Is eBay the country's biggest Christmas market?
Christmas markets have become increasingly popular in recent years. Massive events including London's Winter Wonderland, Nottingham's German market and Edinburgh's vast array of festive stalls have given high street shoppers plenty of variety. In fact, it's been said that there are well over 160 Christmas markets taking place in the UK each year.
That said, online Christmas shopping has become even more popular than the humble Christmas market, with many people turning to eBay for inspiration or for those hard to find gifts. As such, the company has even launched its own Christmas shop packed full of seasonal ideas. According to a study reported by telegraph.co.uk, four out of five adults in the UK intend to buy gifts online this year, with the Centre of Retail Research claiming that a whopping £17.4 billion is set to be spent.
This would put Britain well ahead of the US, as 23.4 per cent of Christmas shopping is expected to take place online this year, compared to 18.7 per cent across the pond, and just 13 per cent in France.
Oh the weather outside is frightful
When you can source many of the items you'd expect to find at a traditional Christmas market on eBay (and sometimes at a much cheaper price), it certainly explains why many shoppers choose not to go out in the cold! The online marketplace features countless merchants offering garish-yet-wonderful knitted jumpers, kitsch German decorations and Christmas lanterns. While you may not be able to wrap your mitts around a mug of hot mulled wine, you can buy the kit to make it yourself at home!
With a whole section dedicated to all things Christmas, all nicely categorised, eBay certainly seems to be the place to go for shoppers. It can be ideal for laying your hands on those hard to find items. In the Frozen-mania that is this year for parents - the Snow Glow Elsa dolls are in high demand as the top toys for 2014. Selling out everywhere, many consumers are turning in desperation to eBay where the singing dolls are being sold for lofty prices on the auction site, occasionally reaching £100 and more.
Sales of penguin toys have also been phenomenal, with the amount of cuddly black and white critters up by 300 per cent since the release of this year's John Lewis Christmas advert featuring Monty. A staggering total of 2,638 penguin toys were sold between November 6 and 17 alone!
Topping the charts
British eBay merchants are expected to sell record numbers of goods this Christmas, shipping out £153 million worth of items all over the world, reports tamebay.com. This week, the first in December, is expected to be the busiest online shopping period for merchants shipping internationally. Earlier this year Murray Lambell, Director of International Trade, eBay in the UK, gave this advice: "Cross border trade on eBay.co.uk is expected to grow from £127m last Christmas to £153m this year, representing a massive economic opportunity for the UK.
"British businesses should ensure they are ready from the end of October to take full advantage of the Christmas 'export window' and the significant global demand for UK brands and products. With the ability to reach over 152 million shoppers around the world 24/7, there is no better time than now to gear up for international market."
It's beginning to look a lot like...
'Christmas' became a popular keyword search on eBay as early back as August. However, the site still saw a huge two million searches with the word just a week before Christmas day 2013.
Many leave it a bit later, with imported US customs like Black Friday and Cyber Monday bringing in big bucks for retailers, offering huge discounts to tempt customers. This year it's also predicted that 'Manic Monday' will have an equal or greater impact. Experian Marketing Services and online retailing association IMRG are flagging December 8 as the UK's biggest online shopping day this year, with predictions of £676.5 million being spent in just 24 hours.
Last weekend saw eBay offering 104,000 deals on what it nicknamed 'Super Sunday' according to theguardian.co.uk, as it prepared for Cyber Monday - the weekend of many people's last payday before Christmas. Over 7 million people are thought to have browsed the site looking for bargains on November 30.
Giles Longhurst, Experian's general manager for consumer insight advises that with this in mind, "brands should also be looking to make sure they can offer home delivery as late as possible in the lead up to Christmas."
Sellers are also being encouraged to offer the same kind of service offered by traditional shops including a Christmas returns option, as more buyers turn to the virtual aisles of eBay. However, despite the rush for present buying in the run up to Christmas, Boxing Day remains the busiest online shopping day of the year.
Giving it back
As well as buying new presents, eBay is also enormously popular for getting rid of unwanted Christmas presents, with 1.6 million items being listed on Boxing Day and even Christmas Day itself in 2013. The most unpopular Christmas presents included socks, ties and lingerie; the site seeing these items listed a respective 19,502, 4,729 and 18,693 times in the week after Christmas, notes bristolpost.co.uk.
So while Christmas markets - both of the German persuasion and the more traditional - have cropped up everywhere, it seems that eBay is certainly a contender for the high street's money at Christmas. This is particularly true in the UK, with Britons more likely to shop online than their fellow consumers anywhere else in the world.