• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Used clothes going out of reach for many Nigerians as inflation bites

Second-hand shopping booms as inflation bites

James Okoh is a mid-career banker who loves to wear high-end quality designer shirts. The only problem with his love for these shirts is that he will go bankrupt if he binged on them with his current salary.

So, he found an alternative six years ago in used clothes that are almost 200 percent cheaper on average than their brand-new counterparts, “and look almost as good as new, depending on where you buy them,” in his words.

James however got a rude awakening at his last visit to get some shirts when he found out that the price had dramatically changed.

“For the price of one of the shirts I bought at my last visit, I would have bought three a year ago,” James recalls, noting, “The rapid price adjustment meant I could not buy as many shirts as I could in the past, especially given that my income has not changed over that period.”

James is one of many Nigerians who are battling with stagnant incomes and rising inflation.

The price of second-hand clothes in Nigeria has skyrocketed over the past few months, thanks to a controversial border closure by the Nigerian government, which has now been lifted, and the sharp increase in exchange rate due to lower dollar inflows to Nigeria.

Both factors mean that Nigerians who patronise the second-hand market to cut costs are finding it increasingly difficult to afford them.

The Central Bank of Nigeria has had to hang on to its scarce dollars to support the naira, a move that created dollar shortage.

With the dollar shortage, importers of second-hand or used clothes have to turn to the parallel market to source for dollars at a premium, leaving consumers to bear the brunt in the form of higher prices.

Inflation has risen for 16 straight months, hitting a near three-year high of 15.75 percent in December, piling on greater economic hardship for a population of whom about 40 percent already live in extreme poverty.

To add to this, three devaluations of the naira’s official rate occurred in the year 2020 alone. The official naira weakened by 24.5 percent to N381 per dollar from N306 per dollar at the beginning of the year.

A BusinessDay survey of Aswani Market, Berlin Market and other markets in Lagos shows that second-hand clothes are not as affordable anymore.

Ask our leaders

By the look on Prince Ejima’s face, it was easy to tell that he had not made satisfactory sales for the day.

He was in the middle of a heated bargaining session with a female customer who didn’t look too pleased with the prices Ejima was offering for two pairs of jeans when our reporter walked in to buy a pair of jean trousers.

With the hopes of getting cheap prices, our reporter picked three pairs and offered N1,500 for each.

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“Who will give you trousers for N1,500?” Ejima said. ‘That was the price like two years ago, now its N3,000,” he said, indicating a 100-percent increase.

Ejima has and sells all kinds of trousers in Aswani Market, one of the places Okrika (second-hand) clothes are sold in Lagos.

The market is also known to attract people from various parts of Nigeria who go there to buy at cheap prices and resell in other markets.

But Ejima’s ‘Okrika’ jeans seemed to defy the rules of being cheap. He says goods are expensive now as it has become very difficult to get them.

According Ejima, prior to now, customers would see goods everywhere, but now, to bring the clothes into the country is difficult. “Ask our leaders,” he says, when the reporter asked to know what was responsible.

Another source at the market, also a dealer in jeans, says they only get little quantity of goods at very costly prices. Before now, they bought a bail for N150,000, but it is now between N200,000 and N300,000, depending on the level of the stock.

BusinessDay’s investigation found that the high cost of exchange rate is having a negative effect on clothes and traders are struggling to break even. Others factors like the border closure and import duties have also made clothes very expensive.

Berlin Market or Mandilas

The pains of the dollar crunch seem heavier on traders in Berlin Market (Mandilas) in Lagos Island.

Chisom works as a sales attendant in a plaza located in Mandilas at Breadfruits Street, Lagos Island. While most traders in Mandilas claim not to be selling second-hand jeans, at least Chisom was honest to show our reporter hers.

Unlike most second-hand products, hers were clean and almost new. Her asking price for a pair was N4,000, double the price of N2,000 in the past.

Chisom blames the dollar increase and the difficultly in bringing goods in as the reasons for the increase in prices.

Not even children’s wears

Apart from trousers, shirts too are equally as expensive. Emmanuel, who acts as agent for importers in Mandilas, states that clothes are expensive because of the increase in exchange rate.

He explains that people bring in goods from outside the country in containers, clearing fee also adds to the cost.

“This is the wholesale price. Even children’s wears cannot be sold for N1,000. Besides coronavirus, things are very expensive now. It is even fair this January. A pair of jeans for a child is N2,500/N3,000. Things are expensive. Joggers is now N5,000,” he states, noting that T-shirts that used to be sold for N1,200 are now N1,500.