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Why do the prices of USB sticks change so much?

Posted by USB2U on 16th January 2018 | Permalink

A question we get asked quite a lot here at USB2U from our repeat customers is why the price of their branded USB sticks has changed since they last ordered? A valid question that I think we need to address. As hard as it is to believe we don’t actually enjoy charging our customers more for their USBs when cost prices go up, especially when they have used us as their trusted promotional supplier over so many years.

Unfortunately, it all comes down to the way flash drives are manufactured and how the supply chain effectively operates. Below, we’ll go through just some of the challenges that we as a company face when it comes to pricing our USBs on a daily basis.


How are Flash Drives made?

All modern flash drives will start out life on what is called a Silicon Wafer, a thin, delicate structure designed for integrated circuits that are found in flash drives, computers and even mobile phones.

FACT: Silicon is the most common semi-conductor on Earth and the most widely used in the electronic and technology sector.

Silicon WaferSilicon Wafer

Each Silicon Wafer is designed to be broken into multiple pieces for use in a variety of different components including USB drives. Many pieces will be serialised and can be stacked together to create 3D integrated circuits which are more complex and offer a greater level of density. Larger memory size USBs will inherently contain more wafer layers inside of them.

In general, the silicon wafer will be used to create NAND chips. Such chips are non-volatile meaning they do not require a constant power supply to preserve the data stored onto them, making them ideal for flash memory devices.NAND Chip

NAND chips are manufactured specifically in fabrication plants or ‘fabs’ for short. Only a small number of these factories exist in the world, and therefore have direct control over the overall supply and, more importantly, the day-to-day market price. The majority of these factories are located in China, however, some facilities also exist in Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.

These chips are considered to be a critical component in a number of electronic devices, not just USB sticks. Modern computers, smartphones, and tablets all have NAND chips within them, thus all companies in these markets will inevitably purchase from the same supply chain. This, of course, creates problems if demand increases or there are issues in other market sectors as these will have a knock-on effect on supply and ultimately, market price.

NAND Chips ManufacturingNAND Chip uses

NAND Chip Demand Issues

The smartphone market, in particular, is notorious for causing supply chain issues.

Big tech companies with large buying power such as Samsung and Apple will often purchase huge quantities of NAND chips for use in the production of their latest smartphones.

This therefore significantly reduces the overall supply available in the market which causes the price to subsequently rise for everyone else looking to buy, including us!

While it has gotten easier over the years for factories to cope with such large orders, new tech products are being created all the time with many subsequently requiring flash memory to function.

NAND Chip Demand Issues

NAND Chip Supply Issues

It’s not just demand issues which can affect the price of USBs, it can also be supply based as well. The most expensive times to buy USB Flash Drives are February/March and September/October time where China observe their own national holidays.

You may have heard us before talking about how it’s important to order USBs before the Chinese New Year and Golden Week, well the reason for this is that production factories including ‘fabs’ close for up to 2-3 weeks over these periods. This causes a rise in demand, due to a shortage in production, which in turn leads to prices sharply rising. We ourselves have seen an increase in cost-price from 30p to anywhere up to £1.20 per unit before, during these periods.

USB China Holidays

Because only a small number of factories exist in the world if only a few of them close for just a few days, the price of the chips would likely go up. This was very much the case back in 2011 when Japan was hit with an earthquake and tsunami causing many factories to close, which consequently halted production of NAND chips out of the country for several days and ultimately led to prices increasing.


Exchange Rate Fluctuations 

Exchange rate fluctuations in general cause headaches for many businesses out there who buy from abroad. When it comes to buying NAND flash the issue is no different. Many companies, including ourselves, have to purchase these chips using US$ dollars and convert back into £’s. If the exchange rate is unfavourable between the two the overall cost price will inherently increase. This has been most apparent in recent years due to Brexit where the £ substantially depreciated against the $ and therefore we as a company ended up paying substantially more for flash drives. Even today the £’s value hasn’t quite reached the same level as it was before the referendum, therefore those who haven’t ordered from us in a while may see a noticeable increase in the price of their branded USB sticks.

