Wal-Mart is the leading seller of flash storage devices in the United States, but the nation's largest retailer does not offer the best prices, a market research firm said Tuesday.
Wal-Mart accounted for about 20% of the U.S. flash-storage device retail sales in the second quarter, followed by Best Buy, with an 18% share, and Circuit City, 7%, iSuppli said. The average density sold by Wal-Mart was 1 Gbyte, which is right at the sweet spot for consumer demand.
Wal-Mart, however, was far from the least expensive, selling its devices for prices higher than the industry average. Fry's Electronics had the best prices among the nation's top 10 retailers of flash storage devices, according to the study.
Online-only retailers Buy.com and Amazon.com sold storage devices for less than the industry average, beating most traditional retailers. Some of the latter, however, offered competitive pricing, including OfficeMax, Office Depot, and MicroCenter.
Nevertheless, traditional retailers' higher fixed costs make it difficult for them to offer devices at less than online-only stores. "Retailers will continue to struggle to compete against online-only stores, especially since consumers don't place a high priority on store availability of the devices," iSuppli analyst Nam Hyung Kim said in a statement.
The flash-storage device category includes USB drives for PC data storage and removable memory cards for electronic devices, such as digital cameras. The U.S. market for such devices is expanding rapidly and is expected to more than double to 243 million units by 2011 from 118 million this year. U.S. shipments of USB flash drives alone are expected to rise to 64 million units in 2011, up from 37 million in 2007.
Worldwide shipments of removable flash storage cards and USB flash drives will reach 1.5 billion and 308 million, respectively, by 2011.