Who is your favorite online cigar retailer? CigarCyclopedia.com editor-in-chief, Rich Perelman, measures online cigar retailers across the U.S. in brand pricing, breadth of product, shipping, and a new category, availability of real-time inventory. According to Rich, the Top 10 Online Cigar Retailers for 2009 are as follows:
1. Quality Fresh Cigars (CigarFox.com) of Troy, Michigan - Dan Jenuwine's family has been retailing cigars since 1946 and began a mail-order operation as the cigar boom hit its height in 1996. The site reports sales of more than 50 million cigars a year and previously finished 25th in the 2006 and 2007 ranking list. Quality Fresh Cigars scored 92.8 points out of a possible 100 to top the 2009 Rankings list.
2. Cigars International of Bath, Pennsylvania - Keith Meier's operation has been on CigarCyclopedia's Top Ten in all five retailer reports. Acknowledged as one of the nation's leading sellers of premium cigars, Cigars International piled up 92.0 points to finish second, its best finish ever.
3. BestCigarPrices.com of Stone Ridge, New York - Although CigarCyclopedia's ranking criteria has changed over the past five years, BestCigarPrices.com has remained at or near the top each time, compiling 91.6 points for third place this time. It has never finished lower than fourth and was the winner in 2006.
4. J-R Cigars of Burlington, North Carolina - Last year's winner, J-R Cigars, is the national leader in cigar sales and has been at the forefront of national cigar retailing for decades. It's still going strong today, compiling 91.4 points to miss the top spot again by just 1.4 points. J-R's shipping policy of $2.50 per item is still an eye-grabber and it offers an enormous selection of both premium and machine-made cigars.
5. Famous Smoke Shop of Easton, Pennsylvania - Another perennial Top Ten finisher, Famous has placed second, sixth, fifth and fifth again in the last four rankings. It is considered to be one of the largest (if not the largest) independent retailer of cigars in the country. Famous has a unique set of strong site promotions, including its own credit card (which gives instant rebates on a number of brands), "5-pack Frenzy" offers and much more.
6. Mike's Cigars of Bay Harbor, Florida - Another perennial in the Top Ten, Mike's ranked no. 1 in 2007 and has never ranked lower than seventh in the past five rankings. It is well-known for its owned brands, especially Bauza (made at the Tabacalera A. Fuente) and Licenciados (made at MATASA). It also offers wild samplers on its site and through its e-mail subscriber list that allows you to try two, four or 10 of five different brands in the same shipment, usually at 50-60% off retail pricing.
7. Serious Cigars of Houston, Texas - Serious is a newcomer to the Top Ten, moving up from 27th in 2008. It was one of six sites to have real-time inventory availability, showing customers if cigars are actually in-stock at the time of order. Ron Lesseraux's operation began as an online retailer in 1997, but he opened a retail store in Houston in late 2003. His philosophy: "If we like to smoke it, we carry it."
8. Holt's Cigar Co. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - One of the nation's best-known retailers, Holt's is the "home" of the Ashton, La Aroma de Cuba, San Cristobal and other brands manufactured and distributed by the wholesale side of the business known as Ashton Distributors. It has been in the Top Ten in all five rankings.
9. Atlantic Cigar Co. of Elmsford, New York - Atlantic was the top-ranked retailer in the first retailer ranking back in 2004. It has also been in the Top Ten each year, finishing in a tie for ninth last year. It's always among the low-price leaders and has "bonus cigar" offers on many of its brands as value-added gifts for its customers.
10. Mom's Cigars of Somerset, New Jersey - Mark and Alex Goldman have two Mom's Cigars outlets, are well-known in the trade for their wholesale operation known as the House of Oxford, and have what might be the quickest-to-use price sheet in all of cigardom.
Thanks to CigarCyclopedia.com for sharing their list of top online cigar retailers.