26/09/2006 - 22:00

Devlin smokes ‘em in the cigar stakes

26/09/2006 - 22:00

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Simon Devlin may have put cigars on the map in Western Australia, but his new venture may stamp his authority over the luxury good on a national scale.

Devlin smokes ‘em in the cigar stakes

Simon Devlin may have put cigars on the map in Western Australia, but his new venture may stamp his authority over the luxury good on a national scale.

Mr Devlin has just opened the doors at his new, sumptuously appointed cigar haven on Hay Street in Subiaco – taking over the premises vacated by Archipelago Furniture. Not only has the move provided the opportunity to expand his brand’s retail exposure and product range, it has further entrenched Mr Devlin’s claim to be the state’s cigar king.

Mr Devlin’s association with cigars and Perth has proved a fruitful one.

In May 2000, he and a business partner opened the small London Court store called Devlin’s Cigar Divan. This retail exposure further pushed the brand forward and, in February 2002, Mr Devlin bought out his partner and began to dramatically diversify the range.

“Even though cigars were going through a boom at that time, cigar smoking had never been a big part of the culture in Australia, so often we have had to give people an understanding of what it is like” Mr Devlin says.

“Most often the first cigar people have is when they’re at a baptism wetting the baby’s head. So to help people understand the product, we did a lot of tastings and dinners.”

In just a few years Mr Devlin increased the revenue of the London Court store 4.5 times. And, as more punters took to cigars, the WA Club opened its cigar friendly Churchill’s Bar in December 2002.

But growth for the brand didn’t stop there. In November 2003, The Colonnade became home to the second Devlin’s retail outlet.

That is, of course until September 2006, when the newly re-branded Devlin’s moved to new digs just across Hay Street.

Mr Devlin says his store is the perfect place to find a gift for the hard-to-buy for.

“The re-branding was to emphasise a shift to concentrating on more things than just cigars,” he says. “We have been very conscious of not alienating our existing customers, but now we feel we can offer them so much more.”

Devlin’s has always had iconic locations, a point not lost on its proprietor, who says it is important for a luxury goods stores to be housed in a building, location or facility that is, itself, a place of luxury.

“WA is booming and recently there have been a number of luxury goods stores coming to Perth; Gucci for example and the rumours of Tiffany’s sniffing around,” Mr Devlin says.

“But, in the majority, they have been female orientated. That’s why I’m so excited about this store because it will offer something different.”

There is no doubt that the new store exudes opulence. From the Italian porcelain floor tiles to the stained jarrah and the cedar-lined humidor, the $400,000 refurbishment makes you wonder if a furniture store ever existed there.

The location now features Australia’s largest walk-in humidor to house more than 88 private cigar keeps. The humidor alone is five times the size of the whole London Court store.

Access to it is all controlled with electronic swipe cards, which also give members admission to the private cigar lounge.

The Devlin’s range is now expanding into shirts and ties from Milan and Tuscany, Perth’s most exclusive range of Parker pens, Dunhill cufflinks, Eric Nording pipes and much more. In all, the list of stock runs near 1,500, and there is room for more.

Although admitting he sees people from all walks of life frequent his cigar shops, Mr Devlin admits that there is an undeniable bias towards businessmen among his loyal patronage.

“Successful and busy people enjoy a cigar because to them a cigar is about time. It takes time ageing, rolling, cutting, and lighting a cigar,” he says.

“To these people a cigar is about solace; for that hour or so it’s all about taking the time to enjoy it.

“Growth of cigars parallels that of fine food and wine in this country. Especially over the last 10 years. I mean, now, if you go to a barbecue, everyone is espousing the virtues of the new gewürztraminer whereas a decade ago it was, ‘give us another VB’”.

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