As tech continues to change the way we live our lives, many commentators have taken to the line that our obsession with mobile handsets, laptops and tablets is turning us into an unsociable species. But from my perspective at eBay, looking at the products and cultural moments that have defined a year of British retail, the opposite is true.
Delving into twelve months of data as part of our annual UK Retail Report, what I see is that actually, we remain social animals at heart. High drama, high temperatures (if you can remember those) and haute couture have defined the way Brits shopped online this year. But all of these are united by one fact: shoppers are influenced by socialising - be that about the weather, the latest movie release or what's trending on the catwalk, or more commonly these days, on Instagram.
Alongside identifying the cultural moments which have inspired our searching and shopping, the report reveals trends including how Brits are embracing a lifestyle of self-sufficiency and even how an Apple-shaped sharing economy has taken seed, a decade on from the first iPhone coming to market.
Of all the social shopping trends we've seen, here are my favourite three:
1. Icons of the big (and small) screen
In a big year for entertainment, British shoppers have also been inspired by the major Hollywood releases such as The Lego Batman Movie - which has resulted in Batman's latest gadget "The Scuttler" (a four legged walking version of the Batmobile) surging on eBay. Away from the silver screen, Netflix original Stranger Things prompted a renewed nostalgia for Dungeons and Dragons. Four products related to the board game have been sold every second on eBay.co.uk.
2. The summer of self-sufficiency on eBay
2017 has also seen Brits seeking out 'The Good Life', with a growing number looking to emulate the iconic seventies TV show and embracing self-sufficiency. Sales of greenhouses have increased eight-fold since the beginning of spring, while the summer also saw tenfold and threefold increases in purchases of Home Brew Kits and Bee Hives.
But self-sufficiency doesn't just extend to growing your own veg, or making your own booze. Our data suggests the nation has also been gearing up for an impending zombie apocalypse! Sales of first aid kits, Stanley tool kits (hand planes, rulers, chisels etc.) and generators increasing by 500%, 300% and 800%, respectively in August, compared to May.
3. Millennial pink for the 'gram
The appeal of "millennial pink" still endures with Brits, with sales of pink clothing up by 70% over the summer months (June to August) - and over 30,000 hashtags on Instagram to boot.
The origins of the colour's popularity are much debated - with theories including everything from 2007's Acne pink shopping bag to the colour being featured heavily on the cover of Drake's Hotline Bling in 2015. Rose quartz was named one of Pantone's colours of the year in 2016, and this, along with its subsequent outing on the 2017 Spring/Summer catwalk, has seen the shade's popularity skyrocket.
So, from zombies to fidget spinners, what a 12 months. We've released the 2017 Retail Report to celebrate the millions exploring their passions and interests, and using our marketplace to find exactly what's right for them. Of course, this wouldn't be possible without the 200,000 entrepreneurs who use eBay in the UK to provide the best scale and breadth of inventory for our customers. They are the innovators, spotting trends before anybody else, and moving quickly to respond to consumer interest. I'm sure they are already planning for what's going to be big in 2018... but what will keep us all working hard is the unpredictable nature of how we socialise as a species. That's what keeps retail exciting - and challenging!