Exchange Rate FluctuationsEU Referendum

Things to keep in mind when you next order USBs

NAND chips could be considered a tech commodity as their price is always determined by current supply and demand similar to that of Gold and Oil. There are times of year where prices will tend to rise and also times where they will go down, it’s always worth having a little look to see what is happening in the sector.

If you’re looking to purchase large quantities of USBs the following tips may be able to help you determine when best to buy:

  1. Look to order before February and September to avoid the closure of factories in China and the price rises that follow.
  2. Watch out for tech news especially related to new/upcoming product launches by large companies. These should give you an indication that the price of USB flash memory is set to increase.


What we can do at our end…

USB2U has become quite adept over the years of being able to predict when price rises are expected and will always try and order stock in advance. This means we can hold a variety of USBs in our own UK stock which helps to reduce some of the price volatility experienced.

Like any other commodity however, there is still an unpredictability to ordering at any time of year as prices can change daily, this is why our quotes are only usually valid for a limited time.

USB Price VolatilityUSB2U Standard Delivery

USB2U Guarantee and Promotional Tech

Our dedicated team will always do their best to get you the best price possible on your promotional USBs. Often we will look at several supplier options before coming back to you with a quote ensuring we try and obtain the best possible price.

Even if you find a cheaper supplier elsewhere, it is always best to check with us, as in most cases we will able to price match a like-for-like quote.

If you’re still not satisfied with the price quoted for your USBs why not take a look at some of our other promotional tech products including Power Banks, Speakers and Headphones to name a few!

Contact our sales staff at +44 (0)1604 684 811 or [email protected]. Alternatively, you can also visit our website to see the full range of products on offer.


On USB pricing instability

Posted by USB2U on 17th October 2016 | Permalink

NAND* flash prices have been creeping up since the factories in China returned from their Golden Week National Holidays, and unfortunately for us and our customers, they are still on the rise. Industry experts predict that NAND flash prices will continue to rise in Q4 of 2016 due to severe supply shortages. This has a direct impact on the cost of branded USB sticks.

Whilst we do everything in our power to serve our customers with steady products and services there is one thing that is completely out of our hands: the cost of USB flash memory. Whilst we don’t know exactly what is causing the supply and demand issue, we have a strong suspicion that the big players in the smartphone industry, Samsung and Apple, could have something to do with it in the lead up to Christmas.

The cost of flash memory has always been something that fluctuates which is why we only hold our quotes for USB memory sticks for 24-72 hours on average. However over the past few years, pricing had been fairly static with only a slight change from week to week. In contrast over the past week, pricing has been changing on a daily basis, sometimes 2-3 times a day, so we have reduced our quote validity period down to a strict 24 hours.

The weakening of the pound since the EU referendum is another factor influencing the market and pricing levels. Since the vote to leave the European Union was announced, pricing has become even more unsteady and certainly unpredictable. This is due to the impact the vote result has had on the value of the pound and subsequently the dollar exchange rate.

Sometimes the fast changing USB flash pricing can take our customers by surprise, and we fully appreciate this. We always work hard to allow the best possible pricing for our customers, and hope that the market will start showing some stability in the New Year.


* The digital memory component that is used in a range of tech goods including smartphones and USB memory sticks.



USBs and Power Banks During the Chinese National Holidays

Posted by USB2U on 5th September 2016 | Permalink

The Chinese holiday period is fast approaching. However with our levels of products and services we are able to get you through this period with flying colours!

The majority of branded promotional USB sticks and power banks are manufactured in China. Running up to the Chinese holidays the manufacturing process will slow down and eventually stop. This results in a shortage of supply and increase in prices prior to and for a short period after the holiday. The lead times for deliveries will also increase.

During this time, if you require fast, reliable delivery of USBs, power banks or other branded technology products, then get in touch with our friendly team here at USB2U. We hold a large amount of UK stock of USB memory sticks and power banks giving us the opportunity to serve you and your customers seamlessly over the Chinese holidays.

The holiday period in China kicks off on the 15th and 16th September with Mid Autumn Festival, followed by the Golden Week during 1st – 9th October. The celebrations include Fire Dragon dancing, displaying of lanterns and eating moon cakes under the moonlight with family members.

