Record Crowds Attend International Tobacco Expo 2001;
New Tobacco Association Formed

LAS VEGAS - Retailers, distributors, and manufacturers from around the world converged on the Rio Suites Hotel and Casino April 17-19, to take part in the annual International Tobacco Expo.

Attendance at this year's expo far surpassed that of previous year's, said ITE show manager Sharon Wayne. "We are pleased at the turnout," said Wayne. "The growing number of people we are seeing is a barometer indicating the strength and quality of ITE." The show attracted more than 1,900 visitors.

According to survey questions posed to exhibitors following ITE, 86 percent of the respondents said the overall quality of the buyers were excellent, while 71 percent said they developed 10 or more new customers as a result of ITE.

Manufacturers and suppliers cited wide-ranging reasons for electing to exhibit at the show. Brian Levine of Peter Stokkebye chose to exhibit "to meet distributors." Harry Preston of J.C. Newman Cigar Co., said he was "anxious to make and maintain contact with new tobacco outlets."

A total of 160 exhibiting companies, comprising corporate leaders in the cigar, cigarette, and related accessories industry, were on hand to provide attendees with an opportunity to view the latest and very finest in tobacco products. Show specials also abounded on the floor of the Rio Pavilion.

Association to Fight for Retailers
Day one of this year's Expo saw the formation of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO). The new association held its first meeting with discussion centering on protecting the rights of tobacco outlets through political and legislative action. A lively roundtable discussion followed in the afternoon. Participants took part in an open forum brainstorming session with their peers addressing hot topics and mutual challenges in the tobacco industry. Tom Briant, an experienced lobbyist who serves as legal counsel to the Minnesota Wholesale Marketers Association, will serve as executive director of NATO.

Day two consisted of a morning round of informational seminars led off by Bonnie Herzog, tobacco analyst with Credit Suisse First Boston. Herzog returned to the Expo by popular demand and once again explored the ever-changing future of the tobacco industry and the current legislation affecting those changes. Following Herzog was George Whalin, president of Retail Management Consultants. Whalin, who spent 25 years as a retailer, owned his own chain stores, and served in many senior management positions, is recognized as one of the nation's most sought after retail speakers. He provided the audience with a seemingly endless string of tips on how to improve, fine tune, and soundly enhance their business.

Following breakfast on the third day, special Keynote speaker and cigar lover Mike Ditka entertained the crowd with his own brand of salty humor and anecdotes gleaned from his 12 years as a professional football player, eight years as an assistant coach, and 10 years as a head coach in the NFL.

The 2002 International Tobacco Expo will be held in Las Vegas at the Riviera Hotel and Casino, April 2 through 4. For additional information or to reserve exhibit space in next year's Expo, contact Sharon Wayne at (800) 859-9247.

National Association of Tobacco Outlets
15560 Boulder Point Road
Eden Prarie, MN 55347
Tel: (952) 974-0075
Fax: (952) 934-7442

NATO is dedicated to strengthening the outlet industry and protecting the rights of tobacco outlets and their customers through political and legislative action.

Imperial Gets Creative in Reaching Smokers
MONTREAL - Hampered by severe legislative restrictions in Canada governing tobacco advertising and marketing, Imperial Tobacco Company Ltd. is adopting new, innovative means of communicating with adult consumers.

To that end, the company set up a patio smoking lounge housed under a canopy in a courtyard just outside the Toronto-Dominion Centre from April 30 to May 25. The lounge provided adult smokers with a relaxing and comfortable environment to enjoy their cigarettes while on work breaks. They were offered free beverages and the chance to win prizes if they provided their name and other information for inclusion in a marketing database.

Street teams circulated in the vicinity of the lounge, lighting smokers' cigarettes and inviting smokers to visit the patio lounge. Other teams will circulate in cores areas of both Toronto and Vancouver, including bar venues, in an ongoing effort to build the the company's database of adult smokers.

Neil Blanche, director of marketing communications for Imperial, says that the company supports regulations governing tobacco advertising that involves minors. However, it questions extreme policies that are unlikely to affect smoking patterns, especially those which interfere with the rights of adult Canadian smokers to receive information about legal tobacco products.

Legislation has also eliminated most traditional methods for reaching smokers, including paid advertising in all media. The company has also been required to cease most of its sponsorships including jazz festivals, concerts, tennis and golf tournaments, equestrian competitions, fashion shows, and automobile, boat, and snowmobile racing.

La Tradicion Cubana Scores Big in NFL Draft Radio Broadcast
MIAMI - La Tradicion Cubana, one of a few remaining domestic manufacturers of premium cigars, was one of the winners in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft, held on April 21, 2001.

"When we received a letter from 2001 NFL Draft Show, asking us to advertise on the radio broadcast, I had no idea it would pay off as well as it did," reports Luis Sanchez, founder and president of Miami-based La Tradicion Cubana.

"Knowing cigar smoking is popular among sports fans, we decided to try this advertising venue. It has been significant in helping us expand national awareness for our cigars, which were previously known only in the South Florida market." Coverage of the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft originated from radio station WAXY in Miami, and was a non-stop five-hour broadcast of all the Draft's activities. Host Carl "The Foss" Foster, a former Miami Dolphin, joined co-announcers Lim Kiick and Tim Robbie in covering the event. The show was syndicated, and NFL fans called in questions and comments from around the country, via a toll-free number.

"La Tradicion Cubana was the only cigar sponsor for the show," says Sanchez, "and we had ten advertising spots throughout the day. At one point, the hosts raffled off a box of La Tradicion Cubana Churchills, and the excitement level of the radio audience jumped over the possibility of winning it."

Response from consumers and retailers alike, both during and following the show, has encouraged Sanchez to try further radio advertising.

"We are now advertising on the most popular Spanish-speaking radio stations in Florida," he reports, "running up to ten ads daily per station. "We have discovered radio advertising as an effective means of expanding our sales influence, especially when targeted at specific audiences."

Software Connects Swedish Match Sales Force
RICHMOND, VA - Swedish Match North America, Inc. has implemented new computer software technology called an "enterprise portal" that gives its national sales force centralized access to critical sales information. Data such as customer sales reports, presentation documents, e-mail, and customer sales information are all available at a single access point.

The system enables Swedish Match sales staff to access product and customer information from the corporate data warehouse at anytime from anywhere. Sales representatives can customize their view of the information, organize it by product name or units sold, and then instantly share this information with colleagues.

The system, called E-Portal, was supplied by Viador, Inc., Mountain View, Calif., a leading provider of self-service enterprise portals.

"Our customers have been asking for improvements in efficiency through technical solutions," said Dan Carr, vice president of sales, Swedish Match, North America. "The portal sales solution will enhance our communication capability, resulting in better service for our customers, more speed and flexibility in our sales execution, and a state-of-the-art information edge for our sales force. We feel this will take us one step ahead of competition in being the leader within the 'other tobacco' category,"

"Swedish Match North America's need to streamline its sales management processes and give employees an information 'ATM' of sorts to instantly input, change, and share data ...is tied to a bigger trend of companies providing self-service capabilities to customers, partners or employees, enabling them to access needed information,'' said Steve Dille, senior vice president of sales and marketing, Viador Inc.

SMOKESHOP - June/July 2001