Let's Hear It For The Girls!
About 2 percent of U.S. women say they smoke cigars, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, but that’s about 3.2 million women. (In the 1990s, Cigar Aficionado reported, market research showed that women comprised only one-tenth of one percent of the total U.S. cigar market.)
1. Hire More Women
Women will bring in more women. When a woman walks into the cigar lounge, she may, at first, be intimidated. If a woman-hire greets them, they will be more at ease and more likely to stay to hang out and try a cigar or come back for their (or their partner’s/friend’s/etc) cigar needs. Many companies and tobacco brands report that their customer breakdown by gender hovering around 80/20, with males being the predominate sex. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the woman demographic! That just means they are an untapped market you should engage. Female staff are valuable on many levels, from knowing how best to communicate with female customers to informing you what these customers really want. If you want to build female buyer confidence, start by hiring them to help you run your store.
2. Update the Décor
Add more texture. Women want more comfort in their lounge than men, on average. If your store or lounge looks dated, your female customers may be turned off. Add blanket throws, pillows, great cigar artwork or candid photographs with your regulars to make your place more friendly in general. Practice good merchandising habits by keeping the humidor, lounge, and bathroom clean with all the accoutrements women may expect from a lounge. If your spot is attractive to all sexes, then you can sell to all sexes.
3. Network Your Regulars
Introduce great people to other great people! You know your regulars. They are awesome people who just love all things cigar. Why not introduce your newcomers to these awesome folks? Women don’t want to feel intimidated by feeling excluded from the usual crowd. My first cigar experience was a work meeting at a cigar lounge and then I went the next day to work alone for a while. Sure enough, that night I had one of the tobacconists ask me about myself and if I would be interested in playing a friendly game of poker with the guys. Now, some of those gentlemen are my best friends and I’m here writing about cigars for you! Never underestimate the power of networking.
4. Make A Women’s Selection Section
Have a section with selections just for your ladies! Now I say this with a caveat – avoid “feminized” flavors. If you listened to No. 1 of this list, and hired more women, just have one of your women tobacconists pick the choices of women cigars. This does not mean that you should be picking flavored cigars or not (maybe one if it’s particularly good) or juts cigarillos. Real women smoke real cigars! Go top-shelf and let her spoil herself. Don’t be demeaning and pick pink colors and such nonsense, go big or go home! What do your women clientele really want?
5. Offer Diversity
A good humidor program and organization can bring women to your location. Be sure to offer a diverse selection of brands-both common and boutique-limited editions, and rare or hard-to-find cigars to keep your cigar enthusiasts hooked. See what your current female customers and tobacconists are purchasing and create a sampler pack for the newbie, the aficionado, and the woman!
6. Keep the Lounge Clean and Less Smelly
The biggest complaint women have about a cigar lounge and cigar smoking in general is the smoke smell. Using proper ventilation to eliminate the smoky smell and making the décor feel updated and fresh. Employing good ventilation for all of your customer’s pleasure. There IS a difference between air purifiers and smoke eaters. Why not use both? Also, use fabrics that resist smoke – no plush fabrics, curtains, or thick rugs. Although some air freshener sprays can help in hiding bad odors, they’re not effective at removing them completely. For instance, you can opt for tiles or hardwood floor instead of a carpet. IF you need to add a little warmth, a few machine-washable rugs should do the trick and save you from hefty laundry bills.
7. Host a Ladies’ Night!
Women love…to learn! Host a ladies’ night at your cigar shop. Offer fun extras like wine tasting, cigar samples, and maybe some female-friendly offerings like manicures, Botox, or products tailored specifically to them. Offer a tobacconist on site to describe and explain the making of cigars, or demonstrate hand-rolling. Have a signature cocktail and make a theme for your ladies’ night to attract more of a following. The theme can be as simple as a color, or as electorate as you want. It doesn’t really matter as long as these women know they’re there for a good time. Take advantage of any moderate temperatures outdoors and set up a wine & cheese night. You could also do a chocolate tasting party or schedule your night for a specific kind of show viewing. My personal favorite idea? A Gothic glam ladies night for Halloween, the day of my glorious birth. Be sure to host a tablescape and table favors!