Contact us on: [email protected] or call: 0800 008 7079.

Ceremonial dancers at a Chinese festival


Kingston Technology USB flash drives by USB2U

Posted by USB2U on 4th July 2016 | Permalink

We are proud to announce our new partnership with Kingston Technology. Kingston is the world’s largest independent manufacturer of memory products with its global headquarters in Fountain Valley, California. Kingston serves an international network of distributors, resellers, retailers and OEM customers on six continents.

We now offer a specially selected range of Kingston USBs as part of our range of high quality USB flash drives. Great co-branding opportunities are available for our customers with Kingston USB flash drives. The USB flash drives can be printed digitally or laser engraved depending on the chosen USB style.

Encrypt your USBs to secure data

Many companies deal with sensitive data and require the best possible protection for their information. We offer three Kingston USB flash drives which are hardware encrypted and ideal for secure use: 

1) Kingston DataTraveler Locker+ G3

Kingston’s DataTraveler® Locker+ G3 secures receipts, bank statements and other sensitive documents with hardware encryption and password protection for a double layer of data security. The drive locks down and re-formats after 10 failed login attempts, so users can rest assured that their data is safe even if the drive is lost or stolen. It features a durable metal casing to protect the drive from drops, bumps and knocks plus its built-in key loop makes it convenient to take your data anywhere. The cap fits on the back of the drive so it won’t get lost.

SuperSpeed™ (USB 3.0) delivers faster performance and it is backward compatible to previous generation. DataTraveler Locker+ G3 is easy for anyone to set up and easy to use. With no application installation required all the software and security needed is built in. It works on both Windows systems and Macs so users can access files from multiple systems, without installing a program on every computer used.

DataTraveler Locker+ G3 also offers cloud backup as an optional feature. Users can choose to automatically back up data from their DataTraveler Locker+ G3 to Google DriveTM, OneDrive (Microsoft®), Amazon Cloud Drive, Dropbox or Box, so if the drive is lost or stolen, their data is in a safe place. This feature is available for Windows only.

2) DataTraveler 4000 G2

DataTraveler 4000 G2 is FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certified and provides a tamper-evident seal for physical security to detect and respond to attempts to access, use or modify the cryptographic module. Data is protected by hardware-based 256-bit AES encryption in XTS mode and the drive casing is made of titanium coated stainless steel. The drive is designed to reduce the possibility of successful brute force attacks as it locks down and reformats after 10 failed password attempts.

SuperSpeed (USB 3.0) technology means that users don’t have to compromise transfer speeds for security. Companies can add the drive to their standards list with confidence since its industry-leading NAND and controller design allow for NAND to be interchanged without requalification and certification of security features. The DataTraveler 4000 G2 is TAA compliant, to meet a frequently requested corporate and government IT requirement.

3) Kingston DataTraveler Privacy 3.0

Kingston’s DataTraveler® Vault Privacy 3.0 (DTVP 3.0) USB Flash drive provides affordable business-grade security with 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption using XTS block cipher mode, which offers stronger protection than CBC and ECB modes. It protects 100% of stored data and enforces complex password protection with minimum characteristics to prevent unauthorised access. For additional peace of mind, the drive locks down and reformats after 10 intrusion attempts. It also features a read-only access mode to avoid potential malware risks.

DTVP 3.0 is available with optional, easy-to-deploy anti-virus protection from ESET* that protects the drive’s content from viruses, spyware, Trojans, worms, rootkits, adware and other Internet-borne threats. The ESET NOD32® anti-virus engine provides instant alerts, requires no installation and comes with a five-year pre-activated licence.


The DTVP 3.0 Anti-Virus model features easy-to-deploy anti-virus protection from ESET2 that protects the drive’s content from viruses, spyware, Trojans, worms, rootkits, adware and other Internet-borne threats. The ESET NOD32® anti-virus engine provides instant alerts. This anti-virus protection requires no installation and comes with a five-year pre-activated licence.




New website for USB2U

Posted by USB2U on 2nd June 2016 | Permalink

It is with great excitement and pride that we announce the launch of our brand new website!

