Filed under: Cigars
Why are sales of Cuban cigars down? The minute the subprime mortgage crisis turned global, of course, demand had no place to go but down. And, there's always the quality issue that has plagued manufacturers in recent years. So far, the damage hasn't been bad.
Habanos S.A., which makes the storied Montecristo, Cohiba and Partagas brands, moved $390 million in 2008. That's a drop of 3 percent from 2007. The company, a joint venture involving the Cuban government and Altadis, says that this hasn't affected profits significantly.
Unsurprisingly, Habanos blames smoking bans in France, Germany and the United Emirates (among others) in addition to the financial crisis. If you can't find a place to smoke, you aren't likely to do it as much (a trial I endured in Scotland last year).
But, economic conditions are still the main event, particularly when you consider the secondary effects.
International travel took a dive last year ... to the tune of 11 percent. What's that mean? American cigar dilettantes weren't able to piss away as much on Cuban sticks as they may have in the past. Duty free shops thus moved fewer cigars than usual, with total sales in these venues down 24 percent from 2007 to 2008.
Despite the slip in sales and claims that profitability isn't seriously impaired, Habanos isn't optimistic about the future. On the subject of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, typically a favorite topic of speculation, the company would only say that it has "much worse problems to deal with in the world."
[Via Latin American Herald Tribune, photo by Steve Zak]