Impact of the Outbreak on the Used Clothing Industry

Impact of the Outbreak on the Used Clothing Industry

Impact of the Outbreak on the Used Clothing Industry

The number of used clothing exports is declining,market is shrinkaging
Second-hand clothing buyers face tough test
Importing second-hand clothes is generally a beneficial practice

The import and export of second-hand clothing is a big business. The second-hand clothing market is worth around $24 billion per year in the US alone. But does this make sense from a social perspective?

The number of used clothing exports is declining,market is shrinkaging

     It has become a big issue when it comes to environmental issues and sustainability in apparel. Exporting recycled garments to developing countries for reuse is an important part of the textile recycling industry. One factor that affects this practice is whether the importing country will ban it.Used clothing recycling is an important way for the fashion industry to release pressure. The second-hand clothing transaction helps prevent the excess inventory of the fashion industry from being thrown directly into the landfill. It also helps consumers free up their wardrobes and prepare for the next season’s new arrivals. 

     However, under the influence of the Covid-19, this business model has fallen into an unprecedented predicament. Second-hand clothing exporters in Europe and the United States and traders in developing countries that rely on second-hand clothing supplies are struggling.

The influence of the Covid-19

    From London to Los Angeles, the streets outside many high quality wholesale clothing suppliers and second-hand clothing stores have a large backlog of unsold clothes, and the inventory in the sorting warehouse is also piled up. Some textile recyclers and exporters have had to lower their prices to move their stocks.

     Typically, traders in poorer countries such as Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America rely on these second-hand clothes. But since the outbreak of the Covid-19 earlier this year, the embargo has restricted the flow of second-hand clothing and slowed business in overseas end markets.

Second-hand clothing buyers face tough test

      Antonio de Carvalho, the owner of Green World Recycling, a textile recycling company in Stourbridge, central England, said in June: “Our warehouse is full. Since May, the price to overseas buyers has dropped from £570 to £400 per tonne, making it difficult for my company to cover the cost of collecting and storing clothes. Buyers are also asking to extend the billing period for payments from 15 days to 45-60 days, which is exacerbating cash flow problems.”

     Antonio de Carvalho’s experience reflects the dilemma facing the industry as a whole. Perhaps even if the Covid-19 passes, the battered second-hand clothing trade will take a long time to recover.

Interviews with participants in 16 markets in the UK, U.S., Germany, and the Netherlands show that clothing recyclers reduce the number of times they pick up clothes, clear inventory each week, and consider layoffs to save cash.


    Jackie King, executive director of the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART), said: “This is different from any recession in a century. I expect companies to fail.”
United Nations trade data show that in the five years ending in 2019, the average annual global export of second-hand clothing exceeded US$4 billion, and the withdrawal of clothing recyclers is having a profound impact on the industry.

Data display

     Official data show that second-hand clothing exports from March to July were about half of the same period last year in the UK. In the most recent month since the record-July, the export volume has improved. Because countries have begun to reopen, businesses have seized the opportunity to transfer inventory, but the export volume fell by about 30% yearly.
US government data show that second-hand clothing exports fell 45 percent from March to July compared with the same period last year. Used clothing, with up to one-third of donated clothing ending up for sale in markets in developing countries.

Importing second-hand clothes is generally a beneficial practice

      It may not realize that when they donate secondhand clothes in countries like the US or the UK, most of it goes to foreign markets.

   The question is whether the local clothing industry is being harmed by importing cheap used clothes from developed countries. In the final analysis, this is a problem advocated by the Textile Trade Association on behalf of member companies, and it is also a problem solved by international trade policies.

A study showed that importing second-hand clothes is generally a good practice despite damaging the entire textile production industry.

       A study showed that importing second-hand clothes is generally a good practice despite damaging the entire textile production industry.

1. although second-hand clothing represents a small percentage of the global apparel trade, second-hand clothing accounts for more than 30% of apparel imports in many sub-Saharan countries, with imports exceeding 50%.
2. Sustainable consumption provides obvious consumer benefits; for example, more than 90% of Ghanaians purchase sustainable consumption.
3. SHC imports provide livelihoods for hundreds of thousands of people in developing countries, including 24,000 people employed in Senegal alone.
4. Although precious metal imports have contributed to the erosion of industrial textile and clothing production in West Africa, they will inevitably become prey for increasingly cheap imports from Asia, competing with local production.

    Given their cheap labor pool, developing countries such as Cameroon, Ghana, Bangladesh, and Benin can produce high-quality garments at low cost and export them to developed countries. Many people cannot afford new clothes, so importing used clothes provides affordable clothing for everyday use. In addition, the importation of such clothing has created a new domestic clothing import and distribution industry involving inbound logistics, transportation, and retailing to markets and other retail outlets. In these countries, 60-80% of the clothing purchased is second-hand.


   The view that second-hand clothing imports do not harm the domestic industry is not universal. Research suggests that some countries should look at flexible import restrictions to promote domestic acceptability. In recent years, some countries have debated import restrictions on used clothing in the hope of providing better opportunities for local apparel manufacturers.

    In fact, the trade-in exporting online used clothes for sale is declining, and the fast-fashion industry will be under more pressure to find better solutions for garment recycling.


   While research strongly suggests that exporting second-hand clothing is a positive trade practice for exporting and importing countries, some take a different view. Such as sale for the best websites for second hand clothes.This shift may give producers reason to reassess the merits of fast fashion.

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