“Past and Present” in the second hand clothing market

Past and Present in the second hand clothing market

“Past and Present” in the second hand clothing market

“Past and Present”–Past 

    In Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, big-name shirts or football shirts like Tommy Hilfiger sell for only US$5 to US$6. If it is a general brand, the price will be lower. After all, it is second hand. The same is true in Moscow, where you can buy shirts made by large companies for 300 rubles (about 30 yuan). Unknown clothes are cheaper and sometimes priced by weight. The price also depends on the degree of damage to the clothes, but these clothes are often not badly damaged, or even not damaged at all.


In 2016, the Rwandan government increased the import tariff on second hand clothing from US$0.2 per kilogram to US$2.5. In March 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump said that in this case, it was the U.S. exporters who had lost their jobs. 

He also said that if Rwanda insists on going its way by himself, Rwanda will lose the tax exemption it enjoys when exporting new clothing to the United States, but Rwanda has not made concessions.


    At present, the global transaction volume of second hand clothing is US$4 billion. 70% of the supply comes from North America and Western Europe. Part of the second hand clothing from China and South Korea goes to Asia and Eastern Europe, but the main destination is Africa. However, the current trend is that many developing countries are restricting imports of second hand clothing. Forty-one countries have banned or almost banned the import of second-hand clothing by imposing huge tariffs. Among them, South Africa and India are the most resolute.

   The old clothes of major industrial countries mainly come from donations from social organizations and are sold in specialized stores, which are charitable in nature. However, the clothing obtained through this channel usually exceeds twice the demand of the poor in the country.

    Therefore, the surplus is sold to export companies. For example, the United Kingdom exports second hand clothing at a price of 315 pounds per ton and sells about 500 tons per week. Most of the workers in second hand clothing companies are Eastern European immigrants. They sort and label the clothes and put them in plastic bags.

     Men’s clothing sold in second-hand stores in African countries is more expensive than women’s clothing because men’s clothing is in greater demand. However, over-size clothing, mainly from the United States, is not favored by import manufacturers because they have to be re-cut, which invisibly adds an extra cost.

Africa second hand clothing market

second hand mainland

   The African Cotton and Textile Industries Federation stated that some of the clothes imported from major industrial countries to Africa are packaged in plastic bags. They are brand new and belong to the manufacturers’ overstocked items sold at low prices, which is considered a big sale.

   But in any case, most of the clothes in the African market are second hand. For example, Tanzania (with a population of about 50 million) imports 540 million used clothes and 180 million new clothes every year, while only 20 million new clothes are produced in the country.

    Western analysts express deep sympathy for Africa. Research results published by the University of Toronto in 2008 showed that from 1981 to 2000, due to the large import of second hand clothing, the employment rate of textile companies in African countries dropped by half. Rwandan clothing manufacturers complained that it is difficult for them to compete because a slightly worn football shirt imported from Europe and the United States is only equivalent to a bottle of water.

    At the same time, it is not only Rwanda (the country with a population of 12 million is not the main market for second hand clothing) that gives the United States a headache, but also Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya, which resolutely refuse to import second hand.

Second hand clothing pouring into the African market from the U.S. and Europe

The influence of second hand clothing on traditional ideas

   The global secondhand clothing trade boom started in the early 1990s, and the transaction volume has increased tenfold in ten years, reaching 1 billion US dollars per year. This phenomenon has caused widespread controversy. Researchers believe it has increased the employment rate of importing countries, especially the service industry, transportation industry, cleaning industry, and second hand clothing reprocessing industry. In addition, the poor can also buy clothes at low prices. However, many analysts emphasized that a large amount of second hand clothing is destroying the local textile economy.

    Before 2003, second hand clothing set an amazing sales record in some African countries. In Kenya and Cameroon, second hand clothing accounted for 80% of the total garment imports, Rwanda accounted for 90%, and in the Central African Republic, almost all imported textiles are second hand.What is more, consumers of second hand clothing account for 1/3 of African residents, 95% of Ghanaian residents wear second hand clothing, 95% in Zimbabwe, and 60% in Tunisia.

   In Tunisia, people usually wear new clothes only on special occasions. New clothes are expensive, so they usually prefer to wear a cheap second hand. There are also residents of Zimbabwe and Kenya who hold this dress concept.

    The above data shows that at the end of the last century, the cultural concept of developing countries, especially African countries, has undergone a significant change.

The transition from traditional clothing to European clothing, of course, mainly for saving money


second hand clothing and nobility

   There are rumors that the term “second hand” originated in the English Middle Ages. At that time, the king liked to reward his clothes to subordinates who performed well. Those who received this kind of reward were very faced. Therefore, the second hand did not contain the slightest stigma and was more like a status symbol at that time. Before the British Industrial Revolution, the second hand was not only favored by the king’s confidant , but also popular among the common people. Because new clothes were too expensive. Later, with the widespread use of looms, the price of clothing gradually decreased.

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