Big Crowds Find ITE 2002 a
True Buying Show

As the International Tobacco Expo continues to grow, a wide range of retailers jam the aisles looking for new merchandise and show specials.

Staff Report

The sixth annual International Tobacco Expo, held April 2-4 at the Riviera Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, drew record attendance and solid participation by major tobacco manufacturers across all merchandise segments, achieving its "best show ever," according to its organizers.

The selection of exhibitors was the most extensive in the show's six-year history, drawing the participation of all top cigarette and cigar manufacturers as well as numerous OTP producers, accessory firms, and ancillary merchandise distributors. Exhibitor participation rose from 160 companies in 2001 to 175 this year, and retailer attendance topped 2,000 buyers, up from 1,900 last year.

"While other trade shows have suffered downturns in attendance and many start-up shows have failed altogether, the International Tobacco Expo 2002 showed an increase of 17% above the 2001 attendance figures," said Patrick Witherspoon, c.e.o of ITE and its parent company, Bentley International Group, Inc.

Opening ceremonies saw customers anxiously waiting for the exhibit hall to open. "The area outside of the show entrance was packed with buyers ready to conduct business with our vendors," said Witherspoon, who officiated over the ceremonial ribbon cutting. "All sorts of show specials were being offered and the attendees were there to take advantage of the savings."

The show floor was extremely busy from the time it opened, and exhibitors reported brisk sales activity throughout the two days.

"I have been in the show for the past six years and this is the best one so far... it's a true buying show," said Alex Goldman, president of New York-based House of Oxford distributors.

"[We've had] three years exhibiting at ITE and this was the best one yet," added Harry Preston of J.C. Newman Cigar Co.

Hank Morgan of Fuego Cubano Corp., a vertically-integrated manufacturer of cigars, cigarillos, and smokeless products based in Van Nuys, Calif., said the show opened quite a few new doors. "We have had literally hundreds of people calling us since the show, he said. "The show is well organized, well run, and our every need was catered to."

A series of seminars stretching over the first day and a half preceding the opening of the exhibit hall focused largely on increasing customer service and sales, noted ITE Team member Robert Dooley. The seminars, covering topics from customer service to staff training to store promotions, were all very well attended, and included a roundtable discussion period that allowed retailers discuss common issues in small groups, exchanging ideas, experiences, and concerns.

Although ITE was mostly business, there was also time for play. Almost all the of ITE participates enjoyed the networking party at the "Top of the Riv," sponsored by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. It provided an exciting evening for old friends and new ones to relax and enjoy good food, drinks, and music.

ITE 2003 Aims Big
Next year, the International Tobacco Expo moves to the larger accommodations of the Las Vegas Convention center, charting the show's steady growth over the past several years.

"Exhibitors for the 2003 show are already signing up and a good number of them are taking larger spaces," says Dooley. "We plan to have a more extensive seminar program and a keynote speaker that is industry specific for next year's event. Additional plans for the 2003 call for some new programs and surprises that will be announced at a later date."

The changes build upon an already solid industry event. "It was a very classy, very elegant, and beautiful show," concluded Paul Tai of Z.P.C. Everglow Enterprises, Inc., a distributor of lighters and cigarette cases. "I was impressed with the quality of the people who visited and the companies that they represent."

The 7th annual International Tobacco Expo will take place on March 26 & 27, 2003 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada. For more information contact Robert Dooley at International Tobacco Expo, 2030 E. Flamingo Road #120, Las Vegas, NV 89119. Phone: (800) 859-9247 or ( 702) 893-9090 or Fax: (702) 893-9227.

SMOKESHOP - June/July, 2002