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Posts Tagged ‘trends’

Post Chinese New Year Holiday USB Stick Blues

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Oh dear. It all started so well. In the build-up to the start of the Year of the Dragon on the 10th February everyone was looking forward to the annual 2 week break from the production of USB memory sticks. Adequate provisions had seemingly been put in place to ensure customers were warned to order their USB sticks early, stockpiles of USB sticks had been built up in the UK and on their return from the New Year holiday the factories that manufacture USB sticks set about the task of catching up with the backlog of orders that inevitably built up during the two week factory close-down.

But like many best laid plans a couple of variables were either over-looked or simply underestimated and the net effect of this is the current carnage in the USB memory stick market. Prices of some USB sticks have no increased by nearly 50% in the last 2 weeks alone. Prices continue to increase every day with some manufacturers predicating that it might be another 3-4 weeks before things start to settle down again.

Such is the volatility that it’s either near on impossible to commit to prices or stock availability. The issues driving the price are:

  1. Shortage of NAND flash TLC (Triple Level Cell) memory – this is the core component of any promotional USB memory stick, it’s the part of the USB stick that holds the data and much of it comes from Samsung and Toshiba. During February both of these companies reduced their output of NAND TLC memory by 10%-20% preferring instead to manufacture DRAM (Dynamic random-access memory) products and higher spec MLC memory chips.
  2. Post Chinese New Year Holiday surge in demand – now the factories are open again there is simply too much demand chasing too little stock – the perfect conditions exist for classic “supply and demand” economics to drive up prices.
  3. Production of low capacity memory chips has stopped – some manufactures have decided to stop production of all memory chips below 4GB which in turn ramps up the pressure on the limited supply of 2GB and below USB sticks.
  4. Currency challenges – All flash memory components and the finished USB sticks are traded globally in US dollars. Today the pound (GBP) is trading around 9% lower than it was just a matter of weeks ago so if all other factors had been equal the price of USB sticks would have gone up by 9% during this period. But it’s not just the currency that has a bearing on price  as you can see from the above points.

Against this backdrop it’s perhaps not surprising that prices in the UK are in turmoil. At USB2U we still have thousands of USB sticks in stock that are available at the same price as 2-3 weeks ago but this only applies to certain models. So, if price is an issue then you may have to compromise on the style and memory size of the promotional USB memory sticks you order.

For other USB sticks our prices are currently only valid for 48hrs and the current trend is upwards so we strongly recommend that you place orders as quickly as you can. The other option is to delay your purchasing decision – prices will fall but not in the next few weeks.

USB Memory Sticks Prices

USB Memory Sticks Prices

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Here we go again – USB Memory Sticks Prices Shooting Up

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Well, I suppose having been in the industry and supplied printed USB memory sticks for nearly 10 years that we ought to know by now that prices tend to shoot up in July! Maybe it was just wishful thinking and a forlorn hope that this year it might be a little bit different but it looks like our hopes have been dashed.

This week alone the price of 2GB flash chips (the core component of any USB memory stick) have shot up by 15%. Some of the other memory sizes are not as badly affected but the general trend is most definitely up. A specific flash chip type (UDP) which is commonly used in Credit Card USB flash drives and key style USB flash drives has been particularly badly hit.

Choppy Waters for USB Flash Drive Pricing

Choppy Waters for USB Flash Drive Pricing

Flash drives prices have not been helped by a falling pound (GBP £) – all flash memory is traded in US dollars so as the pound falls the price of USB sticks rise.

This article (USB Flash Drive Price Trends in 2010) written by us in January 2011 and examining price trends for USB flash drives for 2010 shows that we went through almost an identical price rises in 2010 with increases of 5-10% across the board being the norm. If the same trend is followed this year then we’re going to have to wait until October before prices start to fall again.

If you were looking for the best time to buy USB flash drives then unfortunately you’ve just missed it! As in 2010 the month of June looks to have been the best month to buy your branded or promotional USB sticks. If you have to buy now then expect to pay a premium, if you’re looking to place a repeat order, expect prices to have gone up! If you’re able to wait prices will probably be back at or below June 2012 prices in late Q4.

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Turbulent Times In the Promotional USB Memory Stick Market

Monday, June 18th, 2012

The problems in Greece and the consequential fear over the future stability of the Eurozone have done little to help the market for promotional USB memory sticks. Whist stability in this sector is only likely to be of any interest to the relatively small number of companies that operate in it across Europe it is a sector that has seen more than its fair share of price challenges of late.

