Trends & Data

eBay’s third annual UK Retail Report reveals the biggest trends influencing Brits’ shopping baskets

Press Release

  • From the royal wedding to the release of Black Panther, the UK looked to famous figures and influencers for style inspiration
  • Millennials set the agenda – splashing out on luxury furnishings for their rented homes, whilst looking to de-tech with traditional games and hobbies
  • eBay’s annual UK Retail Report, released today, reveals data and insight into shopper behaviour over the past year

Over the past twelve months, millions of Brits have searched, bought and sold on eBay. This year eBay turned 23 in the UK, created 1,065 new UK millionaires in the process and now has 24 million Brits visiting each week.  

eBay’s third annual UK Retail Report today reveals how we shop as a nation, and the biggest trends influencing our spending and searching over the past twelve months. 

Highlights from this year’s report include:

2018’s top five ‘cult hero’ products are:

  1. Paper Straws: Following the success of Blue Planet 2, images of plastics in the ocean were the final straw for many Brits over the past year, who now purchase paper over plastic drinking tubes by ten to one. Uptake of re-usable straws is also on the rise, with sales increasing six-fold in July, compared to May.
  2. S’well Bottles: Searches for water bottles peaked at 2,000 in January, as Brit’s sought reusable over disposable drinking portals. Sales of S’well bottles, sported by the likes of Emily Ratajkowski and Reese Witherspoon, have doubled this year, with over 80% of purchases made from our phones – suggesting we’re motivated by inspiration on screen or on the move.
  3. Beauty Blender: Regular foundation applications have been given an update, as searches of Beauty Blenders have more than doubled. There are now over 3,000 of these products available on eBay UK.
  4. Popsockets: A simple yet vital addition to every smartphone - the popsocket (otherwise known as phone grip) helps us take a selfie and is a natural stand if you want to sit back and watch TV on your commute. There were on average 3,000 searches for the handy commodity on a daily basis over the past 12 months, with young females the most popular buyers.
  5. Surveillance Cameras: Surveillance cameras trended on May 2nd, when there were over 3,700 searches for the gadget which allows you to view, record and have conversations with our pets, wherever you are.

 Our shopping behaviour is increasingly reflecting our values:

  • We want some respite from our ‘always on’ lives: Brits are buying traditional offline hobbies and games, including fishing, board games and colouring-in, in a bid to seek greater balance between the online and offline world. Searches for ‘mindfulness’ have increased 25% over the past two years on eBay, as we’ve actively sought to declutter our heads and find our zen. These searches peaked in January 2018, as Brits sought products to support New Year’s resolutions.
  • We are feeling nostalgic: Tech classics - from typewriters and pagers to iPods and polaroid cameras – rank amongst the most popular ‘retro’ tech items for UK shoppers. Someone searched for a Nokia 3310 every three minutes on eBay UK.
  • We want to make a house a home: despite predictions that 1 in 3 millennials may never buy a house, shoppers are desperate to put down roots in their rental homes. Sales of terrariums (sealable glass containers in which tiny gardens can be grown) experienced a 229% increase in searches compared to the previous year, following a surge in lifestyle Instagram influencers posting inspirational pictures and spreading the trend.

Both the big and small screen, and the stars we read about online, remain incredibly influential:

  • We are still captivated by the Hollywood effect:  Big screen hits including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther influenced the nation’s fashion, interior and lifestyle purchases, with searches for “African dress” up 25% following the release of the latter.
  • We want to emulate British royalty: Kate’s maternity wardrobe and her children’s outfits put her on the fashion throne, with searches for maternity coats more than tripling on eBay in November 2017. Meghan’s fashion influence peaked at her wedding in May; when the Givenchy dress she wore to marry Prince Harry led to an over 60% increase in searches for the designer on eBay, peaking at 55 every hour, while her now-infamous Stella McCartney halter-neck evening dress doubled searches for the brand.
  • We are cracking on with Love Island: Love Island returned as the biggest reality show of the summer – but it wasn’t just Dr Alex’s eternal search for love that kept viewers hooked. As Series 4 aired, viewers were also cracking on with finding their perfect match on, with as many as 92% of Love Island-related purchases coming from mobile as viewers shopped while watching the show. Since the first episode, the nation has gone water bottle crazy, with a 95% increase in searches for named bottles similar to those used by the contestants, and as many as 22 bottles sold every minute over the course of the series.

