Caseking interview: Distie on growing its UK partner network 150% and European expansion

Executive director Steve Ling talks to PCR
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Hardware distributor Caseking has seen its number of UK retailer and system builder customers increase by 150 per cent in under a year – now it wants to grow its reseller network and expand across Europe.

Dominic Sacco asks executive director Steve Ling about its exclusive products, being a sibling to Overclockers UK and what’s next…

How has Caseking grown in the UK since you began supplying retailers and system builders last year?

When we talked in September 2013, our focus was largely on sales and to build a partner network. We are now developing on this foundation, investing in marketing to drive demand of our products from consumers through our partners.

Business development director Miodrag Relic (ex-Asus, Cooler Master) brought his expertise to Caseking Group earlier this year and recruited Steven Levitt to run marketing and PR for Caseking UK and our vendors.

We have just added a new salesperson to the team and are continuously looking for people who can add value to our organisation. 

How have you grown your UK partner network?

Our UK partner network is continuously growing and the number of customers has increased by 150 per cent since last September.

As well as bringing on some of the more well-known retailers and system builders, we are also focused on building a network of resellers to service local regions.

What sets you apart from more traditional distributors?

Caseking is a leading distributor of products for PC enthusiasts across Europe with many exclusive brands, especially based around chassis, cooling and modding.

A majority of our staff are gamers or enthusiasts and we work closely with vendors to develop their products.

BitFenix has been our most successful brand in the UK to date and we are working to replicate this. For example, Super Flower is a major OEM for high quality power supplies and we have exclusivity in Europe to develop their brand. 

What new products should retailers be aware of?

New cases from BitFenix, Lian Li, NZXT and Silverstone, power supplies from Super Flower, plus great new coolers from companies like Raijintek and Prolimatech.

We carry exclusive brands that cannot be found elsewhere, and have enough knowledge in the consumer-facing parts of the organisation to ensure customer satisfaction.

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Many of Caseking’s customers are system builders and modders looking for high-end components, such as custom desktop PC cases like the BitFenix Prodigy (left), high-voltage power supplies from vendors like Super Flower (centre) and high-performance cooling systems and fans like the Raijintek EreBoss CPU cooler (right)

What do you look for in a vendor? Are you currently looking to expand your product portfolio?

We are always looking for new products and these must complement our existing portfolio. This is different from the box shifters who sell multiple brands in a specific market segment.

We look for vendors who have a good product and most importantly who will be a true partner.

Our expertise is to work closely with a vendor, to grow demand across Europe and provide input to their products. If we are going to invest heavily in a vendor, then we would expect regional exclusivity. 

What kind of products are selling well? 

Cases are selling very well and BitFenix is leading the way. We have put a lot of effort behind the brand.

Have you seen a trend towards a certain desktop PC form factor?

ATX is still by far the most popular form factor for enthusiasts but we have seen strong growth in smaller form factors. The BitFenix Prodigy has been very popular – a smaller case designed for builds with high-end graphics cards and even water-cooling.

How do you balance being a distributor as Caseking and an etailer as Overclockers? 

The acquisition of Overclockers UK has given us a strong base in the UK market, providing the expertise, logistics and support to help develop Caseking UK.

In Germany we have a multi-channel structure and this has been replicated to ensure our distribution and retail can co-exist without conflict.

How important is Overclockers to Caseking’s strategy?

Caseking UK as a distributor and Overclockers UK as an etailer are of equal importance.

Both companies operate as separate entities within the Caseking Group with their own unique marke strategies. 

What is your proudest moment as a company?

Establishing ourselves as a true pan-European distributor. 

There are markets where size isn’t everything, but distribution isn’t one of them. We know what enthusiasts want – and now we can offer that kit across the whole region.

Equistone acquired you earlier this year – will this change the way you operate?

Our objectives and operations in the UK have not changed, although the additional investment could help speed up our future growth. Caseking is working with Equistone to expand the company into further European markets and reach new customers.

What does the future hold for Caseking?

Caseking is already established in countries within Europe such as Germany, France, Poland, UK and Netherlands with plans for more offices in other European territories.

We are actively seeking resellers for Caseking’s exclusive brands throughout the UK and Ireland.

"There are markets where size isn’t everything, but distribution isn’t one of them. We know what enthusiasts want – and now we can offer that kit across the whole region."

Timeline: A brief history of Caseking and Overclockers

1999 – Gaming PC etailer Overclockers UK is born after Mark Proudfoot comes up with the idea of selling overclocked CPUs with guaranteed performance. 

2003 – Caseking is established in Berlin by co-founders Toni Sonn and Kay Kostadinov. The first order is placed just two hours after the website’s launch.

2012 – Caseking acquires Overclockers UK.

2013 – Caseking launches exclusive brands in the UK including high performance chassis, cooling and modding products from vendors BitFenix and Prolimatech. The firm starts seeking retailers and system builders to grow its UK partner network. 

2014 – Caseking is acquired by investment firm Equistone Partners Europe Limited. Peter Hammermann, Equistone MD, comments: “In Caseking, we have invested in an established, mid-sized company with extremely high growth potential in a dynamic, cutting-edge industry. Caseking and Overclockers UK have built a strong brand exemplified by its reliability, recognition and popularity.”

FACTFILE: Caseking

Based: Berlin (HQ), Staffordshire (UK office)
Established: 2003
Employees: 100+
Contact: 01782 444 488
Website:www.caseking.co.uk
Turnover: €100 million (Projected for the year ending April 30th 2014)

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