Blog > Pulling Back the Curtain: How I Choose

Pulling Back the Curtain: How I Choose

Pulling Back the Curtain: How I Choose

It seems like nearly every few days there is a new cigar being released by an existing company or a new company entering the industry. Then consider the insane number of offerings already on the market. How does a shop determine what to bring in? 

I cannot answer that question for every shop, but I can answer it for The Cigar Farm. If it was up to me, I would probably happily carry 20 to 30 different cigar companies' offerings. I would obligatorily carry another 5 to 10. However, I cannot do that. Since The Cigar Farm is a bootstrapped passion project, I have to pick and choose what I carry and how much I carry. I currently carry 18 companies, and there are only 3 that I carry the whole line of (because they have a limited number of lines). 

So how do I do it? 

When I started with a sampler of 5 offerings from 5 different companies, there really wasn’t a plan. When I started doing “Company Spotlights” was when I started to better plan how I would pick what to bring in and how. 

From the start I had the mindset that I would only bring in cigars that I would happily smoke if this all came crashing down. My criteria was:

  1. Bring in brands I know and enjoy
  2. Bring in sizes that I typically smoke
  3. Don’t go too deep on inventory

Nowadays rule 1 and 3 are still in effect. However, my new rules (not hard and fast, but more like guidelines) are:

  1. Bring in brands I know and enjoy
  2. Don’t go too deep on inventory
  3. Bring in sizes that sell
  4. Bring in the brands that move

Rule 1: Bring in Brands I Know and Enjoy

This rule has stood the test of time for a few reasons. The first is still because if I get stuck with a bunch of cigars, I better enjoy smoking them. Secondly, nowadays pretty much everything I smoke comes from what I carry. With the exception of if someone sends me cigars, I am testing some products that I am considering bringing in, or if I go to a B&M because I typically buy things I don’t have. Lastly, if I don’t enjoy a cigar, then I personally struggle with trying to move it. I don’t want to push something that I personally don’t want to smoke. If I had an extremely particular palate, I could chock it up to that. However, I smoke all types of cigars. I would feel disingenuous if I didn’t like something but talked about how good it is.

Rule 2: Don’t Go Too Deep on Inventory

This one is touched on above. Basically I cannot afford to bring in too much of one cigar. Typically this is not a problem, but there have been brands that I haven’t carried because they require too much from me to open an account. I don’t have hard feelings. It’s business and they know what’s best for their business. Hopefully one day I am in a position to bring some of those brands in.

Rule 3: Bring in Sizes That Sell

This rule (read guideline) was the hardest one for me to adhere to for some time. To stay consistent with Rule 1, I would likely only really carry robustos, petite robustos/rothschilds, and coronas. Those are the sizes that speak to me best, and I prefer. However, I still say that Toro reigns supreme in general. So now I try to balance “connoisseur” sizes with sizes that appeal to the masses. My site is definitely geared towards the “connoisseur”, but I don’t want to turn off the general smoker. All that to say, with the exception of El Pulpo and the Somm BDX, you won’t see many 56+ ring gauge cigars hit my shelves. At least a toro overlaps preferences nicely. 

Rule 4: Bring in Brands That Move

This rule is another balancing act. I am of the “connoisseur” cohort and we like unique, boutique brands. This is why, at this time, all I carry are brands that fit that description. As mentioned above, most of my traffic is of the “connoisseur” type and I try to keep a good gauge on what I see as being popular in that community. If I carry it, I tend to keep carrying it. I don’t, I begin investigating the brands a bit more and, if I like them, I put them on my “wishlist”. If I start getting more traffic and interest from the “general smoker” cohort, I would then consider those 5 to 10 obligatory companies I mentioned in the beginning (Oliva, Montecristo, etc, etc).

As I mentioned, these are more guidelines than rules. There will always be exceptions. I have brought in plenty of things that don’t move because either I personally like them too much to ignore, or because I just want to see what happens with them. I also do special orders for people frequently enough and may have some leftovers from those that I list even though they don’t meet the guidelines I go off of.

I think my next post in this series I will talk about how I decide what to keep on the shelves and what I cut..

Till next time,

-Trevor

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