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Deaths of David Bowie, Prince were big business in 2016

In a new report on the products and trends that defined 2016, eBay Australia underscored the power of pop culture in driving retail purchases.

According to the retail giant’s internal data, movie releases, viral videos and celebrity deaths were strongly correlated with increased sales in related products last year.

The phenomenon isn’t limited to Pokemon Go and sales of portable phone chargers. eBay also saw a 115 per cent uptick in the sale of Troll Dolls in November ahead of the Trolls movie release, and a 300 per cent year-on-year increase in Harley Quinn merchandise, after actress Margot Robbie portrayed the supervillain in Suicide Squad.

On the small screen, a viral YouTube video, The laughing chewbacca mask lady, sent Aussies flocking to eBay to buy their own face mask of the furry Star Wars character, while American popstar Taylor Swift’s Instagram account might have been solely responsible for growing the pool inflatables category by 50 percent year on year.

The deaths of David Bowie and Prince, however, had the biggest impact on Australian spending habits. eBay reported sales of Bowie-related items increased by 1375 per cent after news of his death, while sales of Prince-related items increased 809 per cent after news of his death.

But trading on the buzz of current event can be a double-edged sword. eBay reported a 75 per cent decrease in sales of hoverboards, once the must-have Christmas gift of 2015, while kids’ looming toys sold 50 per cent less last year compared to their peak in 2015.

Other products trending on eBay in 2016 include half a million Lego items, metallic home accessories, S’well bottles and Kylie Jenner Lip Kits.

In electronics, Samsung held its ground despite a turbulent year, with smartphone sales growing 22 per cent year on year. Ahead of Christmas, a smartwatch sold every 50 seconds.

Overall in 2016, Australians spent 448 million hours and made 122 million new listings on eBay, and one in two Australians bought something from the marketplace. More than two-thirds (67 per cent) of all visits came from mobile devices, according to the retail giant.

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