Cigars are integral motifs in many rituals among men. The stag party, children’s births, a poker game, and sporting events are all associated with the boys enjoying a good stick. The association with women and cigars is not quite so clear and is more shrouded in a cloud of smoke.
Despite the rising popularity of cigars among women, it still takes many men off-guard. From over-sexualizing cigar aficionadas to overbearingly feeling the need to instruct any woman they see, it seems some men just don’t know how to approach a woman with a cigar. Often this kind of behavior is such a turn-off for women that they decide to not even try to smoke cigars.
Between the lack of traditional rituals and the difficulty women tend to face, tobacco retailers have quite an obstacle to overcome to be more appealing to a female base. There’s no doubt that anytime you visit a cigar lounge you’ll find it’s predominantly filled with men. Yet studies show that if a business can appeal to women, men will follow. Therefore, if you can grow your female clientele, you will grow your entire business overall.
With that in mind, here are some tips to attract female clientele to your retail shop.
Curb appeal refers to the attractiveness of the exterior of your shop. This forms the potential customer’s first impression and can determine whether an individual decides to walk into your business or not. Cigars are a premium experience and your establishment should reflect that. Pay attention to having well-maintained signage, displays, and landscaping where applicable. It is also important that customers feel safe going to and from your shop; make sure that your exterior is well-lit at night.
Van Halen had a famous rider in their contracts in the 1970’s and 80’s stating that the venue had to provide them with a bowl of M&M’s with “ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES”. This was seen as an exorbitant demand by a band with a diva-complex but it actually served a practical purpose. Their act required (9) 18-wheeler trucks full of equipment when the standard group used a max of 3. This made the technical portion of the contract extremely long and as interesting to read as a VCR manual. The brown M&M rider was added as a test: if they found brown M&M’s in the bowl, it was sure to mean the contract wasn’t read and there would potentially be a dangerous and life-threatening error somewhere else.
This is how customers view cleanliness of your establishment. Some retailers seem to think that when customers get picky about the cleanliness of their shop, it is annoying, but look at it from a customer’s perspective. If the bathroom is dirty or the establishment is covered in dust, it will make your customers wonder what else could be dirty.
Be Welcoming, Not Snobish
One major complaint from inexperienced cigar dabblers is that they feel judged for not having an expansive knowledge. Make an effort to understand your customers and to educate them whenever you can. Remember everyone started somewhere, even you! Treat them with the respect you wanted to receive when you were starting out.
Make sure to make an effort to discover your customer’s tastes rather than jumping to conclusions. In my experience, when I go to a new retailer, I am automatically shown infused and mild cigars even though my preference tends to be more towards maduro. Be respectful of your customer’s wants and opinions!
Cultivate a Wide Variety
Speaking of respect, understand that everyone has a different set of preferences when it comes to cigars. Not everyone will enjoy the same cigars you do. Make sure that your store is carrying a wide enough variety to appeal to anyone who comes in.
Don’t forget to make sure that you have a good rotation in your humidor. Everyone has their personal favorites, but keep your customers interested by offering new items and limited editions. This also sets you apart from the other retailers in your area if you can carry something unique or hard to find.
While cigars can be a very relaxing solo experience, cigars have a beautiful way of bringing people together. Walk into even just a partially full smoking lounge and you’re likely to find a group of strangers acting like old friends. Explore the social aspect of cigars with your customers by hosting events. Use events such as classes, charity nights, poker tournaments, discount specials, longest-ash competitions, etc to engage your customers.
But the best tip is…
Women customers want to be held in the same regard as their male counterparts. Don’t make assumptions based on gender. Get to know and understand the individual you are speaking to and their distinct wants and tastes. In fact, if you think about and review the previous 5 tips, you will notice that they apply to everyone.