The first cigar tradeshow of the year is officially in the books. While Vegas is always a trip I look forward to, I am certainly happy to be home. This year was unlike any of my previous visits to Las Vegas for a few different reasons:
TPE is bigger than ever… Just not for cigars
In past years, TPE has been held on the second level of the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. This year it expanded to the first floor as well. While I haven’t seen the exact square footage comparisons, visually, I would put the show as 1.5 to 2 times as big as it was last year. Clearly, vapes, CBD, Delta 8, and Kratom sales are strong. Even without my tradeshow background, it was very apparent budgets were no issue for these companies as they went all out with their booth design and staffing.
On the cigar side, it was quite clearly the slowest TPE I have been to. Floor traffic was the slowest I have seen, and reps made it clear that nobody was writing orders. While rough square footage seemed roughly comparable to years past, there was a lot of standing around time for reps. Several people I know spent more time on the phone and laptops doing business from their territory than they spent working deals on the floor.
The major reason I ended up attending TPE this year is that staying in touch with people in the industry still matters. If Renegade didn’t have the relationships built over the past years by Brandon, it wouldn’t have made sense to go at all. People recognized that we were present and went out of their way to thank me for attending. This year was different as people's hotel rooms were spread out across several hotels (due to an event happening earlier in the week at the main host casino - The Sahara). Fewer people grouped up at the main bars at night, so I actually spent more time talking to people on the tradeshow floor than ever before.
Moving PCA might kill cigars for TPE.
This year the Premium Cigar Association’s tradeshow moved up to March instead of July like it was last year. Being that this show is much more directly for cigars, many retailers and manufacturers chose to skip TPE this year. Manufacturers who attended made it clear that PCA would be a much larger push for them. With how slow the show floor was, I would be amazed if the show was profitable for many manufacturers… One major manufacturer I spoke only wrote 4 orders the entire first day. If PCA is early in the year again next year, I have no doubt the cigar side will be markedly smaller.
The main reason to attend either cigar tradeshow is being able to purchase inventory. This tradeshow was the worst tradeshow for deals at TPE that I have attended. This includes attending PCA in the middle of the supply crunch during Covid. I only ended up writing 7 purchases, and all but 1 could have been done from the shop. Usually these offers are limited to the tradeshow floor… This was not the case this year, as manufacturers sought to capture any business they could in the slow time before PCA.
Overall, it was still a fun trip to Las Vegas. I had two fantastic dinners at Zumma and SushiSamba, 3 long nights drinking scotch and smoking cigars, and even caught up with an old college teammate. My flight back Friday night got delayed (as always), so I ended the trip with a 5:20 AM flight back to Dallas. I even managed to skip the hotel room Friday night, though I probably wouldn’t do that again quickly.
A few final notes:
- There were no new releases immediately available for any brand we carry.
- Snoop Dogg, Mike Tyson, and the Brazilian soccer player Ronaldo all made appearances on the tradeshow floor.
- Casa Fuente will be closing down due to lease issues after years of being in Caesars.
- Balvenie 12 seems to be the best deal in Vegas. It averaged about $13 a pour.
- Skip the Kobe cocktail at SushiSamba. It’s the worst drink I’ve ever had.
- Get off the strip for breakfast. I highly recommend both Coffee Pub and Vesta Coffee… Vesta Coffee had easily the best cup of coffee I’ve had in years.
- Hector and I have a weight loss challenge this year for a steak dinner. He’s going down.