Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Economics and Management Sciences

Lessons from Thriving Second-Hand Clothing Businesses for Kenya's Fashion Industry

Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Economics and Management Sciences

Lessons from Thriving Second-Hand Clothing Businesses for Kenya's Fashion Industry

Article excerpt


Secondhand Clothing trade commonly known as 'mitumba ' trade in Kenya and 'thrift shops ' in Europe and the United States has rapidly grown to claim a substantial share of the textile and clothing industry market in the country since the late 1970s/early 80's, when it was brought in duty free by charities during the wars in Zaire, Rwanda, Somalia and Burundi and later became a viable commercialized business. Market liberalization which allowed for the importation of goods at reduced costs into Kenya provided opportunity for Secondhand Clothing Trade to expand. Thus because locally manufactured garments are retailed expensively, these apparel have become highly marketable and affordable to consumers. With the number of 'mitumba ' apparel traders increasing rapidly, the local industry has been threatened to the point that many textile and clothing industries have either closed down or become redundant. Data were collected from a random sample of 65 secondhand apparel traders drawn from three market centers in Nairobi. Having startup capital and providing high quality merchandise to consumers were major motivating factors to respondents that ventured into this business. Therefore the study recommends that local apparel traders adopt these factors, to increase their business viability and success.

Keywords: secondhand clothing, market liberalization, competition, lessons, business performance


Though Secondhand Clothing trade (SHCT) represents an insignificant proportion of the total global trade in clothing (0.5%), more than 30% of the imports goes to the Sub Sahara African (SSA) countries (Baden & Barber, 2005). Despite being overtaken by imports from Asia to Africa, the SHCT is still significant. Having increased drastically since 1990 the global SHCT is worth more than USD 200 billion each year with almost all countries in the world becoming involved in it either as exporters, processors, re exporters or importers (Mangieri, 2006; Slotterback, 2007). Used clothing markets exist in over 100 countries globally (Slotterback, 2007). The United States, the Netherlands and Japan participate in SCHT as maj or exporters while the developing countries are the major importers and consumers of Secondhand clothing (SHC), with 30% going to SSA countries (Baden & Barber, 2005).

Secondhand clothing (SHC) traces their origin from wealthy westerners who contribute their obsolete clothing as donations to charity organizations (Dougherty, 2004; Slotterback, 2007). Larger charities first sort through the donations to add to their stock stores and then sell the surplus to SHC dealers to help generate funds towards assistance programs. Slotterback (2007) reported that about 80% of the donated clothing is usually sold to SHC merchants. The merchants sort the SHC by condition and then ~ateonri~e in orniinc which they bundle in bales whose prices vary according to quality of the contents. Clothing merchants from the importing conntries visit the offices of exporters to ascertain the quality, negotiate the price, pay for the bales and then ship the clothing to the country of origin (Olumide, 2011).

Kenya is one of the largest importers of SHC (locally referred to as `mitumba' meaning `onslaught') in Sub Sahara Africa (SSA). Liberalization of the Kenyan economy in 1993 resulted in great competition from imported clothing (CBS, 1995). There was increased importation of textiles especially SHC into Kenya. Nyang'or (1994) points out that these clothes were preferred to the locally manufactured ones because of their high quality and low prices. The resulting great competition led to closure of several Kenyan textile firms such as Kisumu Cotton Mills (KICOIVII), Allied Industries Limited and Heritage Woolen Mills. Additionally, research on imported apparel in the area of Kenyan consumer preferences and selection (Nyang'or, 1994) indicated that traders of locally produced apparel are unable to meet consumer needs due to poor quality, thus are often out-competed by traders of imported apparel. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.