Breakfast of Champions (The 2017 NAMM Show): Matthew Stoecker, Quinn the Eskimo Vintage Horns

Quinn the Eskimo Vintage Horns represents a new breed of music retailer: one without a storefront and, for much of the company’s history, a website. The seller of used, vintage and new horns began as an eBay retailer and has since evolved into a multichannel online store. Last year, it yielded $5 million in revenues. Company founder Matt Stoecker spoke with NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond about online retail innovation during “Breakfast of Champions” at The 2017 NAMM Show.

Stoecker, who has a background in microbiology, was working for Microsoft while selling horns on eBay. When he started making more revenue with his side business, he devoted himself to it full-time. 

“I never even thought of opening a store,” Stoecker said.

“Once I got to that level where I was doing it full-time, I was too involved in it to have a store. That would have been extra overhead, it would have been extra money, it would have been extra learning about a part of the business that I had no experience in. It would have been a big risk at that point.”

He then discussed key elements in making his model work, especially Quinn the Eskimo’s customer-centric philosophy. “There are a lot of people that are, rightfully or not, nervous about making a purchase on the internet. So again, we have to take customer care to a level that is even further beyond what you might do at a brick-and-mortar store.

“Brick-and-mortar stores have built-in advantages. People can walk into a brick-and-mortar store, they can pick up that saxophone, they can try it out, they can try another one, and they can decide what they like and then take it home. So we try to take that a step further. We say, ‘You can try our saxophone in your house, in your lesson, in your concert. Keep it for two weeks. If you don’t like it, send it back for a refund. Or, take three of them. Pick the one you want; send the other two back.’ So we have to go that extra mile to make people feel comfortable with their purchase and safe with their purchase.”

Quinn the Eskimo has also been forced to adapt its business model to disruptions in the market, namely when eBay altered its fee structure. “I saw my fees essentially double, almost overnight,” Stoecker said.

“Instead of running away, I doubled down on this model. I knew that this was a growing model. We needed to keep being here for those customers. So I started making relationships with some of the major manufacturers of brass and woodwind instruments, and I branched out into new instruments. And that fusion now of new and vintage instruments has allowed us to not only survive and move forward but we’ve started to thrive, too. They’ve been very good relationships on both sides, I think.”