Four of the biggest companies in the premium cigar business will not be attending the Premium Cigar Association (PCA) trade show this summer. Among the absent will be: Altadis U.S.A., makers of major brands such as the non-Cuban Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta and H. Upmann; General Cigar Co., producers of Macanudo, the Dominican-made Partagas and CAO; Davidoff of Geneva, which makes the Davidoff, Avo and Camacho brands; and Drew Estate, the company responsible for Liga Privada, Undercrown and Herrera Esteli.
In an unusual move, the official announcement was made today by Drew Estate in a joint statement on behalf of the three other companies. Cigar Aficionado independently confirmed the news with each of the other companies mentioned in the Drew Estate release.
“After careful consideration, Altadis U.S.A. has decided not to attend PCA’s 2020 trade show,” Javier Estades, president and CEO of Tabacalera USA, parent company to Altadis, told Cigar Aficionado. “This is the consequence of analyzing the increased costs and lower return of the show and our belief that we can use those resources in other activations which will better help our customers and their adult consumers.”
The release from Drew Estate said: “This decision, which each of our companies reached unilaterally after careful consideration, reflects our strong belief that structural change in the trade show is in the long term best interests of the entire premium cigar industry and its customers.”
The statement went on to say that the PCA trade show has been in decline and any attempts to improve the issues of dwindling attendance and reduced membership have been “met with silence.”
“After six months of repeated outreach to PCA, various efforts to discuss ways to enhance the structure, organization and value of the show—for the benefit of retailers, manufacturers, distributors and consumers—were unsuccessful,” said the announcement.
Dylan Austin, president of Davidoff Americas, told Cigar Aficionado: “This decision comes after careful consideration and thought, as the format of the current trade show no longer aligns with the company's commercial strategy, needs or standards and requires a major transformation.”
These four major companies have historically purchased significant real estate in terms of showroom space with large, elaborate pavilions that take up enormous square footage on the convention floor. Without their presence, the show will look far smaller, and could suffer reduced retailer attendance.
The PCA responded at 10 pm Friday night with a mass email addressed to PCA members from the board of directors: “As you may have heard from today’s press releases, four companies announced they will not exhibit at PCA 2020. We want to assure you that the world’s biggest premium cigar and pipe show is on with over 110,000 square feet of space booked by hundreds of family-owned companies. The four companies not attending represent 12 percent of show space and, since the announcement, many exhibitors have reached out to PCA to secure booth space, potentially expand their footprint, or relocate to the vacated space….It is more important than ever that family-owned businesses that built this industry come together...The PCA trade show remains not only the most important business event in the premium cigar and pipe industry, but also our greatest asset in fighting back regulations on both state and federal levels.”
Several major cigar companies contacted today by Cigar Aficionado confirmed that they would be attending the PCA show: Arturo Fuente Cigar Co., Rocky Patel Cigars Inc., Ashton Distributors Inc. and Perdomo Cigars all said they would be at the trade show. In the absence of the larger cigar manufacturers, Fuente, Rocky Patel and Ashton will represent the largest cigar producers at the upcoming PCA convention.
Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana has not committed to the PCA show yet. "I will make my decision next week," he told Cigar Aficionado.
A representative for Oliva Cigar Co., said the cigar company was "currently exploring our options." Oliva traditionally has one of the larger booths at the show. Its parent company, J. Cortès, is family-owned and based in Europe.
In an official statement issued by Carlos Fuente Jr., cigarmaker and chairman of Arturo Fuente Cigar Co., he stated: “As we have for the past 50 years, Arturo Fuente will once again participate in the 2020 PCA trade show. Our commitment to retailers is a core value of our company and family, one that will never waiver. Since the 1970 RTDA show in New York City, my family has supported the RTDA/IPCPR/PCA and we remain committed to brick & mortar tobacconists as the irreplaceable link between cigar manufacturers and consumers… We truly believe that members of the PCA are an extension of our family, and the annual trade show is the single most important event in keeping our families strong and successful.”
Three of the four companies pulling out of the PCA trade show are also major producers of machine-made cigars. Swisher International Inc., Drew Estate’s parent company, produces Swisher Sweets, the best selling machine-made cigar brand in the United States, with billions made annually. Altadis and General are both owned by giant European concerns with considerable machine-made businesses. Though Davidoff has no interest in machine-made cigars, it is also a European company based in Switzerland.
While the announcement was made today, the PCA trade show doesn’t happen until July 10, giving the organization and the four major companies a few more months to possibly come to an agreement should all parties wish to attempt new negotiations.
“Our commitment to our industry and to our retail partners has never been stronger,” reads Drew Estate’s press release. “Our sole motivation is to seek pathways that are more valuable for the entire premium cigar industry.”
This massive pull-out could potentially create a domino effect where more cigar companies decide to abstain as well for fear of lower retailer attendance.
[Note: This story was updated on January 13 to include statements from Arturo Fuente Cigar Co. and Oliva Cigar Co.]