Following on from our recent re-brand, the new site brings together the new branding, detailed product categories and extensive services we offer to our customers in a wide variety of sectors.

The new features include a user friendly navigation and functionality. We also hope you will find that the product information, images and services are presented in a clear and inspiring style. The TrustPilot reviews, case studies and testimonials speak volumes regarding our first class customer service.

The new site:

  • Offers a user friendly quick quote system
  • Includes a search facility
  • Is fully responsive
  • Integrates a dedicated photography sector and Power Bank category to the main site for the first time
  • Has better structured and updated product areas
  • Is in line with the new branding

Take a moment to browse through our new site and enjoy the journey!

Speaker Power Bank

Brightly coloured, multi-functional branded Power Banks from USB2U.


USB Lanyards & USB Name Badges – Ideal for Conferences & Seminars

Posted by USB2U on 14th August 2014 | Permalink

If you’ve got a conference, seminar, press event or show coming up any time soon then one of the many challenges you’ll have to wrestle with is how you make sure that the attendees can be identified easily. Of course you’ll also be expected to supply them with copies of the speakers’ slides and notes together with any associated Press Releases and marketing material.

In today’s security conscious world the identification of people attending an event is of paramount importance. You need to know that the people attending have actually been invited, they are who they say they are and once identified to you as the organiser that other attendees can easily identify who they are, who they work for and ideally what position they hold. The obvious way of doing this is to go through a sign-in process and the attendees with a name badge – a version they either pin to themselves of a version they attach to a lanyard.

At larger events a common technique is to add a Barcode to the name badge so the badge holder can be “scanned” and identified at various points around the event (handy for controlling access to VIP areas or just for tracking who went where).

If you use a USB Name Badge or USB lanyard you can get all the benefits of a standard badge and lanyard but with the added benefit of supplier the badge holder with a digital copy of the speakers notes, slides etc.

USB Lanyards and USB Name Badges

USB Lanyards and USB Name Badges

A USB name badge can be pre-printed with the attendees’ details and can include a bar code or QR code. Or, to keep it simple you could continue to use the current style/type of name badges you use today but substitute the usual lanyard with a USB lanyard – these can be printed or embroidered with you logo and marketing message as usual.

Either way you get a brilliant way of distributing all of your marketing material to every attendee. No more printing of speakers’ notes and slides, no more building a secure website login to allow attendees to login and download them – just load them up onto the USB lanyard or USB name badge and you’re done. The “uploading” of the data can usually be done for you free of charge by the USB suppliers you just need to have your data ready before they are ready to deliver them to you.

An added benefit of using a USB flash drive solution is that they tend to be retained by the recipient so you get much more continued brand exposure than you ever would with a regular name badge or lanyard.


Professional Photographers Choose Wooden USB Flash Drives

Posted by USB2U on 29th November 2012 | Permalink

The last 12 months has seen a large increase in sale of printed and engraved USB flash drives to the Professional and Wedding Photography sector. For many it’s just a natural evolution from CD’s and DVD’s, for others USB flash drives offer a better and more professional way to present their clients work and for some it’s a new revenue stream opportunity.

Clearly these reasons are not mutually exclusive nor are they the whole story of why professional photographers have now decided it’s time to embrace USB sticks but the do represent what we’re told are the primary reasons for the move:

  1. CD’s and DVD’s have pretty much had their day and all of a sudden feel “old and traditional” in the same way that vinyl felt dated when people moved to cassettes/CD’s. New generation laptops and Ultra books (which combined account for around 70% of all PC’s purchased) are increasingly shipping without a built in CD or DVD player. Sales of CD’s are now easily outstripped by downloads and games and PC software is cheaper to buy if you don’t want a CD. Whilst CD’s and DVD’s aren’t dead yet we’re not far away from reading them their last rites!

    Rapid take up of tablets like the iPad and Nexus (that ship with no USB port) could cause a similar problem for USB sticks at some time in the future but for now they seem to have taken over as the de facto way to save, store and carry personal data around.

