Whilst the UK Cigar segment is smaller than the US equivalent, it is still expected to yield an estimated $482.9m (£368.22m) worth of revenue in 2022.
Whilst we’re making these comparisons to other markets, it’s worth noting that the German market is roughly twice the size of the UK, making it the second-largest market globally, with China and Spain the third and fourth place markets respectively.
Whilst for many in the UK this is a niche market, there is a lot of opportunity for vendors within the market to objectively create a strong position for themselves due to the current market conditions.
But before we look at the current market players (from an organic search perspective), let’s take a look at the market as a whole.
The UK market, much like the American cigars market has seen a lot of change over the past decade, with some decline between 2013 and 2016, but a resurgence in 2020 (correlating with Covid).
One key change over the past 5 years however is the shifting trend from offline to online purchasing. In 2017 it was estimated that only 3.3% of cigars consumed in the United Kingdom were purchased online. In 2021 this had risen to 6.8% and is expected to increase to approximately 11.1% by 2025.
This offers a strong opportunity for vendors who operate both online and offline business models.
The market itself is also subject to a number of uncontrollable external variables, and one yielding a lot of influence in the UK market is the Government. Anti-smoking messaging has grown more impactful and combined with increased taxes on tobacco products the average price per unit is expected to increase by 14% between now and 2025 (representing a 49% increase versus 2012).
Another important factor to note is that consumers are not all in the older demographics. 52.7% of consumers in the UK are aged between 18 and 34, and 51.7% of the market identify as being in the “high income” bracket, so the market has potential and some longevity based on consumer age.
Organic Market Players
Looking at online vendors, there are a number of companies operating in the UK marketplace.
From looking at the websites in third-party tools, there are two clear market frontrunners, these being cgarsltd.co.uk and finestcubancigars.com.
The other websites are relatively “clumped together” in terms of performance, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities for either Finest Cuban Cigars or Cgars Ltd to become the prominent marketplace leader.
As you can see from the above chart, whilst Cgars Ltd has a strong presence in terms of the total number of keywords that the website ranks for, those keywords drive a lower level of traffic than five other websites, these being: finestcubancigars.com, cigars-of-cuba.com, egmcigars.com, cubanlous.com, and topcubans.com.
Recent Market Trends
Looking at the history of the top websites competing in the UK market, there does seem to have been an event in June 2021 that affected a number of websites negatively, and a number of sites positively.
This correlates with the June/July 2021 Core Algorithm updates.
This was a turbulent time for website owners, as it was a two-part update. Rather than rolling out a single update, they rolled out “what was ready” in June, then everything else in July, meaning any ups and downs in June could have potentially been reversed, adding to the uncertainty of what was going on.
Those who benefitted from the update:
Those who lost out on the update:
Those seemingly unaffected by the update:
**cubanlous.com, cigar-club.com, simplycigars.co.uk, and havanahouse.co.uk I have applied asterisks to, as whilst they were affected by the July 2021 update, they all saw considerable losses in the May 2019 update. As did cgarsltd.co.uk.
In order to assess rankings, and organic performance I’m going to take a look at who ranks the best for ten of the more popular smokes in the UK. These being:
- Montecristo No 2
- Oliva Serie V – Belicosos
- Montecristo No 4
- Cohiba Siglo 1
- AJ Fernandez Bellas Artes Maduro Robusto
- Romeo Y Julieta No 2
- Partagas Serie D No 4
- Brick House Robusto Havana Subido
- H Upmann Regalias
- Rocky Patel Quarter Century Robusto
And why am I looking at popular smokes versus the most searched for? Because from experience, consumers in this segment who know what they want are typically regular smokers, educated, and once acquired can have a long lifetime value and brand loyalty if you maintain (and deliver) a positive experience.
|Search Term||Position 1||Position 2||Position 3|
|Montecristo No 2||Cgars Ltd||Cigar Club||Cigars of Cuba|
|Oliva Serie V – Belicosos||Cgars Ltd||Smoke King||Simply Cigars|
|Montecristo No 4||Cigar Club||Cgars Ltd||Cigars of Cuba|
|Cohiba Siglo 1||Cgars Ltd||Havana House||Cigar Club|
|AJ Fernandez Bellas Artes Maduro Robusto||JJ Fox||Holts||Cigar World|
|Romeo Y Julieta No 2||Cgars Ltd||Havana House||Waitrose|
|Partagas Serie D No 4||Cgars Ltd||Havana House||Cigar Club|
|Brick House Robusto Havana Subido||Gauntleys||Rebellion Cigars||Smoke King|
|H Upmann Regalias||Cgars Ltd||Havana House||Half Wheel|
|Rocky Patel Quarter Century Robusto||Havana House||Cgars Ltd||23 Wine & Whiskey|
As the table shows, for the most part, Cgars Ltd has a strong position – with the top 3 being relatively similar.
Coupling this data with the data from the general market analysis shows that there may be more MOFU (middle of the funnel) and TOFU (top of the funnel) related phrases that these three sites can go after to influence and engage buyers earlier in their journey, versus engaging with a select group of engaged users towards the end (after a number may have dropped off).
With there being such a spread, and clear difference between websites prominent for BOFU (bottom of the funnel) search phrases, and those more prominent for MOFU and TOFU, there is a clear opportunity for a single player to establish prominence across the spectrum and both provide education to the user, as well as the end sale.
All data sources referenced in this article are available upon request.