If you ever wondered why very few companies selling branded USB memory sticks put prices on their web sites forcing you to contact them for a price (which of course not everyone wants to do or has the time or inclination to do) it’s simply because the core costs of the product that dictate the sales price are inextricably linked to the currency exchange markets, the commodity markets and consumer sentiment.

Flash memory (including the flash memory used to make USB memory sticks) is traded as a commodity just like coffee, tea and oil so it is subject to daily price swings as the traders that deal in it judge global market conditions. Prices are fixed in USB dollars ($) so any for companies in the UK any weakness in Sterling (GBP – £) against the USD ($) pushes up the price up and finally seasonal purchasing patterns lead to supply shortfalls and rising prices.

With all of these “fluid” elements coming together companies that sell USB sticks can typically only take the risk of fixing their prices every day and it is simply not practicable to change prices daily on their web sites.

USB Price Fluctuations

USB Price Fluctuations

Hopefully the decision in yesterday Greece elections to support the pro-bailout parties will help restore some stability to the markets and in particular the currency markets. Nervousness about the situation across the whole of the eurozone and in particular the possibility of Greece voting to leave the EU had pushed the pound (GBP – £) down from around $1.6 a couple of weeks ago to $1.53. This has a direct impact on the cost of branded USB memory sticks which when combined with concerns about future demand (based on market sentiment) has led to further price volatility.

Ironically in the middle of all of this prices for USB sticks with a larger memory capacity have dropped like a stone. Prices for 8GB and 16GB are have fallen by well over 50% in the last couple of months and although there are “mutterings” of the prices going back up it’s unlikely they will ever return to their former highs.

As ever the best advice if you are looking to buying branded USB memory sticks is to speak to a reputable supplier that understand the market dynamics and can offer you some professional advice on when and what to buy.

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Recent Trends In the Use Of Promotional USB Flash Drives

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Everyone’s favourite little storage solution, the USB flash drive, has been with us for over 10 years and its popularity doesn’t look like faltering. Part of the reason for its continued popularity is because manufacturers continue to innovate and introduce new shapes, styles and designs and people continue to find new ways to use them.

Originally USB flash drives were primarily used as personal storage devices; replacements for floppy diskettes, CD’s and more recently DVD’s. The emphasis was on personal storage with most purchases being made by the individual for their own use. The drives were used to store and carry personal files (school and work files) and would typically be nothing more exotic that standard Microsoft office files.

Over the past few years dramatic price falls combined with significant increases in the amount of storage on a “typical” USB flash drive has seen a marked shift in the purchase and usage patterns of the USB drives. Some of the more interesting recent trends include:

Professional Photographers use USB flash drives to distribute client portfolios – the move away from 35mm film to digital image capture has given photographers the opportunity to give their clients not just printed photos but digital copies (files) of the photographs on some form of storage medium. Many photographers that originally used CD’s and DVD’s have now switched to USB flash drives. The move has been driven by a realisation that the drives look more professional, they can be sold in printed gift boxes and engraved or printed with the photographers’ logo and contact details.

Births, Marriages and Deaths celebrated on a USB flash drive – today people’s lives are charted and recorded digitally. Digital 3-D and 4-D images captured during pregnancy scans are now sold on USB sticks, births and marriages are photographed and the resulting images stored of USB flash drives and then distributed amongst family and friends. USB sticks are increasingly being used by the bride and groom as wedding favours (pre-loaded with the story of their relationship) and we’ve even seen USB sticks distributed a funerals (pre-loaded with photographs, scrapbooks, music and video clips) to help the mourners celebrate the life of the deceased.

USB Business Cards

USB Business Cards

Traditional paper business cards replaced by USB Business cards – rather than continue to hand out paper business cards some companies are now opting to hand out USB business cards. These are the same shape and size as traditional paper cards albeit they’re a little fatter at 2mm thick, but the real benefit of these cards is that they can be pre-loaded with the company’s brochures, presentations, audio files, media files, press releases etc. Not only are they a great innovation but they are a real talking point and by pre-loading them with relevant media they are really cost effective.

Printed Brochures and Catalogues distributed on a USB flash drive – Companies that have historically printed glossy brochures and then distributed them in the post are now increasingly using USB flash drives pre-loaded with electronic copies of the brochure. Not only are the drives more popular with the recipients but they are much cheaper to post.

