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article imageSecondhand clothes trade booming in Nigeria's flea markets Special

By JohnThomas Didymus     Apr 6, 2012 in Business
Ibadan - Secondhand clothes are on the import prohibition list in Nigeria, but you wouldn't guess if you visit its flea markets, which are filled to the brim with a wide variety of secondhand clothing, popularly called "okrika."
Secondhand clothing materials are imported into Nigeria mostly through Cotonou, Republic of Benin, and originate mostly from Western countries. Traders have no difficulty bribing their way though the check points to ensure that Nigeria's flea markets get a constant supply. Sometimes when the goods are seized at the borders the importers have to redeem their consignments with well-placed bribes.
One of the most popular flea markets in southwest Nigeria is Katangua market at Super Bus Stop, Lagos/Abeokuta Expressway. The flea market Digital Journal reporter visited on Wednesday (April 5) is a small one at Gate, Ibadan. The market is one of several such small okrika markets in Ibadan.
Ever since the devaluation of the Nigerian currency, imported goods have become very expensive and Ben daun ("bend down") markets, as flea markets are also popularly known in Nigeria, have gone through a booming surge. Beside secondhand clothing and accessories and such as shirts,T-shirts, skirts and blouses, shoes, bags,curtains, bedspreads and even undergarments, almost all imported items Nigerians buy are okrika: cars, motorcycles, machinery and equipments, electronics, furniture, and GSM phones.
A man  bends down  to select a used shoe in a Nigerian flea market
A man "bends down" to select a used shoe in a Nigerian flea market
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Same man still  bending down  to make a selection
Same man still "bending down" to make a selection
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Most of the secondhand clothes brought into Nigeria originate mostly from the United States, United Kingdom and other European countries. Some come from relatively affluent Asian countries such as South Korea, Dubai, and China.
Secondhand  okrika  bags and shoes on display
Secondhand "okrika" bags and shoes on display
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Secondhand shoes on display at the Gate flea market
Secondhand shoes on display at the Gate flea market
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The clothes, shoes and bags are brought into the country in bales. Orji who deals mostly in secondhand cloths at the Gate flea market says he buys in bales from Katangua market.
These secondhand shoes were likey imported from the U.S  or Western Europe
These secondhand shoes were likey imported from the U.S or Western Europe
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Digital Journal reporter found that at the Gate flea market, secondhand clothes and fashion accessories are graded. Grade one are the best quality items while the lowest grade are the poorest quality clearance items sold at giveaway prices. Grade one shirts are sold at 500 naira ($3). A pair of "high grade" jeans sells at about 500 naira. Lower quality shirts and jeans may sell as cheap as 250 naira ($1.5).
Ladies  accesories: secondhand bags
Ladies' accesories: secondhand bags
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At the so-called "boutiques" in Dugbe where supposedly brand new clothes with designer labels can be bought, shirts are sold at 2,000 ($12.5) to 5000 naira ($32) and a pair of jeans at 2000 ($12.5) to 3500 ($22) naira. Men's shoes at the Gate flea market are sold at between 200 ($1.3) to 1,000 naira ($6.30) depending on the quality, but at the Dugbe "boutiques" the prices range between 3000 ($19) to 15,000 naira($94).
Imported used clothes displayed at the Gate  Ibadan  flea market
Imported used clothes displayed at the Gate, Ibadan, flea market
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The relatively cheap prices explain why flea markets are so popular in Nigeria. Most of the clothes are imported from affluent Western countries. Clothes categorized "grade one" are generally more durable being made from higher quality fabrics that do not fade quickly with washing. Many Nigerians, therefore, don't think it makes sense to buy clothes made from locally produced fabrics that are more expensive but fade quickly with washing, and they can't afford the high prices at the "boutiques" either.
Colorful clothes. Note the mannequins
Colorful clothes. Note the mannequins
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Secondhand bags  shoes  dresses. Note the secondhand jewelries displayed  in  glass  cases to the le...
Secondhand bags, shoes, dresses. Note the secondhand jewelries displayed in glass cases to the left of the photo
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Secondhand women s clothing
Secondhand women's clothing
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Gentlemen s secondhand clothing: shirts and trousers.
Gentlemen's secondhand clothing: shirts and trousers.
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Secondhand clothes: ladies blouses  skirts etc.
Secondhand clothes: ladies blouses, skirts etc.
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You would think it is only low income Nigerians who patronize Nigeria's okrika markets, but after many years of playing "cool," middle income Nigerians and even relatively high income Nigerians now patronize the markets, though with circumspection to avoid being sighted by acquaintances. There is a saying among okrika clothes sellers:"Okrika no be poor man klot again." ("Okrika isn't only for the poor")
In background are secondhand snickers. The boy with the wheelbarrow is displaying secondhand GSM and...
In background are secondhand snickers. The boy with the wheelbarrow is displaying secondhand GSM and accessories including batteries. In foreground are ladies undergarments.
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A crosssection of the crowd at the busy Gate market and bus terminus
A crosssection of the crowd at the busy Gate market and bus terminus
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Kemi (not her real name), an educated, middle income class Nigerian housewife thinks it simply makes no sense to buy "brand new" made-in-China pair of jeans at a "boutique" when you could get one of "superior" quality for half the price at a flea market. The consideration is primarily economic she says. "Boutique prices are very highly inflated," she argues."Confronted with the fact of a dwindling income you need to make rational choices," she adds with an almost pained expression.
Bales of secondhand clothes for sale
Bales of secondhand clothes for sale
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Bales of secondhand clothes at Iwo Road.
Bales of secondhand clothes at Iwo Road.
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One of the ironies of the okrika trade Kemi alludes to is the well known fact that the best quality secondhand clothes when carefully washed, ironed and perfumed find their way into "boutiques" where they are sold to unwary buyers at the price of "brand new" clothes.
Dugbe  boutiques  claim their clothes are  brand new  but secondhand clothes dealers dispute the cla...
Dugbe "boutiques" claim their clothes are "brand new" but secondhand clothes dealers dispute the claim
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 Boutiques  display brand new shirts and trousers at the Dugbe Market. Secondhand clothes dealers cl...
"Boutiques" display brand new shirts and trousers at the Dugbe Market. Secondhand clothes dealers claim most are "grade one" secondhand clothes carefully washed and ironed
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 Chizo Best Butik  Most  boutique  owners dispute the claim their clothes are  grade one  secondhand
"Chizo Best Butik" Most "boutique" owners dispute the claim their clothes are "grade one" secondhand
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Emerald Emporium  Boutique.  A major wholesaler of  brand new  clothes at Dugbe Market.
Emerald Emporium "Boutique." A major wholesaler of "brand new" clothes at Dugbe Market.
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 Austin Boutique   Dugbe  Ibadan
"Austin Boutique," Dugbe, Ibadan
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 Ojee Fashion Palace   Dugbe  Ibadan
"Ojee Fashion Palace," Dugbe, Ibadan
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Victoria, wife of a military officer at the Ojoo military cantonment, who imports secondhand clothes from Cotonou told Digital Journal reporter that the only gain for Nigerians who buy "brand new clothes" from boutiques is the satisfaction that comes from bragging "Ah no dey bai okrika." ("I don't buy okrika"). Victoria insists that most "boutiques" stock the best secondhand clothes from United States and Western European countries but palm them off to their customers as "brand new." Victoria insists that only the top boutiques in Ibadan and Lagos sell genuine "brand new" clothes. For those middle income class Nigerians who brag "Ah no dey bai okrika," Victoria answers with a sneer, "Na tolotolo iyanga." (i.e. empty pride)
More about okrika, secondhand clothes, Gate, Flea market
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