British small businesses are exporting more than ever:

  • We are setting the international style agenda: UK small businesses on eBay are doing a roaring trade selling British fashion, antiques and sporting goods to our neighbours in Germany; America remains the biggest importer of British goods sold by small businesses on eBay UK, but in the last year, Germany has risen up the rankings to second place in the eBay Export Index – with the most recent research having found that the UK is Germany’s top destination for international shopping.

The year on eBay included:

  • 14th September 2017: Crisp new £10 polymer banknotes were released featuring Jane Austen. Collectors flocked to eBay and instantly turned tenners with early serial numbers into online bestsellers. One ‘Jane Austen’ £10 note changed hands for £3,600 on eBay – its serial number combined the rare AH prefix with 1775 – the year of the author’s birth. One collector also paid £7,500 for a rare 1981 two pence coin on eBay UK this year.
  • 31st October 2017: Halloween remained spookily popular with British consumers scrambling to pick up costume and party ideas. Superhero costumes proved to be as hot as ever, with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman lassoing and overtaking Harley Quinn as the most wanted female getup.
  • 17th January 2018: Theresa May and President Emmanuel Macron signed a deal to bring the Bayeux Tapestry to Britain for the first time in 950 years – joining the thousands of eBay sellers trading art across the Channel. 15,000 pieces of art have been sold to France by UK sellers this year.
  • 19th May 2018: Royal wedding fever sees buyers say ‘I do’ to over 14,000 related products on this month. A one-off set of Harry and Meghan Pez dispensers sold for the princely sum of £7,300 in aid of the Make a Wish foundation, for example.
  • 14th June 2018: The World Cup kicks off in Russia and eBayers fill their baskets in support of Southgate’s heroic young lions. Gareth’s dapper attire was its own influencer – with a 25-fold increase in waistcoat searches after every England game.

Rob Hattrell, Vice President of eBay in the UK said:

“When it comes to shopping trends, if it’s happening in Britain, we’ll see it happening on eBay. Our UK Retail Report 2018, eBay’s third in the UK, gives unparalleled insight into how the nation has shopped over the last year. With 23 million Brits searching and shopping on eBay every week, we have rich data that reflects the trends influencing our nation’s trends and habits. Today’s eBay Retail Report reflects the value and variety that the 200,000 entrepreneurs operating on our UK marketplace bring to shoppers, both at home and abroad.”

About the eBay UK Retail Report: 

Every year, millions of people buy and sell on eBay in the UK. We're one of the world's largest and most vibrant marketplaces.

For 23 years, we've been with consumers as online shopping became a part of daily life. We were among the first to recognise the retail power of the smartphone - our app has now been downloaded 414 million times. And we've helped an army of UK entrepreneurs set up shop from their laptops, trading with customers across the world - and around the clock.

Whether they're a buyer or a seller, or even both, when it comes to tech, Brits have always been early adopters of change. Through our data and insight into their behaviours, we've learned a great deal from our customers - and now we're sharing that insight with you through the third annual UK Retail Report. 

About eBay:

The original disruptor of the e-commerce world, eBay has come of age – but it’s still shaking up traditional retail with a global marketplace that welcomes big brands, empowers entrepreneurs and serves 24 million customers a month in the UK alone.

The brand’s mission is to be the place where the world shops first, and a continued focus on its powerful search – including image recognition and voice control through Google Home - gives power to that promise.

All sellers on eBay benefit from one of the most popular mobile apps in the market, along with a ready-made web presence that is fast, mobile and secure.


  • A makeup product is purchased every 2 seconds
  • A women’s necklace is purchased every 9 seconds
  • A pair of women’s shoes is purchased every 5 seconds
  • An appliance is purchased every 5 seconds
  • A car part is purchased every 2 seconds
  • A video game is purchased every 6 seconds

 On eBay in the UK on mobile:

  • A men’s pair of shoes is purchased every 20 seconds
  • A cookware item is purchased every 3 seconds
  • A bedding item is purchased every 10 seconds
  • A tablet is purchased every 10 seconds
  • A car part is purchased every 3 seconds 

Did you know?

  • eBay has 175 million active buyers around the world.
  • eBay has approximately 1.1 billion live listings on its marketplace
  • 13.5 million new listings are added to eBay every week
  • 80% of sales on eBay are new items

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