“Staying current, relevant, and connected”
in a crowded market
Antigua Winds General Manager Grant Henry knows that his company, which nearly doubled its sales in the last three years, is an outlier in the relatively stable school band segment, and he’s openly proud that so many dealers are choosing to sell Antigua Winds instruments in their stores. “Being ‘not one of the big guys’ has given us the opportunity to see great growth as we continue to gain confidence, acceptance, and excitement throughout the U.S.,” he says. “Dealers continue to look for ways to remain both competitive and profitable—which is nothing new—and want to know they have support from their suppliers. Based on their feedback, our artists’ feedback, and educator feedback, we feel our attention to quality and service is delivering exactly that.”
With its products now sold worldwide, Antigua Winds is best known for its saxophones. A full line of professional soprano, alto, tenor, and bari saxes in its 4000 level “Power Bell” Series is now complemented by the 6000 level ProOne Series, which was created in collaboration with saxophone player/designer Peter Ponzol.
In 2010 Antigua expanded its reach significantly with the introduction of its Vosi line of instruments designed and manufactured specifically for school rental programs. According to Henry, Antigua Vosi instruments are “made to stand up to the typical demands of school rental horns and classroom realities, while acknowledging the needs of school music dealers and repair technicians.” The line comprises flutes, clarinet, alto saxophones, tenor saxophones, trumpets, and trombones.
Launched in 1991 by percussionist/educator Fred Hoey in San Antonio, Texas, Antigua Winds realized Hoey’s vision to afford any aspiring musician the opportunity to play music. Initially an importer of wind instruments, Antigua has grown to be much more. Today, all aspects of product design, quality/technical specifications, and sales/marketing strategy reside in San Antonio. Antigua team members inspect every instrument before it leaves Texas to ensure proper setup and playability, and they stay “very connected” with operations in the company’s manufacturing facilities through standing online video conference calls and factory visits. Hoey’s original vision hasn’t changed significantly, Henry explains, but the company’s “commitment to excellence is being challenged and further defined constantly. Antigua’s dedication to quality and reliable service continues to be a driving factor, and every attempt is made to over-deliver on this promise every day.”
Henry took the helm in 2011 following senior management positions at Conn-Selmer, where he was vice president of marketing, and as managing director of Ludwig Drums and Musser Percussion, as well as previous sales and marketing roles with John Deere, Kohler, and Ames True Temper. He acknowledges that the market for student and step-up horns is crowded, and that there is no trick or shortcut to winning over retailers or consumers. “We listen; we care,” he says simply. “Our ‘strategy’ is to stay current, relevant, and connected. Relationships are still the heartbeat of our industry, and we never want to lose sight of that. We pride ourselves on being small enough to give our customers the attention they deserve, and large enough to provide the value that they need.”
These principles, Henry insists, apply to all sales channels, a sensitive topic to school band dealers feeling their margins pinched particularly by low-overhead e-tailers determined to win the proverbial race to the bottom. Decades of marketing experience tell him that internet shopping will continue to challenge music retailing conventions. “But at the same time,” he adds, “I believe that wind instruments will always require something more than a PayPal account and a shipping address. Band instruments, no matter how they are built, will require adjustments, set-ups, education, support, and repair.” He sees this now inexorable trend as a call to action and “an opportunity for all of us, more than a threat, to adjust how we view our market and take part in redefining a suitable approach based on what customers are asking for while still upholding the honor, values, and tradition that we have always relied and depended on. I welcome those challenges.”
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