A major announcement came today from the Premium Cigar Association (PCA) in regards to the 2024 Trade Show moving its dates to March 22-25, 2024 and its location to the Las Vegas Convention Center. In terms of what this could mean, here are some thoughts.
The industry calendar is going to be very crowded for the first 12 to 15 weeks of next year
The move of the PCA Trade Show means the biggest and most important cigar event will be moving from summer to spring, right in the midst of other big industry events.
The following are events that will take place between January 1 through early April:
- Total Product Expo (TPE)
- Factory Visits
- The Great Smoke
- Cigar Aficionado Big Smoke
- Underground NFG
- Premium Cigar Association Trade Show and Convention
In most cases, if you have a role in the cigar industry, you won’t have to attend all of these events. But it’s reasonable that people in some positions will want to attend most of the events. No doubt this will still put a strain on many manufacturers. In the end, all of these events log-jammed in the first 12 to 15 weeks of the year is NOT a good thing.
I don’t see many of these other events switching times – at least in the short term. Some of these events are harder to move than others. The festivals and factory visits are timed to avoid the rainy season and to coincide with the crop harvests in these countries.
Festival del Habano also takes place during the first part of the year, but except for some media, this probably won’t contribute to a log jam. Many companies also use January for “National Sales Meetings.” It is worth noting that many companies use January “National Sales Meetings” as a time to bring their sales teams to production facilities located in Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.
Not included on this list is the Tobacconists Association of America (TAA) Trade Show. This is an event that takes place in the spring season and is something that would be in direct conflict with the PCA Trade Show. The PCA noted in their announcement that the TAA supported the change in dates for the PCA Trade Show, leading one to believe the TAA is going to change the time of the year they will be scheduling their show.
The change in dates will not be a silver bullet for the Trade Show Itself
We all know that no matter what date the PCA picks for its Trade Show and Convention, someone will have a problem with it.
I’m not sure how big the sentiment was against the early July dates. There have been grumblings, but it’s hard to actually quantify how many were very displeased with those dates. The age of social media can make the words of a small group seem bigger. There was a survey of the attendees after last year’s trade show where the results supported keeping a July Trade Show at the Sands Expo Center. However, I’ve been told there was another survey that went out that supported moving the dates and potentially moving the venue.
The move to the spring for the PCA Show is not a surprise. Back at the 2022 Trade Show, PCA floated the idea of a Spring 2024 trade show for New Orleans, but in the end, the PCA chose to keep the show in Las Vegas for another year. Since the idea of a spring show was announced, I’ve heard much talk about this among industry personnel and retailers. During these talks, I’ve heard concerns about this conflicting potentially with March Madness, The Masters, Spring Break, and potentially Easter. It re-emphasizes my point that no matter what the PCA did, they woud be criticized.
Most of this move I believe was about getting the Trade Show out of the Sands Expo Center, as from my understanding, the Sands has been difficult to work with.
A major trade show in the summer is no more
For as long as I have been covering the IPCPR and PCA Trade Shows, a ritual of the summer months has been the cigar industry holding its annual trade show. The announcement by the PCA today now has changed that. I don’t see any way that it returns to the summer months in the upcoming years.
Much of the clamoring for this change is that it will allow for products showcased at the Trade Show to be introduced to market early in the year.
Many companies in the cigar industry have used the PCA Trade Show to launch new products. The past few years the competing TPE Trade Show has offered incentives to manufacturers to introduce new products at its show which is usually held in January. This has had what I consider to be lackluster results. Some of this is due to loyalty to the PCA (namely still using the PCA Trade Show for major releases). Some of this is due to the product planning cycle.
Companies often schedule and plan releases one to two years in advance. Over the next couple of years, I don’t see companies making changes to these cycles. Eventually, as the spring trade show becomes more of a reality, they will. Meanwhile, over the next couple of years, companies will showcase their new products in the spring, but until product cycles adjust to the spring Trade Show, many of these still probably won’t arrive on shelves until the last three to four months of the year.
For at least the next nine months, retailers will probably also make adjustments on their buying cycles. From July 2023 through March 2024, there will be at least three trade shows (July ’23 PCA, Jan ’24 TPE, Mar ’24 PCA). It’s possible some retailers skip a show, but ultimately many retailers have limited budgets and this may result in decreasing buying at each of these shows.
PCA vs. TPE
While I don’t think either organization will ever admit it, the PCA and TPE are in competition and now the move of PCA to the spring puts this competition into the spotlight.
The toughest year in the history of the Trade Show was likely 2019. Following this trade show, the Big Four (Altadis, Davidoff, Drew Estate, and Scandinavian Tobacco Group) announced they were withdrawing from participating in the Trade Show. It was at that point TPE began a campaign to position its show as another option to the PCA Trade Show. This has involved offering incentives to retailers and media in order to get them to attend TPE. As mentioned, there were also incentives for manufacturers to introduce new products at TPE.
In 2021, TPE was pushed six weeks before PCA due to rescheduling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This set up the closest head-to-head battle between the two trade shows to date.
It’s fair to say PCA has weathered the storm – and has also defended its position. On their website, they state: “The only show of its’ kind, the PCA Show is put on by The Premium Cigar Association, and is the only event of its kind that puts ALL proceeds back into representing and advocating for its members. While other trade shows exist simply to make a profit, the PCA Trade Show offers an unmatched buying/selling event while simultaneously unifying and strengthening our industry—the premium cigar and pipe tobacco family.” In addition, despite the TPE’s temporary move, it’s fair to say PCA had a bounce-back show in 2021 and that continued into 2022.
One other note: while the Big Four have not fully returned to PCA; only Altadis and Drew Estate have invested heavily in TPE.
The move to the spring by PCA now is going to heat up this competition. Based on 2021 and the momentum of the last two years, PCA is going to have the edge here. Whether TPE goes further with incentives or punts later in the year remains to be seen. TPE won’t change dates next year (January 31 to February 2), and my gut tells me they will use the fact they are the first trade show of the year and keep going in January.
A potential change in host cities could be the bigger discussion point
There is no bigger drama in the cigar industry than over where the PCA Trade Show is held. Next year’s move to the Las Vegas Convention Center will be interesting. While I understand the Sands was a difficult place to do business, attendees were never happy with the 2017 and 2018 Trade shows at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Most of this was due to the host hotels not being as nice as the Palazzo/Venetian.
Perhaps a bigger discussion that is on the horizon is where will the 2025 Trade Show be. The PCA has said it is currently negotiating a contract for the 2025 show in a new location. This past summer New Orleans was floated as a potential place, and that could become a lightning rod if that is announced as the host for the 2025 show.
PCA has been criticized and beaten up for many years about the Trade Show being in the summer, and they have now acted on it. My understanding is the Sands Expo simply was not the ideal place to do business. Personally, I have not liked the log jam of the first quarter of the year in terms of major industry events. Our industry would be better served spreading the events out over the whole year. The reality is that is not going to happen. In the end, I’ll take a wait-and-see approach and see how things pan out.
New Orleans for PCA ’25.
Bring it to the South!