An interview with Ermen Soares from Primazia Decorama. Since the founding of ministryofcigars.com, we have published quite some news articles about Angola. Primazia Decorama is the distribution vehicle of Ermen Soares, who also owns the Men’s Emporium shop in Luanda. He introduced brands like Padron, Plasencia, Oliva, and Joya de Nicaragua in the African country. And in the last few months, he added Cornelius & Anthony, Gurkha, Dunbarton, Condega and many more to the portfolio. Time to reach out and ask some questions.
When did you start importing cigars to Angola
We have started in 2013, primarily importing from (American) webshops and having them distributed online and through social networks with home delivery. From 2016 we started to buy directly from producers in Nicaragua and Honduras.
Do you get your cigars straight from the manufacturers, or do you have to use wholesalers?
We buy cigars from the manufacturers and/or their distributors, especially in Europe.
Why did you start importing cigars to Angola?
As a cigar smoker for 24 years, I realized that there was a growing market that was in some point eager to try different flavor and aromas than the usual Cubans. As we had a strong presence of Cubans in Angola, that have brought the Habanos and custom rolls with them. Secondly, because there was a market, and customers attracted to the price difference and quality on Non-Cubans.
How is the cigar market in Angola?
Angolan market is a challenge by essence. It’s a good and attractive market for investment.
Is the business growing?
Yes, it has been growing, tremendously.
You mentioned that you use a redistribution for Alec Bradley, do you work with others often?
Actually, we have brought the first Black markets a few years ago, as an indirect import, from online cigars shops. This year we have reached an agreement with them to be their distributor.
We have been working with other brands at present. And we have plans to bring EIROA, Cornelius and Anthony, Bentley and other brands that we believe in. Although due to the US reserve blockage, our banks are facing some difficulties to make payments abroad. But it will eventually be solved with diplomacy. Both governments have been meeting with each other very frequently in the last months.
How is the competition, are there many other importers?
At the moment there are only 3 importers. And for some reason the competition is tough. But we respect each other.
How are the regulations in Angola? Smoke laws and taxes?
There are some flexible regulations. But we have heavy taxes. We currently pay 133% over each declared import invoice.
You also run a shop, doesn’t that bother other retailers?
Yes, the Men’s Emporium. I hope it does not bother others. We provide quality products to our market and that profits us all.
How many premium tobacconists are there in Angola? Or are cigars more bought at hotels?
The number of tobacconists is big. Hotels, pubs, and restaurants are a good part of the equation.
How do you select cigars to import?
It is all based on my taste and customer taste. We also look at the price-quality point.
How many people are there working for Primazia?
At the moment there are 12 people working with us.
What are your expectations for the future for premium cigars in Angola?
With the end of the crisis and the US Federal reserve impediments, for sure it will follow the global trend.
How many cigar smokers are there in Angola?
It is hard to be precise. Since there are no official data backing it up.
Has plain packaging for premium cigars landed in Angola yet? And what other restrictions are there? What can you do on your website and cannot do?
There are global restrictions. In Angola, tobacco publicity is forbidden in public spaces. Online is a different case.
Are there cigar lounges in Angola?
Yes, there are
Are you allowed to do events?
Yes, we are. But no publicity allowed except on social networks and website.. so far.
You added a lot of brands in a short time, aren’t you afraid you’re going too fast?
Not at all… As long as there is business as importer and/or retailer. The market is growing, so we have room for all those brands.
Any new brands that you’re working on getting in in the near future?
For now only the ones I have previously mentioned.
Will you stick to Angola only, or is it possible that you will start importing and distributing in other African countries too?
There are good chances to work in representing some brand for the SADCC (Southern African Development Community) market in the future.
Or maybe work closely with distributors in other countries, creating buying power and cutting on shipping costs?
With our bonded warehouse and good air or road connections throughout our region, it is possible.
Ministry of Cigars would like to thank Ermen Soares for his time. Keep up the amazing work for the Angolan botl.