Flash Drives take the Promotional Gift market by storm – millions of USB flash drives are given away by schools, universities and businesses every year. They are typically pre-printed with a logo, loaded up with data and then given away. The intent is to deliver information on the company, its products and service, to build brand awareness and loyalty and to give the recipient something that has a high perceived value – a printed USB flash drive ticks all of these boxes.

With printed USB flash drives now available from under £2 per unit and with speeds and memory sizes improving all the time it looks as though the future of the humble USB memory sticks is assured for a few more years yet. When the adoption of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 (which delivers a X 10 increase in data transfer speeds) starts to gather pace expect further innovation to underpin continued sales and new directions of use.

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Here’s What’s Trending In The Promotional USB Memory Stick Market

Monday, February 13th, 2012

A few weeks into 2012 it’s worth taking a quick look at what the emerging trends are in the promotional USB memory stick market. Apart from the continued explosion in the sale of promotional USB sticks there are some interesting new sectors that are now adopting these products with gusto:

  • Professional Photographers have been surprising slow to make the move from supplying their clients with their photographs on CD/DVD to the now ubiquitous USB stick, but, it looks like this is all about to change in 2012.

    Towards the end of 2011 sales of printed USB flash drives to photographers started to gather pace and just a few weeks into 2012 what was a small trickle has become more of a steady stream – expectations are that this stream will become more of a torrent by late 2012.

  • The increasing adoption and falling prices of USB 3.0 flash drives with their much enhanced read/write speeds are also likely to contribute to the migration to flash drives.

    Photographers USB Memory Sticks

    Photographers USB Memory Sticks

  • The current memory size of choice is 1GB because this represents the best value/memory size combination but most flash memory chip manufacturers will stop production of 1GB and 2GB flash chips in 2012 leaving 4GB as the de facto choice. The good news is that prices of 4GB sticks are falling fast so we’ll pretty soon see 4GB sticks at the price you can buy 1GB’s today.
  • More “niche” uses for printed USB memory sticks will continue to emerge. We’ve already seen them used to celebrate birthdays, weddings and funerals, to store 4-D images of babies in the womb, to capture car and engine statistics from track days and to raise funds for charities and World Challenge days. Expect 2012 to deliver more surprise uses for flash drives.
  • In the face of growing supplier competition prices and lead times for printed USB memory sticks are likely to come under increasing pressure. Typical lead times at the end of 2011 and entering 2012 (excluding Chinese New Year holiday issues) were around 10-14 days. With growing demand for printed USB sticks in a 48hrs or less suppliers are being forced to react and consequently turnaround times are expected to reduce dramatically. We’re already seeing some suppliers now offer printed solutions in under 24hrs!
  • Fully customised USB sticks in the shape of a product or logo are finally expected to take off during 2012. For the past few years bespoke USB sticks have been on the cusp of breaking though into the mainstream but lengthy lead-times and high set-up costs have held them back. Custom USB sticks make a much bigger impact so as more companies discover them (and plan for them) they will take a bigger share of the overall USB market.

    Custom USB Sticks

    Custom USB Sticks

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Expected Promotional USB Flash Drive Trends In 2012

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Well 2011 has certainly been a busy year in the promotional USB flash drive market. The popularity of the flash drive as a promotional give-away was reinforced not only by the sheer number of companies that have bought them but by a solid piece of market research undertake by the BPMA (British Promotional Merchandising Association).

Of all the people surveyed by the BPMA nearly half (45%) said they would most like to receive a USB stick in preference to any other promotional product. Usefulness was cited as the primary reason for wanting a USB stick and after a Promotional Mug USB memory sticks were kept the longest.

Having proven their “promotional pedigree” over the past few years in 2012 the expected trends for this popular produce are likely to be:

  1. Continued increase in the number of units sold – it seems people, businesses and schools just can’t get enough of USB Flash Drives.
  2. Continued cannibalisation of the CD/DVD market – these old storage products are now considered “dated” and simply don’t convey the right image as a medium for handing out data.
  3. The Twister or “Swivel” model as it is sometimes referred to is predicted to top seller again. It’s held this position
    Promotional USB Sticks

    Promotional USB Sticks

    for a number of years now because it’s a small, capless and colourful product that takes print well.

  4. Memory will get cheaper and the default promotional USB drive given away by the end of 2012 will have at least 4GB of storage compared to the typical 1GB drive that is given away now.
  5. USB 3.0 (also dubbed SuperSpeed USB) will start to gain momentum during 2012. Intel’s entry into the market in early 2012 will mean that most PC’s from the summer of 2012 will ship with USB 3.0 on-board. This will drive demand fore USB 3.0 peripherals and storage products.
  6. Custom (fully bespoke) USB flash drives will grow in popularity as the price differential between them and a “standard factory” design reduces.
  7. More customers will take advantage of pre-loading the USB flash drives with their own content (sales brochures, media files, web links etc.)  before the USB sticks are handed out.

