Habana Port Cigar Merchants is a multi-outlet retailer with two successful stores in Louisiana. Founded by father and son Roberto and Luis Molina, the company started with one store in 2010.
The family has opened a new shop since then, and they’ve completely modernized their operations.
Today, Habana Port offers a completely omnichannel shopping experience by allowing customers to shop online and offline. The business also has services like in-store pick-up to bridge the gap between various retailing channels.
What’s more, the Habana Port team developed their own customer-centric application, which allows clients to keep a detailed journal of their purchases — ultimately enriching the customer experience.
We caught up with Luis and asked him to share the story behind the business and what they’re doing to thrive.
Check out what he has to say.
1. Tell us a bit about how Habana Port got started. What’s the story behind the business?
I started out as a cigar enthusiast in 1997 and my father, Roberto Molina, and I worked the cigar trade in New Orleans for a large wholesaler for nearly a decade before we opened Habana Port in 2010.
Before that, my father has always had an entrepreneurial drive. He has undertaken such projects like sporting goods importing in the 80s, coffee harvesting in El Salvador in the 90s, and artisanal cheese production in the late 90s/early 2000s. His business skills have steered the course for Habana Port’s successes to date.
In 2013, my brother Arturo joined the family business when we opened our 2nd location and has been a valuable team member.
2. What are the unique things about your store that customers love? How do you keep people coming back?
First and foremost we believe in hiring the right people; we have high expectations and seek individuals who understand that a personal touch and great customer service are keys to motivating the client to return.
All our staff get to really know not only the clients’ tastes but with many, they begin to know their personal situations so that many customers become like family. As a result, we pay a salary higher than industry average and the gross sales justify that strategy.
For example, our Baton Rouge Store Manager Sam Rittenberry has grown his location’s sales due to his unique sales personality and motivated drive. Vend makes it possible for him and all our staff across our multiple stores to create Customer Profiles with a built-in Loyalty Program thus offering the great service for which our brand has been known.
3. What are some of the challenges that come with running multiple stores and how do you overcome them?
Inventory management is a top priority. Habana Port cannot deliver great customer service without the right amount of product in each location.
The Reporting features within Vend allow us to manage our supply chains more effectively especially in an industry that is rampant with scarcity due to the nature of the premium cigar being handmade and also dealing with crops prone to weather conditions.
Instead of waiting for a product to run out, we can get ahead of the problem by analyzing movements by SKU, location or any other filtered characteristic within the Reporting page.
4. What is your favorite Vend feature and why?
Vend’s cloud server-based infrastructure allows us to see our inventory in real time. We know what product is available at any of our locations.
Our previous point-of-sale was local-based and the multiple stores could only transfer data to the other with a manual request. In order to prevent any interruptions during the business day since the store exchange took some time, we would perform this task at the end of the day. Moreover we could not sync a custom-app to it.
Vend’s cloud server protocol has allowed more possibilities for our business.
5. Are you using any add-ons or integrations with Vend? Can you tell us more about what you’re using?
With Vend’s open-source API, we have created a custom app which connects to Vend’s infrastructure.
Any client who comes to our stores and has been age-checked can create a profile which then allows them to unlock our free app. Clients may look up their prior purchases, monitor their Loyalty Dollars, view our entire catalog, click on a “Buy Now” button for those products on our e-Commerce site, and access my personal favorite feature: the Journal.
This page within the Habana Port app tabulates every SKU that the customer has purchased onto a single line item. Then there is a button that allows them to rate each cigar or product by assigning 1 to 5 stars. A comments box allows tasting notes to be saved, revised, and viewed again.
As mentioned, we have developed an e-Commerce site at shop.HabanaPort.com and have integrated our Vend account with Shopify. This strategy has proven to increase our omni-channel capabilities.
The site offers pick-up options for our customers as well as shipping with an option of carriers. Based on Vend’s suggestion, creating a separate Register that only processes Shopify sales has allowed us to efficiently manage our immense inventory across all channels.
Customers earn Loyalty Dollars with purchases in-store and on shop.HabanaPort.com. Habana Port strives to shift more focus to e-Commerce so that the brand increases its reach to farther markets.
Level up your retail game with Vend
Whether you’re looking to go omnichannel, improve the customer experience, or get a better handle on your inventory, Vend can help. Get in touch with our team or take a free trial and discover how Vend can level up your retail game.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.