With three factories in two countries and a growing roster of brands, Swisher's investment in handmade cigars definitely isn't too little. But is it too late?
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Mann likes to talk about the "Don Nobodies" who entered the market at the height of the cigar boom and have since disappeared. He likes to talk about how the market is morphing back to its pre-boom state--that of dueling giants. "And we welcome that kind of share battle," he says with characteristic scrappiness.
Swisher is an American company with a working man's ethic. Its premium cigars, especially the bargain-priced Bering, are inexpensive compared to the rest of the premium market. Unlike its biggest U.S. competitors, General Cigar and Consolidated Cigar Corp., Swisher doesn't own the U.S. rights to any Cuban brands. In conversations with Swisher executives, you don't hear much about "passion" or "family" or any of the other romantic buzzwords that other cigar companies proclaim.
What Swisher executives do speak about is offering the customer a quality smoke for a fair price. After all, as Mann declares in perhaps the most succinct synopsis of the Swisher philosophy, "There are only two kinds of cigars in the world: those that sell and those that don't."
Brendan Vaughan is manager of new media content for M. Shanken Communications Inc.