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Cigar 101

Key Differences to Buying Cigars Online vs. In Store

Shane K. K's picture

Shane K.

It’s a safe bet you’ve bought cigars online before, or you’re shopping for some now, based on the fact that you’re visiting the Holt’s site to read this article. Buying cigars online, like virtually any product or service you can imagine, has tremendous advantages – especially when you know what you want. It’s tough to beat the price, selection, product information, and convenience shopping online offers when you can access almost every cigar on the face of the earth with a few swipes on your smartphone. Plus, it’s easy not to leave the house or park a car when you’re getting free shipping.

Two Kinds of Commerce

Shopping for cigars on sites that are well-merchandized with up-to-date product descriptions and crisp, high-quality images makes the cigar-buying experience all the more pleasant and uncomplicated. The best cigar sites cater to sophisticated shoppers just like a cigar shop that is clean, organized, and staffed with courteous, knowledgeable professionals. It’s worth pointing out, the best cigar sites also maintain a brick-and-mortar presence in their local communities.

Visiting a cigar store in person is an irreplaceable experience. Something magical (some say borderline religious) occurs the second you step foot in a premium cigar shop. The aroma and sight of premium cigars mesmerizes your senses in seconds. Even customers who don’t smoke cigars, who may be buying a gift for someone, easily appreciate the scent and nostalgia the best cigar shops exude. Could you imagine buying bread online and never stepping foot in a bakery? There is an undeniable benefit to physically visiting a cigar shop in person. For gift buyers, too, getting one-on-one attention with a cigar expert is really helpful in making a selection. That said, the number of cigar lovers buying cigars online is only going to continue to skyrocket.

Following are the key differences between buying cigars online and buying cigars in a traditional retail shop.


E-commerce cigar sites enjoy one massive advantage to start: price. There are only a handful of prominent online cigar sites (4 or 5 to be exact). Because these big online retailers can warehouse an immense inventory of cigars, they have insane buying power, the kind your local brick-and-mortar shop simply can’t compete with.

Mom-and-pop cigar shops typically serve a local clientele. They have employees on the payroll and are likely paying rent. They might only order ten or twenty boxes from a given brand for the whole year and they need to maximize their profit margins to cover their overhead costs. The big online sites might order ten or twenty-thousand boxes in the same span of time. E-commerce sites rely on volume. In order to maximize volume, they frequently offer deep discounts on their cigars. Also bear in mind, your local cigar shop isn’t out to rip you off if you notice the prices are higher. There simply are a number of efficiencies bigger online channels exploit to keep their prices low.


Another advantage online cigar retailers possess is their selection. With cavernous humidified warehouses to store their cigars, they can carry an enormous menu of brands. The more brands a site carries, the more consumers they will attract.

Your local cigar shop has a limited amount of square footage for display and for back stock. Some retail humidors are smaller than an office cubicle. A store owner has to be choosy about what brands to carry and they’re probably only going to offer select sizes from a given brand.

Customer Service

Both the best online cigar sites and brick-and-mortar retailers place a lot of emphasis on customer service. Whether you’re communicating with a salesperson on the phone, in a chat, or in person, you want to be treated well. The difference is that you can get authentic one-on-one guidance about cigars when you walk into a cigar shop. Big online cigar companies also know that considerate customer service professionals are essential to earning your business.


Owners of high-quality smokeshops know their store might be the only place for miles where you can come to enjoy a cigar. It’s one of their biggest selling points. The best stores will always be clean, organized, and very welcoming. Guys who love to shop online will often also support their local brick-and-mortar cigar store because they need a place to smoke.

Your local shop also offers the added bonus of immediate gratification. In most cigar shops, you can fire up right at the cash register. Even with free shipping online, you still have to wait a day or two to get your smokes. If you do have a local cigar shop to visit, buy something while you’re there. It’s inconsiderate to use your local cigar shop as a smoking lounge if you’re not supporting the business. Keep a bit of etiquette in mind when you head to your nearest cigar store.

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