PCA 2024 Pre-Game The Analysis


PCA 2024 Pre-Game – The Pre-Show Analysis

For the 14th year, the Cigar Coop brand will provide coverage of the Premium Cigar Association (PCA) Trade Show and Convention. This is also the 14th consecutive Trade Show we are covering, and we are proud to be a part of a tiny group of media to say that. Our four-part series for the 2024 PCA Trade Show has you covered whether you are going to the Show or following from home. 

In this installment, we analyze some things in preparation for the Trade Show. I present nine questions in no particular order.

What will this be the “Year of”?

PCA 2024 Pre-Game The Analysis

Answer: My vote is for Year of the Unbanded Sample

Every year at the PCA Trade Show, there looks to be a different theme or trend. Over the past few weeks, some of the following have emerged:

  • Year of the Limited Edition: Limited Editions are elementary to deliver. Many of them already exist in factories in aging rooms. This quickly answers the question of What’s New?
  • Year of the Lancero:  In a year where there are expected to be fewer product releases at PCA, this could be the time we see companies drop lanceros. Companies love doing lanceros; this is the perfect year to drop them.
  • Year of the Anniversary Cigar: In terms of anniversary releases, the Padrón 60th anniversary will lead the way, with La Flor Dominicana (30th) as a close second. Other anniversaries include E.P. Carrillo (15th), Kristoff (20th), La Gianna Havana (30th), and Topper (130th).
  • Year of the Shop Exclusive: This was Aaron Loomis of Developing Palates’ pick. What better way to generate sales than to dangle a store exclusive in front of a retailer? I’m not sure how many of these will make the show floor, but I totally see the logic from viewing the year as a whole.
  • Year of the Unbanded Sample: With a shorter cycle to get products out, I can see samples and packaging being harder to come by. My gut tells me folks should take a Sharpie to the Trade Show so they can keep track of the many unbanded cigars.
  • Year of the Sampler: Like limited editions, samplers are easy to put together and solve the problem of “What’s New?”
  • Year of the Dragon: All of the cool kids are doing it.

While a case can be made for any of these, I think it’s most likely people will be taking home more unbanded cigars than ever. I also think there will be several instances where the packaging will be incomplete. This will probably be the most remembered thing about the 2024 Premium Trade Show.

Will the calendar change impact attendance positively or negatively?

PCA 2024 Pre-Game The Analysis

Answer: Reports are retailer registration badges are on the rise, but I still wonder how this will translate to foot traffic on the floor.

For the past few years, I have tried to compare badges to foot traffic. Some of the reports I have heard from the PCA indicate that badge numbers are trending very positively. I’m still curious how the final numbers will flush out and where things land. My feeling is that if the PCA can get close to 2,400 badges, that would be a double-digit increase and a resounding success.

I have also stated many times that badge numbers don’t tell the story of foot traffic – namely, how many people are on the show floor at a particular moment. If you look at previous trade shows, there has been a decrease in foot traffic each day. From talking to many retailers, this has to do with many simply not able to spend money for a 3 1/2 day trade show. I would expect no changes here – namely, foot traffic will be reduced each year. The big question is, despite a decrease each day, will these days still have more foot traffic than last year?

With the last half day eliminated, what should we expect?

PCA 2024 Pre-Game The Analysis

Answer: Some manufacturers/exhibitors will still begin packing up around 2 pm on Monday

Many retailers have told me in the past that they cannot afford to be on the show floor buying for three and a half days. This has led to low foot traffic on the last day of PCA.

As I said above, many retailers have told me that their buying spree is often over after two days. My feeling is that there could still be a significant decrease in foot traffic on Day Three. In turn, I can also see some manufacturers still trying to close up in the afternoon of Day Three instead of waiting until the 5 p.m. show close.

From what I understand, manufacturers are contracted to stay at the show until the 5 pm closing on the final day. I understand there are times manufacturers could have a personal reason to leave early, but we have seen plenty of cases where companies have shut down shop early. I hope most manufacturers and brands stick around until the closing bell. I’m just not overly confident that will happen.

Fewer products have been announced. Is this a one-time thing?

PCA 2024 Pre-Game The Analysis


Answer: Yes

I believe this will be a one-time thing. While some would argue manufacturers had a full year in advance to be prepared for products at this year’s show, the reality is that product development cycles are longer than this. I expect that by next year, the number of products at the PCA Trade Show will return to the numbers we have seen over the past few years.

Some of the companies that have been ready to go told me they did hold back from releasing some products in anticipation of the shorter turnaround time for the 2024 PCA Trade Show.

I still would expect a lot of those “unbanded” samples to be handed out—simply because, in most of these cases, it is the packaging delays that are impacting new product announcements.

What should we expect from the Spirits Pavilion?

PCA 2024 Pre-Game The Analysis

Image Credit: PCA Show Floor Map

Answer: The PCA is starting small in scope and launching this initial concept. This is a good thing.

From my discussions with Scott Pearce over the years, I know this is something he has wanted to introduce. This year, it is finally going to happen. PCA is going to start small. At press time, there were three vendors with spots in the Spirits Pavilion. Personally, I think this is a smart move, as it essentially gives PCA a manageable scope to introduce this concept and then build on it in the future.

The three spirits vendors include Flor de Caña Rum, E. León Jimenes Rum, and Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey. Flor de Caña is a staple rum from Nicaragua, while E. León Jimenes is a staple rum from the Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, Tennessee’s Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey represents the U.S. in the Spirits Pavilion. Flor de Caña has supported many cigar events (and festivals), as has E. León Jimenes through the ties with La Aurora. This might be small, but I’m pretty optimistic about this. The opportunity certainly exists to grow this.

