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EBay turns to the Dark Side for a holiday boost

Disney isn't the only company poised to profit from its record-breaking "Star Wars" movie.

According to RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney, eBay is also in position to get a boost from the film, as the hottest new and collectible merchandise hits its digital shelves this quarter.

The company could use a lift — the stock is down about 3 percent since spinning off PayPal in July.

"There are two major kinds of new collectible items that are in scarce supply: One are hoverboards, and the second are 'Star Wars' collectibles. That should be good for a name like eBay," Mahaney said.

Six Star Wars "21 Back" action figures, 1979
Source: Sotheby's
Six Star Wars "21 Back" action figures, 1979

The eBay marketplace benefits when there is sharp demand for products in limited supply. The cross-generational popularity of the new movie, coupled with the collectible appeal of its figures, personalities and technologies, is good news for eBay, Mahaney said.

"It just kind of lends itself to a huge cultural event, with a lot of merchandise opportunity, creating initial scarcity that's now looking for marketplaces with which to get the best yield, and well, there's eBay waiting for it," he said.

Jill Ramsey, eBay's vice president of soft goods, would not reveal any specific sales figures. But she said so far, activity is in line with the company's expectations.

"I would say we were very prepared for a spike in demand," she said. "We have been watching searches steadily increase since the trailer was released."

According to eBay's latest earnings report, the company expects fourth quarter net revenues of $2.28 billion to $2.33 billion. For the year, it maintained its net revenue guidance of 3 to 5 percent growth on a currency-neutral basis.

The online auction and retail site monitors its marketplace around the clock to alert its 25 million sellers when demand for certain products is peaking. On Wednesday, there were nearly 1 million "Star Wars"-related listings, and four out of the five top trending products were tied to the film.

A Sphero BB-8 Star Wars droid from the Star Wars movie 'Star Wars Episode VII : The Force Awakens' performs during the launch of the Christmas illuminations at the Galeries Lafayette department store on November 4, 2015 in Paris, France.
Chesnot | WireImage
A Sphero BB-8 Star Wars droid from the Star Wars movie 'Star Wars Episode VII : The Force Awakens' performs during the launch of the Christmas illuminations at the Galeries Lafayette department store on November 4, 2015 in Paris, France.

When some retailers ran out of the popular app-enabled BB-8 droid following the movie's release, eBay said searches more than doubled. The toy has been trending for weeks.

"We are able to really quickly react and go back to our network of sellers and get them to source those," Ramsey said.

Though the price of products varies constantly, eBay said the average price of the toy on its marketplace is $129. Even some second-hand BB-8s are already showing up around $97. Right now, the toy is listed online for $149.99 on Amazon, Best Buy and Disney Store.

According to eBay, the average new "Star Wars" item sells for $61.58; the average used "Star Wars" item sells for $55.83.

In terms of what's hot, the Sony Playstation 4 Star Wars Battlefront Bundle has continued its run as the top-selling "Star Wars" item on eBay. The next most-sold items in order of popularity are mostly from the dark side: A set of two light sabers, LEGO Storm Trooper mini-figures, a Hasbro Clone Trooper 3.75" figure, a Hasbro Darth Vader 3.75" figure, 2-pack Snow Mission C3PO with red arm & R2D2, and the BB-8 Droid. Last week, eBay sold more than 100 Death Star ice cube makers.