Meron Abebe, in her 20s, recalls the day she first learned about “Bonda” (thrift market) from her cousins, who frequently made purchases in a marketplace named “Hadid” located behind Mesqel square. They told her about the garments that were sold at thrift shops for much less money than she usually pays when she shops in the city’s many clothing stores.
Initially dubious and opposed to purchasing used clothing, she started shopping at Hadid with her relatives after realizing it wasn’t as horrible as she had thought. She was able to see how much money she was able to save during that journey.
“I used to travel to Haya Hulet or Bole at the start of each school year to get clothes and a backpack for myself and my two younger siblings. Now that I do this annual shopping at thrift stores, I can get three backpacks here for the same price as one backpack elsewhere,” she stated.
Prices for everything have increased as a result of the present economic change, including for apparel and footwear. People are gravitating more and more into the world of thrifting since their prices are less expensive than brand-new apparel, which is typically imported and raises the already high cost. As imports become expensive, clothes saw a price spike by as much as 200 percent in the last two years.
One of the marketplaces that sell second-hand apparel is Asko Chereta, and it has attracted a lot of people looking for cheap shopping options.
Selam Cherenet is one of several people who decided to limit their apparel purchases to this location. “I spend less than 80 birr here on shirts and blouse that retail for 1,000 birr or more in boutiques.”
There may be some goods with minor rips or other imperfections, but Selam says there are also those that are in remarkably good shape. “I purchase them for much less money than they are worth in stores.”
Thrifting not only provides access to those looking for lower-priced clothing, but it has also opened up a new field of business for individuals looking to supplement their income. The global market for used clothing is projected to reach USD 71.2 billion in 2022 and grow by 15 percent by 2032.
Africa’s import of second-hand clothing has grown 28 percent in one year to reach a value of USD 1.84 billion in 2021. Major exporters of second-hand clothing to the continent include China, European Union (EU), and the United Kingdom, followed by the United States and South Korea.
Early in 2021, Lidiya Embibel, a 27-year-old woman, decided to launch a side business with her savings. She purchased clothing from thrift stores and sold it on Telegram for 150–250 birr per item.
She kept at it and kept bringing in more things, growing her small business, because she saw how much extra money she had made, even though the free delivery cost her more money.
Lidiya traveled all the way to Adama to shop at boutiques and stores that offered second-hand clothing that had been imported from locations like Moyale and Hawassa at a discounted rate from the retail cost.
Lidiya would return to Addis after purchasing these items, which cost 200 to 500 birr each, clean and iron them, and then upload images to her channel for potential purchasers to see.
“It was a terrific business, and I might have made much more money than I had imagined if I had persisted and kept at it. Due to my hectic schedule and own laziness, I had to stop, but I now notice a lot more individuals engaging in the same activity,” Lidya said.
Another person who recognized thrifting as a business opportunity was Ruhama Temesgen, who started buying and selling used clothing on Telegram at about the same time.
But unlike Lidiya, she purchased the clothing from Hadid. Ruhama purchased several of these outfits for 50 to 100 birr each, and she made a profit of 150 to 250 birr by selling them.
She realized there was a lot of potential in the business because of the large profit margin and the simplicity of finding clients online. But as many individuals began their own bonda businesses, she made the decision to stop and launch a different business.
People are selling the stuff they’ve found at thrift stores on channels on Facebook, TikTok, and Telegram as the flea market industry grows online. Some either publish images online for their customers or sell these items in a store or boutique after cleaning, ironing, and hanging them to make them look brand new.
Many people acquire clothing and shoes at Asko Chereta, Hadid, or other thrift stores for cheap, affordable prices with the intention of reselling them online or in stores for a sizable profit.
By doing this, they not only provide themselves with a chance to make a living, but they also offer those looking for less expensive buying options.
In 2021, more than 40 percent of the world’s used clothing exports came from three countries—China (17 percent), the United States (16 percent), and the United Kingdom (eight percent), according to fiber2fashion.com.
China’s exports of second-hand clothing to Africa increased over 131 percent during the period 2020-2021 and it became the largest exporter by exporting USD 624 million worth of second-hand clothes to Africa in 2021.
The EU, according to the website, which is also always criticized for dumping second-hand clothes in the African market, exported USD 572 million worth of second-hand clothes to Africa in 2021. The Sub-Saharan region in Africa is the world’s largest destination for second-hand clothing articles, and it received close to 34 percent of total world exports in 2021.