Q&A: Cigar Sales Strategies At Cork Liquors

Editor’s Note: This interview is part of our recent coverage of the cigar category at beverage-alcohol retail.

Cigar sales are a focus for Cork Liquors in Indiana, our 2016 Retailer Of The Year.

The 12-store chain has countertop humidors (containing 6 to 8 boxes), cabinet humidors (15 to 18) and a walk-in humidor in its main store with 100 boxes. We recently spoke with Cork Liquors owner Warren Scheidt about the cigar side of his business.

Beverage Dynamics: What are your best sellers?
Warren Scheidt: At our main store those would be Arturo Fuente, Romeo y Julieta and Montesino (ranging from $6-8) and Rocky Patel (around $10).

BD: What types of customers buy premium cigars?
WS: People who are more knowledgeable about the product. They want the selection, and they want the temperature-controlled humidor. They’re brand loyal but also want to try something else if it catches their eye. That’s why cigar packaging is so important.

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Cork Liquors owner Warren Scheidt.

And that’s why myself and a few other employees at my store stay educated about cigars. I read the cigar magazines and watch the videos. The cigar wholesaler I work with I trust a lot. Anytime I have a cigar that’s slowed down in sales I call her up for recommendations about what’s hot, regionally and nationwide.

BD: How do you pair cigars with high-end liquor?
WS: Typically by price. If someone’s buying a $90 bourbon, I point them towards something like a Rocky Patel. They wouldn’t be happy with a $5 cigar. I like to see what whiskey, bourbon or Scotch they’re buying before I recommend a cigar, and not the other way around. About 10% of people buying premium whiskey also buy cigars.

BD: What state laws affect cigar sales?
WS: In Indiana you cannot have shelf service for cigars. You have to keep them locked up at all times. If someone wants to go into our walk-in humidor, we have to unlock it and then be in there with them.

This newer law hasn’t hurt us terribly, but it does affect the customer experience. They want to be able to pick up and smell and hold a cigar. They want to have a closer association with it before they buy it.

BD: What’s the key for selling premium cigars?
WS: Just like with premium wine or spirits, you have to know your product and work it. Pay personal attention to merchandising them. They have to be laid out correctly. If you just buy boxes and throw them out there, you’re not going to do well.

Kyle Swartz is Managing Editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent interview with Jägermeister’s CEO on the future of the brand.

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