Unfortunately we also expect to see more fraud and more sales of “masked” and sub-standard USB flash drives. The growth in the market is encouraging more companies to try and cut corners and buy from sites like Alibaba or direct from China. This is fine if you have the time to undertake appropriate checks and you’re confident you have a way of getting your money back should things go wrong otherwise it can be very risky. Don’t become a fraud statistic in 2012.

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Don’t forget QR Codes On Promotional USB Memory Sticks

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

One of the big technology and marketing trends of the year is the widening use of QR codes. QR codes or to give them their full name; Quick Response codes are two dimensional bar codes and they were originally developed by Toyota in Japan to help them keep track of parts and the status of vehicles during the manufacturing process.

Although they work in a similar way to conventional bar codes they contain significantly more information and open up all sorts of interesting marketing and communication opportunities.

Today if you’ve got an iPhone or Android smart phone you can download a QR reader from the relevant App store and start scanning QR codes. Because of this there are now literally hundreds of millions of potential QR scanners in the hands of consumers around the world.

QR Code on USB Credit Card

QR Code on USB Credit Card

Never ones to be slow to spot an opportunity the advertising and marketing community have been quick to exploit the potential of QR codes in all manner of interesting ways. Here are just a few examples of how QR codes are now being used:

  • Billboard adverts are now commonly displaying QR codes – simply take photo of one of these with your QR scanner (Smart phone or iPhone) and the code will typically take you to a web page where you can get more information on the product, enter competitions, buy tickets etc.
  • Magazine and newspaper adverts and articles now frequently display QR codes to enable to reader to quickly “jump” to a website or webpage that will display lots more information on the product, feature or article.
  • Hot link to movie trailers from QR codes on posters, theatre stands and adverts in the back of taxis, on the bus and on the tube.
  • Business Cards – don’t just print your name, address and web site URL on your business cards – print a QR code and allow your customers to jump directly to your personal profile, your Linked in page etc.
  • Food packaging – they’re a great way of giving consumers more information about the food they’re buying, the nutritional values of the item, it’s origin and how to cook it – simply scan the QR code and open up significantly more information than could realistically be put on the box or carton.
  • Exclusive offers and promos are increasingly being linked to the use of QR codes – to enter a prize draw you must first scan the code – this in turn takes you to a landing page where you get access to the exclusive deals on offer.
USB2U QR Code

USB2U QR Code

For advertisers the real beauty of QR codes is that they are free to generate, they’re easy to add to current advertising and they generate real traffic and interest.

We’re already seeing some of our more innovative customer print QR codes on their promotional USB memory sticks and it’s a trend we expect to grow rapidly over the next year or so.

If you are new to QR codes try ‘scanning’ the QR code to the left and see where it takes you…

Happy scanning!

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Early USB Flash Drive Trends in 2011

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

With April almost upon us it’s a good time to reflect on the 1st quarter of 2011 and look at what early trends are emerging in the promotional USB flash drive market.

Overall the market remains buoyant with sales of branded USB flash drives running at higher levels than during the same period of 2010. Given the recent challenges in the market following the disaster in Japan its perhaps surprising that volumes have not only held up but have exceeded those of a year ago. All indications are that this early momentum will continue throughout 2011 resulting in another record-breaking year for the humble, but ever so popular USB flash drive.

The fundamental drivers behind this continued growth are falling prices, larger memory sizes (at a better price), continued innovation in the design of flash drives (shapes, styles, materials) and an un-quenched appetite from consumers for flash drives.

As prices fall and larger memory sizes of USB flash drives become more affordable we’re also seeing some cannibalisation of the CD and DVD market. Increasingly promotional USB memory sticks are loaded with sales brochures, PDFs, movie clips, web links and so on before they are distributed. The savings made by not printing and transporting large sales brochures and technical data sheets can often more than offset the cost of buying the branded USB sticks and this, when it’s realised, again fuels the demand.

