A growing number of people in Africa’s biggest economy are now buying used clothes, shoes, wigs, and accessories as inflation cut down on real wages.
Second-hand items popularly known as Thrift or Okrika have gained a lot of traction in the country in recent years on accelerating inflation – that is eroding consumers’ purchasing power and dollar scarcity.
Tope Idowu, a civil defense officer and mother of three, said the current economic situation has made it difficult for her to buy new clothes for her children, thus resulting in buying second-hand clothes.
“I have three boys, when they were younger I used to buy them only new clothes. The situation of the country has taught me how to economize as the bulk of their clothes are second-hand,” she said.
“I only buy new clothes for outings, because most of our income goes to food and rent,” she added.
Idowu like millions of Nigerians has resulted in purchasing second-hand items to survive the current economic hardship and accelerating inflation.
According to the latest report by NBS, the inflation rate accelerated to 22.04 percent in March from 21.96 percent in February. The report showed that clothing and footwear are the third most contributing factors to the increase in inflation after food & non beverage alcohol and housing water, electricity, gas & other fuel.
Bimbo Adelabi, a single mother and civil servant said second-hand items are cheaper alternatives for a lot of struggling Nigerians.
“Everything is expensive in Nigeria now, especially food. With food, there are no alternatives, but for clothes, I can buy second-hand items that are of quality,” Adelabi said.
“This is why markets like Yaba, Asuwani, and Katangua will keep thriving. They afford the average Nigerian’s clothes and other second-hand items,” she said.
Anthonia Chukwu, an accountant in a top secondary school at Ikeja said she has been buying fairly used wigs as she cannot afford to buy new ones.
“Prices of relaxers and attachments for braids have tripled within the last year. I decided to cut my hair as I can no longer afford to maintain it,” she said.
“I ended up keeping natural hair and wearing wigs. Wigs are cheaper to maintain and since I can’t afford the new ones, I buy the second-hand wigs and they are as good as the new ones,” she noted.
Last year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) puts the number of Nigerians living in multidimensional poverty at 133 million, compared to 82.9 million considered poor in 2019 by national standards.
The Japa wave has also fueled the second-hand market. Nigerians migrating to other countries are usually forced to sell most of their household items at distressed prices, creating a new second-hand market online.
Chuks Obinna, a trader of second-hand items said his brother who is based in Belgium regularly sends the items for him to sell.
“My sales have increased tremendously. Nigerians are now buying second-hand used pots and other accessories for their use,” he said.
Ayo Dunsin, sales and market officer at a food company told BusinessDay how she got all of her appliances from an online vendor that sells items she bought from people migrating.
“I bought my wardrobe and other appliances from a declutter page on Instagram, they were all items from people that have traveled,” Dunsin said.
“It was cheaper than buying new items. During my search, I discovered there are lots of these kinds of declutter pages selling second-hand items of people that are migrating.”
Tosin Olasehinde, founder MoneyAfrica last year posted on Twitter talking about how Nigerians are now moving to Ready to Wear (RTW) over shopping from popular brands like ASOS, and Primark due to FX issues.
“A lot of people that used to shop on ASOS are turning to RTW Nigerian brands because of the exchange rate. RTW brands, this is your time to shine,” she said.
Her comments were flooded with people complaining that these “Ready To Wear” meant to be alternatives to popular foreign brands are even more expensive and some said they are now turning to “Thrifts’ ‘ otherwise known as”Okrika “.
“RTW is still good, but thrift shops aka Okrika are the rave now,” someone commented
Okrika has been rebranded from just second-hand clothes sold cheaply to being called “Thrifts”.
They have now evolved from the popular bend-down select to hand-picked, washed, ironed clothes and sometimes fast-fashion brands with tags. Thrift clothes are now sold between N1500-N5000 per piece.
Oyinyechi Anozie, a digital creator, also replied to the tweet saying “We stick to thrift and China clothes, average Nigeria can’t even afford clothes produced here,”.
Anozie further said, “It is getting quite bad and affecting necessities like food and clothing.
I hope the next administration caters to the poor class because it is really hard for them to forget luxury.”
Another reply affirmed Anozie’s take saying, “I don’t think I trust Nigerian RTW brands that much. First off, prices are ridiculously expensive with a next-to-messy finishing.
Labi, CEO of Labis Thrift told BusinessDay why Nigerians are moving to thrift clothing.
“A lot of people prefer thrift clothes for several reasons. To start with, thrift is unique and versatile. There’s a wide range of wares to pick from, with very few duplicates, it is more economy friendly and cheaper than brand new wears.
“Also, it’s an easier route getting designer wear for a discount price. This helps customers to save money for other needs,” she highlighted.
She mentioned that for regular daily wear, their average price was N500-N2000 and for premium clothes for office and events they are between N2000-N8000 depending on the grade.
Entrepreneurs producing these ready-to-wear outfits pointed out that the high cost of doing business in Nigeria is the major reason they are unable to produce affordable outfits.
Lola Shodeinde, CEO of Seams & Needles, a ready-to-wear enterprise explained that most clothing from stores like hers factor in a lot of costs incurred during production.
“For production factors like rising/unstable cost of fabric, cost of production, time, effort and skills is put into consideration in pricing, so yes there’s a lot of underground work people don’t see that goes into manufacturing,” she said.
She said that with inadequate power supply, she mostly runs on generators thereby incurring more cost on fuel, adding that each time she goes to the market the price of sewing materials surges.