La Tradicion Cubana Adds Free Web Phone Access

La Tradicion Cubana has incorporated a new system that allows free worldwide web phone connections direct to the company through its website. Customers select the "Click 2 Ring" icon on the company's home page to speak with sales personnel using a computer headset or microphone/speakers.

"This cutting edge sales and customer service tool has many benefits and we know of no one else using it in our industry," says Luis Sanchez, president, La Tradicion Cubana.

Sanchez says the system allows cigar customers and retailers to get answers quickly while offering a human touch to its Internet experience. Separate selections are available for domestic and international consumers, as well as a third option for licensed wholesale customers to speak directly about products, pricing, or other issues.

To use the service, visitors only need to download a 100kb program from the site once.

CigarFamily Auction Proceeds Aid NYC Terror Widows, Children

New York - Officials from Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia. and J.C. Newman Cigar Co., Inc. presented a check for $37,148 to the New York Police & Fire Widow's & Children's Benefit Fund on April 17 at Ladder 114 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The money was raised last year through an online auction of rare cigars by Fuente & Newman Cigars.

Joining members of the New York City Fire Department Ladder 114 at the presentation were Wayne Suarez, an executive with Fuente Newman Cigar Co.; Carlos Fuente Sr.; Eric M. Newman, president, J.C. Newman Cigar Co.; and Carlos Fuente Jr., president, Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia.

Cusano Cigars Creates "Sell-Through" Retailer Support Program

Sarasota, FL - Cusano Cigars has formed a new in-house unit that assists retailers in selling Cusano cigars through to consumers and increases store profitability, hiring Ciro Battaglia, a veteran customer-support specialist, to lead the effort.

Battaglia served for several years as the district manager for Tobacco Depot, a nationally-known chain and Florida's foremost tobacco retailer.

"Cusano built a relationship with us at Tobacco Depot, educated our staff about their products, and proved to us with in-store tasting events that smokers would become loyal Cusano customers," said Battaglia. "Our relationship became more like a partnership, especially when Cusano proved we could maximize our sales and profits by focusing on their line."

In addition to offering quality cigars at an attractive price point and retailer discount, a key ingredient in building a line is an educated, motivated retail sales staff, Chiusano says. "Ciro successfully built the Cusano brand for years at Tobacco Depot," says Chiusano. Adds Battaglia, "Now, I just do it from the other side of the counter."

Both collaborate on ways to help retailers maximize shelf space and set humidors to increase profitability.

"We could replace two 30%-margin competitors' cigar lines that took up 17 inches of prime shelf space, with four Cusano M1 facings," recalls Battaglia of his time at Tobacco Depot. "Doubling the facings doubled our money. Doubling your existing shelf utilization, without buildout or increased rent, with the added bonus of doubling your markup, is what I call efficient."

Battaglia helps retailers optimize their humidor and plan out their cigar selection, based on the demographics of the consumer. "What works in a walk-in may not be best with a free-standing display case," he says.

"Knowing which cigars sell best in a shop, and which haven't worked, helps us get a feel for the clientele," he explains. "I can determine this in a five-minute phone call. With products retailing from $1.99 to $10, Cusano cigars offer values that have proven to work at each price point, in almost all stores."

Chiusano notes the company's 2001 growth - more than double that in 2000 - is due in part by its emphasis on retailer support and satisfaction, " treating each retailer as a key component in our sales team," he says.

"We foster a partnership vs. a vendor-type relationship with them," Chiusano explains. We provide a unique service to retailers, whether they're a single store or a large chain."

Dom Rey Cigar, Ltd./Cusano Cigars, 2447 57th Street, Sarasota, FL 34243 Tel: (941) 360-8200, Fax: (941) 360-8300.

Cigarmaker "Don Douglas" Retires

Esteli, Nicaragua - Douglas Pueringer, owner of the Tabacalera Tambor S.A. cigar factory in Esteli, Nicaragua, announced his retirement from the cigar business in March. Pueringer said he intends to explore other opportunities.

"Tambor will be downsized to a small family operation and its new owner will be Victor Calvo, effective April 1, 2002," Pueringer said in a statement. "Calvo has been in charge of Tabacalera Tambor since its beginning and is committed to continuing the quality production that Tambor has built its reputation on over the years."

Tabacalera Tambor, which was established in Costa Rica, moved to Nicaragua last year, and produces Bahia and Bucanero cigars.

Vector Group Creates New Sales Company, Liggett Vector Brands

New York - Vector Group Ltd. has combined the sales and marketing functions of its Liggett and Vector Tobacco subsidiaries into a new entity, Liggett Vector Brands, Inc. The newly formed company, which will be headquartered in New York with operations in the Durham, N.C. area, will coordinate and execute the sales and marketing efforts for all Vector's tobacco operations. Ronald J. Bernstein will serve as president and c.e.o., and Richard J. DiDonato and James A. Taylor will serve as senior v.p. of sales and senior v.p. of marketing, respectively. The company will initially have 350 salesmen and enhanced distribution and marketing capabilities.

Liggett Vector Brands, Inc., 172 5th Ave., 51st Fl., New York, NY 10019, Tel: (212) 409-2800, Fax: (212) 409-2801.

SMOKESHOP - June/July, 2002