Will the Best of the Leaf Awards Ceremony Take Off?

Image Credit: PCA

Answer: I’m worried this could be a miss for several reasons

This year, PCA has set up a retailer awards recognition program called “Best of the Leaf.” The program is described as:

The PCA Best of the Leaf Awards recognizes retailers who have demonstrated the highest standards of excellence in aesthetics, merchandising, humidor selection and presentation, and customer service.

The goal of the PCA Best of the Leaf Awards is to recognize and support excellent retail operators around the country and showcase the best of specialty tobacco retailing.

The PCA has an Awards Ceremony planned for Sunday, March 24, at 6 pm, right after the Trade Show closes. This is a terrific concept, but I’m worried about how well this will be attended. For starters, this will follow a long day on the floor for many. In addition, many retail attendees may have dinners scheduled with manufacturers.

In general, I’m not sure how keen some retailers are about recognizing what ultimately are their competitors. While I got some pushback on our most recent Prime Time Media Panel Show, I still think this award would benefit more from recognizing cigars, brands, industry people, and retailers. Perhaps this is something for the future.

In terms of buzz, I simply do not see the excitement involving this event.

One final note: I’m not sure how many manufacturers will attend the awards. From my understanding, the annual CRA meeting involving many manufacturers takes place at the same time as Best of the Leaf.

I think this could be a miss for 2024. At the same time, I don’t think it needs to be punted on. I do like the concept and hope it expands to more than retailers. Perhaps this concept should be done in conjunction with the Opening Gala.

Will attendees embrace the Las Vegas Convention Center this time?

Photo Credit: The Cigar Shop

Answer: I expect some complaints, but for logistical reasons, not facility-related.

There were complaints in 2017 and 2018 when the then-IPCPR Trade Show was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. For the most part, the problem was not at the Convention Center itself but more around the logistics of it.

The Venetian provided a central hub for a convention center, host hotel, restaurants, and social gatherings (i.e., Bar Luca and the Champagne Bar). The host hotels are primarily the Westgate and Resorts World. Westgate was an ok hotel back when the show was held at the Convention Center. Back then, it was a hotel undergoing renovations and simply didn’t have the amenities that the Venetian had. It’s my understanding there have been renovations over the past few years.

PCA has added Resorts World as a host hotel. However, from what I understand, staying there will require some time to get to and from the Convention Center. The Vegas Loop, an underground system where Tesla Cars can transport people from Resorts World to the Convention Center, has been implemented. While I’ve heard it’s fairly efficient and quick, it still is not the same as having the setup like the Venetian, where everything is in one place. One concern I had is from looking at the schedule: the Vegas Loop might be closed on 3/22/24, the pre-trade show day.

Resorts World will offer two cigar bar options on a host property this year. These bars are Gatsby and Eight Lounge. If you are staying at Resorts World, this will be convenient. At the same time, it will be a challenge for attendees to smoke after hours. Because the Trade Show conflicts with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, smoking lounges (and restaurants) will be crowded. The PCA has set up a reservation link to make reservations at Gatsby and Eight. Cigar Coop has confirmed that the minimums for reserving a table for two at Gatsby and Eight were $500.00 and $200.00, respectively. Both have confirmed you can still go to the bar area and stand (or sit at the bar), but this will be allowed on a first-come, first-serve basis. Last year, Bar Luca imposed table minimums, which upset many people.

One final note: The move to the Las Vegas Convention Center was forced due to the demand to move the Trade Show to the spring and the difficulty of doing business with the Venetian.

The net/net is that I envision complaints arising about the Westgate not being as flashy, Resorts World being far, and it being potentially challenging to smoke at night. I also think this is a case of being careful what you ask for. The industry overwhelmingly wanted this move to the spring, but going to the Venetian was not an option for this time of the year.

How much will the move to New Orleans be talked about?

Answer: Quite a bit

The PCA Trade Show is the cigar industry’s soap opera. There is no more significant drama regarding when and where this show will be held. Including this as a question might seem odd, but I have precedent to discuss this. In 2022, PCA had a media press conference. At that press conference, the topic of potentially moving the trade show and venues came up. The discussion quickly shifted from the 2022 show to the hypotheticals of a Trade Show in New Orleans.

Even if there are complaints about the Las Vegas Convention Center, all eyes will be ahead to New Orleans. The good news is I have confidence that this iteration of the PCA management and board can pull off a New Orleans Trade Show.

Will we be stuck with Reels and Stories for PCA Media Coverage?

Image Credit: Adobe, used with licensing

Answer: Unfortunately, yes, but not from the Cigar Coop Coalition

Reels and stories are an excellent way to capture the “vibe” of the Trade Show. We will be using them to some extent this year. However, I’m not a massive fan of them. While they have a place, they are not a substitute for comprehensive coverage of the trade show. In fact, Instagram and Facebook Stories disappear entirely.

Many media outlets, manufacturers, and retailers have flocked to reels and stories because it is an easy, low-cost way to get content out.

Our approach has been to deliver deep coverage with articles, photos, audio, and video. Watching reels and stories reminds me of the old Wendy’s Commercial, “Where’s the Beef?”. While I appreciate how they capture the vibe, they ultimately deliver little more than a nothingburger.

2024 PCA Pre-Game Series – Other Installments

  • PCA Pre-Game Series Part 1: The Show
  • PCA Pre-Game Series Part 2: The Pre-Show Analysis
  • PCA Pre-Game Report Part 3: Predictions for Top 5 Cigars of PCA 2024
  • PCA Pre-Game Series Part 4: Selection for “The Company” of the 2024 PCA Trade Show

Photo/Images Credits: Cigar Coop, except where noted