Skip Martin and RoMa Craft Tobac have announced plans to attend the Premium Cigar Association (PCA) Trade Show. Last week, four large companies: Altadis U.S.A., Davidoff, Drew Estate, and General Cigar Company announced they would not be attending the 2020 PCA Trade Show. This has led to many companies stating their attendance plans for the Trade Show. Many of these announcements have been done in the form of open letters.
While Cigar Coop has a general policy of not printing open letters, given the magnitude of this story we are printing those that address attendance at the PCA Trade Show.
The following is the text of Martin’s open letter posted to social media channels:
As I look back on the last twenty-five years and my time involved in the premium cigar industry, there are a few moments that stand out more than all of the others.
I vividly recall the experience of purchasing my first cigar at Emerson’s Norfolk in the Military Circle mall, a large Flor de Oliva, and walking through the mall smoking it proudly. I remember walking onto the RTDA trade show floor for the first time, as a consumer in Nashville, and how awe inspiring it was. My first Big Smoke in Washington DC was an amazing experience. My first trip to a cigar factory, receiving our first shipment of CroMagnon in Austin and the day we rolled our first cigar in my own factory are also indelible memories.
Of all of these milestones, one stands out more than the others and that is the day I put the RTDA (Retail Tobacco Dealers Association) sticker on the window of Hava Cigar Shop and Lounge in Galveston, Texas. I remember how proud I felt to be a part of this professional organization, and what this signified in terms of the faith placed in us to represent ourselves and our peers in the premium cigar industry.
Since that day in 2006, the RTDA became the IPCPR, and then later, the PCA. I’m a manufacturer and brand owner now, an exhibitor for the last eight years…but the 88th International Trade Show and Convention held this July will be my 15th to attend either as a consumer, a member of the media, a retailer, a brand owner or manufacturer.
I have seen the trade show in its growth transition during the boom…adjusting to demand at its peak, and sadly now struggling in its decline. I have seen the trade organization transition from a singular focus on the administration of the trade show, to an organization equally focused on addressing state and local challenges facing retailers, to an organization whose primary focus has been spearheading lobbying and legal efforts to win legislative relief for the industry as a whole.
There is no question that we as a group are at a crossroads where the actions of its leadership and members will determine the future viability of the organization, and perhaps the future of the premium cigar industry. As the leader of a company within this industry, I personally feel a certain amount of responsibility to do my part for the organization I feel best represents my interests, and the interests of my company, our employees, our retail partners and our end consumers.
The pragmatic reality, in my mind, is that the industry trade show model that worked well for us for more than eighty years will not work for us going forward. While we have been fortunate to be one of the busier teams at each show we have attended, there has been a measurable decline in interest and attendance among the retailers who are the focus of the show. A shift in the buying patterns of our retail partners, and the skyrocketing costs of exhibition have almost entirely erased the return on investment companies like ours have historically used to justify the annual expense of exhibiting at the show. As a sales and marketing expenditure, it is untenable.
However, it is more than that. The PCA depends on the profits from the trade show to fuel the aforementioned legal and legislative efforts. While it seems to have been lost in the noise of the recent announcement of our four largest exhibitors deciding not to participate in this year’s show, there was on the very same day a significant appeal for relief from the pending Substantial Equivalence deadline filed on our behalf based on the FDA’s recent announcement regarding their enforcement priorities. These types of activities happen almost every day, they are almost entirely funded by the various members of the PCA with trade show revenues, led by the professional staff of the PCA whose payrolls depend on trade show revenue and executed by firms paid primarily from trade show revenues.
As this is the case, I feel it would be irresponsible for us, at this time, to abandon our participation and contribution to the trade show that funds these efforts despite our concerns related to the poor execution of last year’s plan to increase consumer involvement and board governance.
RoMa Craft Tobac will be attending the 2020 PCA International Trade Show and Convention in July. We have decided to reduce our expenditures with a smaller, less complicated exhibit. We have also cancelled our plans for our annual party this year to decrease costs. Instead, we will be hosting an event in May for our retail partners and consumers to celebrate our 10th Anniversary at our headquarters in Austin, Texas.
We are very grateful to the PCA for all of their efforts to help us save our industry. It is out of respect for the organization, my personal sense of pride and loyalty as a member, and this gratitude that has driven this decision after a great deal of thought and discussion.
However, we must collectively address the real issues that exist with the economic viability.
The 2020 PCA Trade Show opens in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 10th.