottest Cigars
6/29 The Big Board

Photo Credits: Cigar Coop, except where noted