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August,
2007


Where in the World are the
Women Cigar Smokers?

A women's cigar forum in Esteli, Nicaragua sets out to quantify the scope of the female cigar market and lend manufacturers insight to this potentially underserved market segment.

Staff Report

Although some still might think of cigar smoking as only "for the boys," the first annual Women's Cigar Forum held in May in Esteli, Nicaragua woke up a number of cigar manufacturers to a growing number of women who've come to appreciate the fine luxury, romance, and simple pleasure of the cigar.

There was a time when putting one's fingers in one's ears and humming loudly was the norm when a woman complained about cigar smoke and smell, but listen up partner, these women have "come a long way, baby." Enter the 21st century women cigar smokers: women who have opinions about what particular ring gauge cigar smokes best and preferences for certain wrapper tobacco. Most are professional women who, despite "bringing home the 'proverbial' bacon and frying it up in the pan" are now cooking up a storm of smoke in the form of cigars.

The Women's Cigar Forum, attended by Tabacalera Perdomo, Rocky Patel Premium Cigars, Camacho Cigars, Drew Estate, and Toraņo Cigars, was facilitated by Mary Lynn Kane, co-owner of Lake Country Cigars, Delafield, Wisconsin and founder of the women's cigar club Cigar Babes. Attended by other female cigar shop owners and their customers, the evening event featured a lively discussion of a previously-conducted women's cigar survey along with a dialog about women's preferences and cigar buying habits. The mission of the Women's Cigar Forum was to have a face-to-face open discussion between cigar manufacturers and women cigar shop owners and women cigar smokers. Altadis hosted a pre-party in Miami for the women complete with cigar "goody bags" and well-wishes from Janelle Rosenfeld, vice president of Altadis.

"I was impressed by the professionalism and the women's knowledge of tobacco and cigars as well as their suggestions and recommendations to cigar manufacturers regarding their preferences," says Carlos Toraņo. "I am glad of the women's interest in the cigar industry and the knowledge of understanding that there are many women cigar smokers. The future potential of this market is strong. Women buy for themselves, but also for their men, friends, and business associates. We can learn a lot by studying the buying habits of women in our industry."

The mission of the Women's Cigar Forum was to have a face-to-face open discussion between cigar makers and women cigar smokers.
In 2002 the Cigar Association of America estimated that half a million women are cigar smokers.

Christian Eiroa of Camacho Cigars, alongside founding partner Jonathan Drew of Drew Estate and Billy Perdomo of Tabacerlera Perdomo shared their views and gave the women their thoughts from the manufacturer's viewpoint. "We already know this market is diverse and complex. Some women are "silent" smokers, only smoking their husband's cigars, while others are regular purchasers and have definite preferences. Some still are only occasional smokers, who control the purse strings of their family's spending. We get it. It's a matter of how to market to them," says Eiroa. Maria Martin of Camacho Cigars adds, "I've been saying it for years. Women cigar smokers are a real and viable market. I am proud of these women, for their interest in cigars in a male dominated industry. Watch out, we are a growing market."

Three and half hours later, after a fine meal and much fun, the women retired to the Campina Hotel to call it a day and smoke one last cigar before turning the lights out. "I smoke, on the average, a cigar or two a day," says Jen Groh, co-owner of Metro Cigars. "The cigar stores that have a women's presence in their shops have a direct avenue to this market."

Next it was off to tour the Tabacalera Perdomo factory and farms and to learn about cigar making firsthand from the workers. "The experience of actually being here and seeing how cigars come to market is invaluable. These women will take this knowledge and share it. It will never leave us," said Mary Lynn Kane.

"It was our pleasure to host these fine women and to expose them to cigar making. We learned from each other. That is the beauty," says Nick Perdomo, owner.

Targeting Women Consumers
Products traditionally marketed to men have seen increasingly new strategies aimed at women. Progressive companies are re-thinking everything about how companies do business with today's most important consumer: women.

Companies in many sectors who have not traditionally marketed to women are rapidly realizing the enormous changes occurring in women's incomes, attitudes, priorities, and purchasing power. Home Depot, Kodak, McDonalds, Chevrolet, and others have successfully translated women's insights into intelligent marketing action. Companies who adopt a policy of "wait and see" may find it difficult to keep up with competitors leading the way.

According to demographic information researched by Cigar Babes:

  • Women make up 85 percent of all buying decisions. Women purchase over 50 percent of all products classified as "male products."
  • Women are the single largest spending block in the world.
  • Women control $7 trillion in purchasing power in 2006. By 2010, they'll control over $13 trillion in private wealth, and that's just in America.
  • 70 percent of all new businesses are started by women.
  • Women predominantly buy based on trust, value and loyalty. They are more brand loyal than men. Women need to feel a connection in order to build brand loyalty in purchasing.
  • Women say relieving stress is the single greatest need in their lives.
CIGARS: A Common Bond Cigar Babes is a national, non-profit organization for women cigar smokers. Founded in 1998, the Cigar Babes celebrate cigar smoking for all women: professionals, stay-at-home moms, women of all ages who enjoy lighting up a cigar for the purpose of fun and relaxation. Today the Cigar Babes has grown in number to about 150 women and is growing their membership via a their website at www.cigarbabes.org. Last year the Cigar Babes raised over $37,000 for workers in the cigar industry and have a fundraising goal of $325,000 for 2007.

SMOKESHOP - August, 2007