cgr_pix-hansotia_kaizad_150x150Los Angeles, January 6, 2011 – No one can say that Kaizad Hansotia, owner of the Gurkha brand, is anything other than enthusiastic.

"The sun is shining, brother. I think this is going to be a fantastic year, and I see a lot of changes coming," he said in an interview this morning. The biggest shift he is seeing is the movement in cigar shops in favor of the so-called boutique brands.

"The national manufacturers used to have 70-80% of the shelf space in most smokeshops because the boutique companies didn't have the distribution that the major corporations had," he noted. "But now the boutique companies have really taken over - look at us, at Padron, at Tatuaje - all of the smaller companies are doing really well.

"These larger manufacturers are losing shelf space to the boutiques; in some stores, you see only 30% of the space is given to the national brands and 70% to the boutiques. I see that trend continuing."

In addition, Hansotia noted that "manufacturers who are narrow-minded and have only one flavor profile out there are going to have a hard time. You need to have a range of flavor profiles that go all across the board" to be successful.

His own experiment with more-affordable Gurkhas has been a hit. "The Ninja and the Viper lines have really taken off. Those blends - along with the Archive, too - with their price point and the fact that they are Gurkhas, have even surpassed the Vintage Shaggy line, which was our biggest seller before, and still sells very well."

Naturally, Hansotia has plans for his high-end clientele as well. "We are coming out with our super-cigar, the Raja, later this year. It will be in a special-edition box made of solid silver, and is only meant for the major collectors of cigars, of the high-end Gurkhas we have produced. The details will be released about one month prior to the IPCPR trade show [in July], but I can tell you we plan to make them in the Dominican and a box of 50 will cost about $250,000."

The Gurkha line will also be expanded with one or two new lines that focus on the nostalgic, traditional packaging of cigars from the 20th Century. "These will be new brands," noted Hansotia, "but in old-style boxes that will really be appealing."

Hansotia's background, of course, is in watches and jewelry, where manufacturers are expected to introduce a new collection at least once per year, so it's no surprise that he is well grounded in fashion-style marketing. At least for him, it has turned out to be a key in keeping their profile - and sales - high.
~ Rich Perelman

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