The most popular models of USB flash drives so far in 2011 are:

  1. Twister USB Flash Drive – This is an old favourite and continues to be in high demand. It’s a simple, small and portable product that takes print well, can be supplied with a pantone matched body shell and is also available with a range of different colours clips (the bits that rotate or “twist” around the shell to form the cap)

    Twister USB Flash Drives

    Twister USB Flash Drives

  2. Credit Card USB Flash Drives – These have been around for a couple of years but it’s the introduction of the new thin series (only 2mm thick) that has pushed sales forward. With plenty of space to print onto its possible to achieve some stunning effects with these USB cards.

    Credit Card Flash Drives

    Credit Card Flash Drives

  3. Bamboo and Wooden USB flash Drives – For any company that is pushing an “eco-friendly” message then these wooden and bamboo USB sticks are ideal. There’s no compromise on the overall aesthetic or performance and they can be supplied in recycled packaging as well just to reinforce the “eco” message.

    Wooden USB Twister

    Bamboo USB Twister

In the future expect USB 3.0 USB flash drives (these are drives that use the new Superspeed protocol) to start to gain a foothold in the market. At the moment the price premium for these versions mean very few are being used by the promotional sector but it’s a fast moving market and by the end of 2011 things could look very different.

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Branded USB Flash Drive Market Slowly Getting Back to Normal

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Prices for branded and promotional USB flash drives have shot up over the last couple of weeks with prices fluctuating by as much as 20% to 30% in a single day.

The earthquake in Japan and the subsequent concerns about long-term supply of flash memory are at the root cause of the price increases. Japan is responsible for the manufacture of around 35% of the world’s flash memory modules and in the days immediately after the earthquake the markets in which flash is bought and sold effectively saw a “run” on the price of flash.

Like any market pricing is driven as much by sentiment and FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt) as much as it is driven by hard fact and it would be fair to say that in the days immediately after the earthquake the market was in turmoil with factories and speculators driving up the price.

Branded USB Flash Drives

Branded USB Flash Drives

A week or so on and things, as far as USB flash pricing is concerned, are beginning to settle down. It would be premature to say things had returned to normal because uncertainty over supply is still a concern but the initial concerns about long lasting damage and severe shortages are dissipating.

With many companies around the world planning to use branded USB flash drives as part of their sales and marketing campaigns it’s a relief that supplies are now not only returning to near normal and that pricing is beginning to settle down.

Fortunately whilst the core price of USB flash drives at the factory gate has increased the effect on the end user has been softened a little by the USD dollar weakening against Sterling (GBP). Today the USD stands at $1.63 compared to $1.55 at the start of the year. Not a huge difference but every little helps in the current market conditions.

If you’re looking to buy USB flash drives and get them printed with your company or school logo on then the advice issued last week remains the same – if you can delay your order by another week or two then you’re likely to get a better price but, if you absolutely have to have them then shop around to make sure you are getting the best possible price you can. Do bear in mind that the usual lead times of around 10 days have increased a little as well so for safety sake add another couple of days and build this into your schedule.

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USB Flash Drives Trends – Pound begins to strengthen against the USD

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Like many products in the world today USB flash drives are manufactured in China and trade with the factories that produce them is all undertaken in US Dollars ($). So, when the British Pound (£) strengthens against the USD ($) the net effect is a reduction in the factory price of USB flash drives that are imported into the UK.

In May 2010 the US Dollar stood at $1.43 against the GBP (£) but since then the GBP has gradually strengthen to the point where it now stands at $1.62 – this 13% rise in the strength of the British Pound equates to a direct 13% fall in the cost of USB flash drives imported into the UK.

Worries of inflation getting out of control, not helped by recent VAT increases and a rise in commodities, mean we’re

USB Prices

USB Prices

likely to see Base Rates in the UK increase sooner rather than later. The release today of the minutes of February’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting shows growing support for an early rate increase and this sentiment has driven further strengthening of the Pound.

Of course currency exchange rates are not the only factors that determine the price of USB flash drives but they are a pretty critical one and it is one of the key reasons why many suppliers of flash drives will only hold quotes for around 3 days!

Other factors that have a bearing on the price of USB flash drives are classic supply and demand trends, for example prices always spike upwards when some of the global brands place large pre-Christmas orders on the flash memory factories. Bizarrely short terms shortages caused by local power outages (yes, they still happen in China) can also feed through to the price of USB flash drives.

Fundamentally “flash” is a commodity and traded on the markets just like coffee, gold and cereals. As such the price a customer pays can vary dramatically within is short space of time and with so many factors driving the price its difficult to judge which way prices will move.

The only sure thing is that over time prices for a given memory size will fall. They always have and always will. The challenge is predicting what happens in the next few weeks and months!

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