With the opening of its 20th office in Penang, Malaysia, catalog distributor Mouser Electronics expects to increase the 40 percent of its business that is now conducted outside of the United States.
“Only a few years ago Mouser did five percent to 10 percent of its business outside the U.S.,” says Mark Burr-Lonnon, senior vice president for Mouser’s EMEA and APAC businesses. For all of the offices it has established internationally, Mouser has committed to a strategy it has duplicated across the globe: all offices provide local technical support, and all support is conducted in the language and time zone of the customer base.
“We decided those two attributes were key to our business,” Burr-Lonnon says. "Even though our Website is the biggest part of our business, people still want the local touch; local contacts and local technical support when needed.” Another aspect of this strategy is to brand Mouser globally, which Burr-Lonnon says can’t effectively be done from a headquarters in Mansfield, TX. “You have to take a global message and target the local market with local people doing it,” he says.
Mouser manages all of its shipments from its single warehouse in Texas, but global logistics have improved to the extent that two- to three-day delivery is available in all parts of the globe, Burr-Lonnon says. “Several years ago it was OK with some customers to receive shipments in three to six days. Now it is two to three. But we will respond in the future if market demands change.”
The Penang market, according to Burr-Lonnon, is a contract manufacturing center home to such companies as Jabil, Celestica, Plexus and Sanmina. Although Mouser does not play in the volume distribution space, EMS companies frequently need small lots of components to fill gaps in their bills of material. “Penang is a high-tech center and there is a lot of design going on there; but we also get a lot of shortage business from the EMS companies,” he says. “Design is the big engine, but the small production business is also good for us.”
Mouser is committed to stocking every component it advertises, so companies that specialize in volume production still turn to the catalog distributor during shortages. “Our inventory may not be very deep but it is wide, and if companies are short by a small amount we can always find inventory somewhere,” Burr-Lonnon says.
Mouser hasn’t expanded internationally as rapidly as some broadline and volume distributors that went on a foreign acquisition binge in the 1990s. The catalog has deeply researched the markets it has expanded in. One of the ways Mouser is test-driving new markets now is by establishing subdomains on its website in local languages and local currencies. Its most recent subdomain establishments are for Eastern Europe market. “As always, we try to cover markets with local content, so within the EU domain we have set up local sites for Bulgaria and other parts of Eastern Europe. Part of the reason is, from the menu standpoint, we have a lot of different pricing policies and that has driven our use of subdomains. But for us, it is really is the new technology products that we want to bring to the market.”
Mouser has established 63 subdomains at http://www.mouser.com/localsites/. Most recently, it has added:
Burr-Lonnon says Mouser differentiates itself from its competitors through its new-product introduction (NPI) programs that bring a wide selection of components to market quickly. “We are the only company that really focuses on NPI,” says Burr-Lonnon. “Other companies do lots of things and they do them well, but NPI really is our business. We are not focused on the number of parts ordered.”
Mouser’s business in the EU and Asia has grown by more than 20 percent in recent years; Burr-Lonnon points out the baseline for this growth started out small but Mouser is happy with the progress. In fact, he says, Mouser also tracks business by identifying new customers, and that growth has done particularly well. “If you look at the volume business, when business is slow you see that business drop,” he says. “In the design business, there is always something going on, even if the market is slowing. So in terms of new customers, we have done nicely.”
“We don’t rely on a small base of large customers for growth: we’ll always be able to reach design engineers because they are always designing,” Burr-Lonnon concludes.