Nate's Thoughts on PCA 2024

Nate Simonds

Heading into PCA 2024 the industry was abuzz - Drew Estate and Altadis were returning for the first time in several years. Coming off a slow TPE, sales reps were excited for what was anticipated to be a record setting trade show in terms of both retailer attendance and retailer spend. Robert Caldwell had just sold his company and there was rumors of another big sale…

Walking into the show floor day one, attendance looked really good. Not only was retailer presence strong, booths were larger in size and number. All signs pointed to a strong showing, then people just… Disappeared. While most reps told us that they wrote the most business on day 2, floor traffic was noticeably slower on day 2 then day 1 and day 3 was simply a ghost town. Many retailers appeared to just fly in for Friday/Saturday and opt to skip the expensive Saturday evening hotel room.

There were some clear winners - most notably Drew Estate. DE’s booth was packed for almost the entire show and any passerby could clearly understand they were launching the S84 Shade to Black. Jonathan Drew was on set making social media content in the middle of the booth, a move that also allowed him to be more strategic with his time and conversations with retailers. El Septimo also made waves, hosting another large dinner that was reminiscent of past Ashton and Davidoff events for the industry. This 3-course, open bar marathon event featured the entire family and made clear they are in this industry for the long run, and not just a hobby for someone with an endless checking account.

Boutique brands were better represented than any show that I have been to, with a large number  of smaller brands investing into an actual booth (not just sharing a pavilion). ADVentura was busy every time we passed by and Rojas had solid showing as well. Both Foundation and Saka also had a solid stream of visitors. I still am of the belief that this show is most beneficial for this size of company.

There was also just more of the same from the big names. Rocky Patels booth didn’t change and displayed their upcoming releases (Gold Label and Year of The Dragon), Padron also used their same booth to showcase their upcoming 60th Anniversary release, and Fuente… Was Fuente.

While it may come out to be a record year for PCA, in some ways it was quite a letdown.… There wasn’t as much as a buzz on the trade show floor as there was last year and we didn’t get the large sale that many anticipated.  The next few years will be interesting, being that New Orleans will bring a new location that may encourage more retailers to attend. PCA needs to figure out how to capture the magic that makes the industry great. After all, the trade show is what fills the coffers for the fight against the FDA. How you capture the magic of long nights at circle bar when everyone is spread out…I’m not sure. But this will be the case in both in New Orleans and upon the return to the convention center in Las Vegas.

While there are new cigars (though not as many as we probably expected) coming, many won’t be ready for several months. That being said, it was a record year for Renegade, we spent more money than we ever have at the trade show. We stacked appointments back to back 2 of the 3 days we attended and were largely just dropping off orders. If you’ve been in the shop the last couple days, you might have seen a couple of those large orders come in - much faster than in years past.

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