  2. Printed and engraved sticks don’t have the same restrictions on their form factor as CD’s and DVD’s (they don’t have to be flat round pieces of polycarbonate plastic) so they come in a wide range of styles, designs and shapes and are manufactured from materials like wood, metal, plastic, leather and PVC. Pretty much all of these can be personalised, printed or engraved and pretty much all of them look (and feel) better and more professional than a CD or DVD with a printed label affixed to them.
  3. People will pay a premium for a well-designed, well packaged USB stick and this is particularly true when they are pre-loaded with the wedding or portrait portfolio.
Professional Photographers Wooden USB Sticks

Professional Photographers Wooden USB Sticks

The challenge for Professional Photographers when considering USB flash drives for the first time is which type of drive from the hundreds on offer will best suit their business, their personality and will appeal to their clients. Equally important is the type of packaging or gift box to choose to compliment the drive (well-chosen gift boxes lift the overall perceptions of quality and value). Finally consideration should be given to the performance of the drive – this is an often overlooked area but if standard “promotional drives” are chosen there is a real risk that the drives will be slow and will struggle to handle large files.

Wedding Photographers USB Sticks

Wedding Photographers USB Sticks

One option, when narrowing down which style/type of USB flash drive to buy, is to look at what works for other photographers and use this as a guide.  A particularly popular option is a wooden USB flash drive – these are typically engraved or printed with the photographer’s logo and supplied in a black gift box which again is printed or engraved. Photographers seem to be choosing this option because they look fantastic, they’re warm and tactile, the have an “eco” edge to them and of course they’re not the sort of thing you can pick up a PC World or Fry’s!


Does Google Drive Sound the Death Knell for USB Flash Drives

Posted by USB2U on 25th April 2012 | Permalink

Whilst some critics are saying they are late to the market the announcement yesterday by Google of their new “Google Drive” service will have competitors like Dropbox and Microsoft (SkyDrive) quaking in their boots.  Hanns Kohler-Kruner from tech research firm Gartner has said “Google Drive will hit some competitors very hard and shake up the market,”

The free entry level option gives users 5GB (gigabytes) of storage. Options to increase the amount of storage (up to a maximum of 16TB) have also been launched but at the top end it’ll cost you $799.99. A more realistic 100GB of storage is available at $4.99 per month which compares favourably to Dropbox who currently charge $25 per month for a similar amount of storage.

Essentially Google Drive is a “Cloud based” storage solution that will allow users to upload and download data (files, pictures, videos, etc.) from their PC or Mac, their mobile phone or tablet. Android phones are supported from the get go and an update is expected within weeks to support iPhones.

With Google now entering the market will people still use or want portable storage options like USB Flash Drives? After all, why pay for a small USB stick that you might lose or break when you can simply upload your data safely and securely to a cloud based storage option like Google Drive. Not only that but whether you use Google, Dropbox or Microsoft you’ll expect your data to be accessible wherever you are and without any worries of it ever being lost or corrupted. With such compelling arguments why would you buy/use a USB flash drive?

Well for some people handing over their precious/sensitive data to Google and entrusting them to keep it secure is a “non-starter”. Worries of who will have access to the data, vulnerability to hacking and just general paranoia about not being able to “physically hold it” mean the solution is not going to be for everyone. But, for your average home user/student, particularly those with the latest smartphones and a Gmail accounts, an integrated Google solution is going to be a formidable option and services like these will gradually erode the use of USB flash drives in the consumer market.

Promotional USB Flash Drives

Promotional USB Flash Drives

Interestingly though, sales of promotional USB flash drives have never been stronger. Companies wishing to distribute data or provide a relatively inexpensive “branded giveaway” are now using USB flash drives in preference to CD’s and DVD’s and it’s a trend that looks set to continue. Underpinning the growth is a realisation that USB sticks have a high perceived value, they’re small and portable and they look great printed. It’s also cheaper to supply electronic brochures, price lists, catalogues etc. on a branded USB flash drive than it is to get them printed and distributed.

In response manufacturers and suppliers of promotional USB flash drives are continually bringing out new products to drive the market. Recent innovations include wafer thin credit card style USB flash drives that are only 2mm thick and bamboo USB flash drives that play well in the re-cycled/environmentally conscious market.

