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Retailers See Cigar Sales Benefiting From Similar Growth Trends Seen On The Drinks Side

May 21, 2020

With bars and restaurants shut down for most of the spring season, off-premise sales of wine, beer, and spirits have all seen strong upticks. But retailers tell SND their growth hasn’t been limited to drinks. Store operators in California, Florida, and Oklahoma say that cigar sales are also seeing a boost, as customers stock up amid an uncertain landscape.

“Guests are buying the same cigars they have in the past, but they’re buying a lot more of them on each visit,” said Chris Gwaltney, chief tobacconist at Florida chain ABC Fine Wine & Spirits. He added that brands like Rocky Patel, Drew Estate, Ashton, JC Newman, and Fuente are performing well across the business.

ABC has also seen an increase in e-commerce through its TheHumidor.com site, with sales doubling as many cigar stores temporarily closed. Gwaltney said the e-commerce rise doesn’t seem to be cannibalizing sales from ABC’s brick and mortar locations, which are still seeing substantial foot traffic. He also noted that consumers are trending toward higher-end cigars. “Nothing we’re seeing right now indicates that people are buying more affordable brands,” he said.

Sales at California-based retailer BevMo are similarly in growth mode, according to Jeff Feist, who’s in charge of the chain’s cigar business. “Our average retail ring per cigar has gone up from $14 to $15 year-on-year,” Feist said. “That’s only a slight increase, but our cart size also has gone up overall throughout the store.” Feist has seen some trading down with customers buying in bulk, but emphasized that it’s not widespread. He estimated that BevMo’s cigar sales will be up 3% for the year. The category generally accounts for around $5 million in sales for BevMo.

Tulsa, Oklahoma retailer Tulsa Hills Cigar Cellar (sister store to Tulsa Hills Wine Cellar) has taken steps to keep customers safe while still offering a wide variety of smokes. “We’ve increased our humidified sampler selection, so customers have the option of grabbing and going without entering the humidor or touching much,” said store manager Andrew Cox. “Interestingly, most customers are still opting to venture into the humidor and pick out individuals.” He added that only one customer at a time can enter the humidor to shop.

Sales at Tulsa Hills dropped by 2% in March but rose 3% in April, with premium cigars up 7.5%. “While customers are buying more bundle cigars than normal, premium cigar sales are still booming,” Cox said. “In fact, we’ve had to restock higher-end brands such as Padron more so than in the past.”

Though many shoppers are staying with cigars they know and love, those stocking up aren’t opposed to trying new sticks. “I’d say sales of new products have been easier because the majority of customers are stocking their ‘quarantine supply,’ and generally have more time on their hands to try new cigars,” said Cox.—Shane English

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