Singapore has enacted stringent plain packaging regulations following similar legislation in Australia and Ireland, among other countries.
Since July 1, Singapore’s legislation dictates that plain packaging must occur before cigars arrive in the country. Retailers must now request distributors or manufacturers to fulfill plain packaging requirements on their behalf. Consumers buying online will be impacted as their purchases must also comply with plain packaging regulations.
Businesses such as Davidoff of Geneva Singapore have prepared accordingly. “The execution of plain packaging in Singapore is a global first for us as a company and has been an education process for all our colleagues involved,” says Laurent de Rougemont, managing director of Davidoff of Geneva Asia Limited. “It was a truly collaborative effort between our colleagues at the factory in the Dominican Republic, at our headquarters in Switzerland, and our Asian regional offices in Hong Kong.” Anne Chan, assistant brand manager at Davidoff of Geneva Singapore, says, confident that there will be minimal impact on sales. “We work with a loyal group of customers and anticipate they will return to stock up on their favorite smokes once we reopen after the COVID-19 lockdown. We anticipate an impact on the gifting segment, particularly around the various holiday seasons when we are popular with those looking for a strong packaging proposition coupled with our cigars, which Davidoff as a brand is known for.”
The cost of compliance is a serious concern for Jerome Lim, operations manager of Grande Vida Cigars, who identifies that increased packaging and labor costs will ultimately be borne by the retailer. He is also uneasy about the sales impact on limited edition cigars. “The original boxes are very important to collectors,” says Lim. “Without original packaging, the value of the cigars will be severely affected. It would be akin to a vintage bottle of Château Lafite being presented in a plain glass bottle with no labels.” Lim also fears the rise of counterfeit cigars, as there is no longer any original packaging to inspect. This concern is shared by consumers. Trusting your retailer is now of the utmost importance, notes Philip Phajan, a member of Singapore’s cigar community. “With plain packaging, how do you know you are getting what you paid for? I’m all about the cigar, so a lack of branding won’t make a big difference, but there will be issues for those unfamiliar with cigar brands,” Phajan explains. His enjoyment of cigars will not change, but his buying decisions may, based on the local retailers’ supply and the strong possibility that online retailers will not be able to comply with Singapore’s plain packaging requirements. Despite his forecast, Phajan is confident cigar culture will carry on and continue to grow.