So, whilst consumers might start to reduce their spend on portable USB flash drives (in favour of cloud based solutions) they are increasingly likely to be given USB flash drives by companies looking for a way to communicate with them in a more innovative and cost effective manner.


Debt Turmoil In USA & Greece Hits Flash Drive Prices

Posted by USB2U on 25th July 2011 | Permalink

Even if you don’t read the business or money pages it’s been difficult to avoid the debt problems in Greece and more latterly the “Debt Ceiling” problems in the US. The US debt has reached $14.3 trillion or to put it another way $4k for every man, woman and child in the US. Unless the US Congress agrees to allow the US Government to borrow more money then the US Treasury could run out of money!

With Greece all but “bust” and the US teetering on the brink of a technical default the currency markets have been a little “choppy” to say the least! Unfortunately the core components that make up a USB flash drive (flash memory, flash controller chip and flash capacitor) are all priced and traded in US dollars so when the markets get nervous the price of flash drives can fluctuate wildly.

Flash Drive Prices in Choppy Waters

Flash Drive Prices in Choppy Waters

In an ideal world the suppliers of flash drives would like some stability in the prices so that they can offer customers a price which is valid for more than a few hours but the margins on the supply of flash drives are skinny and competition is fierce so any price quoted tends to be valid for a maximum of 3-days!

Fortunately, the longer term trend for USB flash drive pricing is downwards albeit there does tend to be an upward spike in prices in late summer when the large players (Apple, HTC, Kingston etc.) start to place their orders for Christmas stock. These orders might not be for USB flash drivers per se but the products they schedule into their production plans nearly always include some form of flash memory and a general increase in demand for flash memory ripples through to the USB flash drive market.

So, when asking for a price for printed USB flash drives don’t be surprised if the price is higher than you were quoted before or if the price is only valid for a couple of days – it’s just a reflection of the market and at the moment the instability in the market!


Branded USB Flashdrives Solve Marketing and Promotional Challenges

Posted by USB2U on 8th July 2011 | Permalink

Communicating with consumers today is much harder than it used to be, however branded USBs can hold the attention of your target audience for those valuable few minutes.

In the early days of business and trading, marketing was performed in the market place where the businesses and customers were gathered.  Marketing was much less varied than today but it was simpler as businesses knew where their customers were and how to get their attention.

With the introduction of newspapers and the wireless more marketing options were available for companies to reach their target market, but it also started to separate customers.  Businesses would have to decide which newspaper best reached their target market, advertise with them and hope that they reached the right readers.

Today however, this problem is much more problematic.  The invention of the television, computer games, Internet and multiple other entertainment mediums have led to a wide range of marketing streams and in turn have further separated customers into segments of one.  Not only are customers becoming harder to reach but they are interrupted from the media and entertainment they want with TV and radio adverts etc.

The challenge therefore is to become creative and clever in the marketing that is used to gain the attention of the right people.  Some companies spend millions on market research to discover which mediums they should use, but really what they should be doing is going back to basics.

When you give a brand new, shiny USB stick to your potential customers branded with your logo, you instantly catch their attention with something that is both visually appealing and useful to them.  We find that there is something a little more interesting and valuable to a USB flash drive than an old fashioned business card, leaflet or even a CD.  A large majority of times your customer is going to plug the memory stick into a computer to use it for file transfers to find out what has been pre loaded onto the USB stick they have been handed.

different file types and USB sticksIn that moment you have the complete and undivided attention of a perfectly targeted customer.  For the price of a USB flash drive, a fraction of the cost of any large marketing campaign, you have a few minutes of valuable engaged advertising.

Another advantage of this type of engaging marketing is that files, documents and information that would not be possible to communicate via other forms of marketing can be placed in front of the people you want to read it.

Our USBs can be preloaded with any type of marketing material that deserves the engaging attention of your potential customers.  The files can be set to auto-run when the USB drive is plugged into a computer so that the information isn’t missed and the drives can even be partitioned so that the information is protected whilst the rest of the drive can be used for data storage.  What’s more, the data loading is free (up to 100MB)!!!

To find out more about our data loading services click here.