When it comes to buying cigars today, we appear to have more options at our disposal than ever before. Direct mail order, purchasing while out of province or country, and even subscription services are among many ways for an enthusiast to replenish their humidor.
Yet despite the different avenues available to buy cigars, many Canadians consciously choose to shop local and purchase cigars from their local brick-and-mortar (B&M) retail location.
In this piece, we’ll take a look at how a lot of Canadian B&M tobacconists have managed to keep customers coming back to shop with them through utilizing the processes of knowledge & curation, creating a unique experience, and above all – customer service.
As an example of these principles in action, we’ll also take a look at Toronto-based tobacconist Trae Zammit of The Smokin’ Cigar, who’s been honing his craft for over 25 years now, and has developed a substantial base of loyal customers in the process.
1. Knowledge & Curation
Before making a selection, many customers seek the specific knowledge and advice of their local tobacconist.
Tobacconists know what’s new, as well as what’s tried and true, and have the ability to gather daily feedback from staff and other customers as to what’s really resonating with palates.
This kind of up-to-the-minute intel can be hard to find online as it is in a state of constant flux and requires frequent updating.
Such direct feedback from staff, local customers, as well as the shop owners themselves is what drives a tobacconist to build and evolve their selection in a certain way, often resulting in a cigar selection that is comparable to no other.
Though it ebbs and flows at times depending on what is presently available in the market, many Canadian retailers have successfully carved out a special niche by carefully curating a unique selection for their customers – something that can set them aside from online retailers or even other B&M locations.
“Thriving in today’s competitive cigar market often requires going beyond merely selling cigars; it involves creating unique experiences for those who come to see your establishment as their cigar headquarters.”
At The Smokin’ Cigar, the store shelves typically have in excess of 800 different kinds of cigars, most of which have been curated by owner Trae Zammit.
Despite such a myriad of selection, his Smokin’ Nicaraguan and Dominican House Blends are among the customer favorites, which of course cannot be found anywhere else.
Like Zammit, many tobacconists have carefully sought out their own unique house blends, many of which can rival – or at times downright outperform – plenty of the big mass marketed releases – and at a fraction of the cost to boot.
With a hand picked selection of cigar brands and accessories, knowledge and careful curation play a big role in keeping customers coming back to explore and experience that personal touch.
2. Creating A Unique Experience
Thriving in today’s competitive cigar market often requires going beyond merely selling cigars; it involves creating unique experiences for those who come to see your establishment as their cigar headquarters. What’s more, having thought out complimentary décor and amenities to the physical surroundings also adds a great deal of perceived value to a cigar buying experience.
Zammit’s 6000-square foot store is meticulously decorated floor to ceiling with all manner of iconography, and of course – a sea of products to choose from.
Such attention to detail can really make a particular store stand out from other buying options, and from other average-looking tobacco retail locations.
In addition to this, local cigar-related events are making a triumphant return as a result of the ease of Covid-related restrictions and a return to public gatherings.
These fun and informative experiences are generally orchestrated by – you guessed it – local tobacconists.
“We have nine events planned so far for the remainder of the calendar year. Our annual customer appreciation event is looking like it will draw over three hundred people – which means I might have to extend it over a two day period this year” says Zammit.
These events, which were largely put on pause during Covid-19, occur on a by-invite-only basis extended out to his regular customers.
Such events are typically a great opportunity to rub elbows with like-minded Lovers Of The Leaf.
This in turn can quickly snowball (big Canadian pun right there) into attendees developing a circle of local cigar friends, growing their cigar knowledge, expanding their palate, and quite simply enriching their appreciation of cigars in general – all thanks to the ingenuity of a local tobacconist.
3. Customer Service
Above all, direct, in-person customer service is what truly seems to give great tobacconists the big leg up on not only the more impersonal shopping options out there, but also other retail competition.
While products are consumed, it is services that are experienced – and great tobacconist locations are built on the backbone of hospitality and experience.
Since he’s added a monthly mail-out subscription service called Quarter Century Club (to commemorate his 25 years of existence) which requires having a shipper on hand, Zammit bumped up his staff to ensure that there are always 2 or 3 people available to effectively serve his in-store traffic.
Great tobacconists have the ability to make customers feel at home and let them know that they’re happy to have them.
This results in building a collective of faithful customers who ultimately become a tobacconist’s biggest promoters.
Despite the many different ways for a cigar enthusiast to purchase cigars and stock their humidor, many Canadians still prefer the time-honored experience of visiting their local tobacconist.
For most enthusiasts, smoking a cigar is a celebrated and ceremonial experience that requires an equally special experience when it comes to obtaining such fine items in the first place.
This is what a great tobacconist provides, and is what has kept customers opting for that personal touch and a sense of community, all centered around a common love for cigars.
Together, the processes of providing superior knowledge, curation and customer service are the pillars that make for a great tobacconist – which keeps ’em coming back for more.
To find a trusted tobacconist near you, visit our Store Locator; the most complete database of Canadian tobacconists.
The Smokin’ Cigar is located at 1540 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario Canada M4G 3B6 and can be reached at 416 545 0063 or email@example.com