Digi-Key makes mark abroad: Electronics distributor adding overseas sales officesDigi-Key is expanding overseas in areas where it has traditionally only had an online presence. In the past year, the Thief River Falls-based electronic components distributor has added offices in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, Italy and Poland, and an office in Shanghai will open later this month.
By: John Hageman, Grand Forks Herald
Digi-Key is expanding overseas in areas where it has traditionally only had an online presence.
In the past year, the Thief River Falls-based electronic components distributor has added offices in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, Italy and Poland, and an office in Shanghai will open later this month. One more in Hong Kong is in the works.
Mark Larson, Digi-Key president, said traditionally, Digi-Key’s strength has been distributing parts for customers to use in the engineering or design phase of their product. He said the push overseas is an effort to expand the company’s production market, or for customers using electronic components in the products they produce.
“And these customers really feel a little bit more attention,” Larson said. “So the idea is that we can develop the market more fully by having a real, rather than just a virtual presence over there.”
Digi-Key, which employs 2,600 in Thief River Falls, a town of 8,500, has about 1,200 people in the sales department. About 900 of them are dedicated to customers in engineering, while the rest focus on customers in production.
Meanwhile, Digi-Key’s operations in Europe are small, amounting only to about 30 employees.
“So it’s not a big presence, but … about a year ago, we didn’t have anybody in Europe,” Larson said. “In North America, over the last four, five, six years, we’ve developed a pretty significant customer base of just the type that we’re now trying to now develop in Europe and Asia. So in a sense, it’s not an unproven concept.”
Digi-Key’s test run in overseas expansion came about two years ago, Larson said, when it added a sales office in Israel. Sales have improved enough there to warrant adding more offices.
Larson said sales have already improved between 25 and 30 percent in the European offices compared with last year.
Larson said Digi-Key will continue to explore its options overseas.
“I would say that it’s the start of the process,” Larson said. “We’ll keep a close eye on what kind of productivity we’re getting out of these offices.”