Selling of secondhand clothes, commonly called ‘mitumba’ in Kenya, has become a very popular business idea for small scale traders. Very many successful business people in Kenya have cut their teeth in ‘mitumba’ business before becoming successful in other business ventures.
According to Reuters, Kenya imports about 100,000 tonnes of secondhand clothes a year, providing the government revenues from customs duties and creating tens of thousands of jobs.
In our efforts to bring to you more information on this popular secondhand clothes business, we did a small survey on secondhand clothes prices in Gikomba market in Nairobi. Almost anything secondhand can be found in this market, ranging from clothes, shoes, bags, bedding and many others. Nairobi City County estimates that about 65,000 people work in Gikomba, Kenya’s largest ‘mitumba’ market, with some people sharing stalls or working on different days of the week.
Over the years, Gikomba market has been famous for sale of ‘mitumba’ clothes at affordable prices, both wholesale and retail. This famous market has made many Kenyans dress well at an affordable price.
Gikomba market is very big and has very many stalls. All types of clothes are sold in various quantities and all over the place. The market is easily accessible from downtown Nairobi by foot through Kamukunji, down past Country bus station or by public transport, matatu number 7 just off Luthuli Avenue.
‘Mitumba’ clothes and items mostly come into Kenya from developed countries. Most common sources are Canada, Australia, UK, USA, Germany, Japan, China and other European countries. A number are also shipped into the country by traders in Dubai. Many of the traders in Gikomba agreed that the best quality and the most expensive clothes come from UK while those shipped in from Dubai also has good quality but are a bit cheaper. This is their opinion and would depend on the clothing items imported. Many clothes from Canada are oversize and majority sell well when reduced in size.
The secondhand clothes are shipped into Kenya in bales packed in 45Kgs bundles as a standard though those from Chine were noted to have up to a maximum of 55Kgs. The prices of these bales vary very much depending on the country of origin and the items packed. Below is the range of prices as quoted by traders in Gikomba.
Bales of children clothes from Europe can sometimes go for up to Ksh 30,000. Products from China are mostly the cheapest, sometimes as low as Ksh10,000 although many traders find them of poor quality. On average, bales of children clothes contain many more pieces than other bales except for lighter clothes.
People from all over the country come to Gikomba to buy these bales to sell in other areas. These prices are negotiated between sellers and buyers and the final price will depend on several factors, including the original buying price of the bale, country of origin, number of bales bought and items in the bale.
Many of those who come to select clothes from bales that have been opened are traders around Nairobi and from other parts of the country. Some also come from as far as Uganda and Tanzania. Those who pick the initial items as the bales are opened, called ‘camera’, get the best quality as they are allowed to buy on the spot from a freshly opened bale. When you go for ‘camera’, you get an opportunity to pick before others and due to that, you also pay slightly higher prices. Many of those who pick ‘camera’ buy on wholesale to sell in other high end places in and around Nairobi such as World Business Centre, Westlands, Jamia Mall etc. Others sell in Ngara or in other estates in and around Nairobi.
Below is a random sample of average prices of ‘Camera’ when you buy at wholesale.
When you buy single pieces, these prices will be slightly higher but depending on where you are going to sell and the amount of cash you have available, you may not need ‘camera’ for a start. You can just select single pieces though the prices will be slightly higher but not so much.
An interesting point to note is that clothes that come out of the bales with defects such as tears, missing buttons etc can still be repaired and sold. There are tailors readily available for this work. These tailors also reduce the oversize clothes to the more popular sizes such as large, small or medium which sell much faster.
The advantage of the repairs and modifications is that these defective and oversize clothes sell at very low prices. With tailors charging between Ksh20 –Ksh150 to reduce oversize clothes depending on material, you can still make good profits on these clothes. Some used to be declared rejects but with tailors now available on the ground, things have changed. The cost also includes ironing therefore the clothes will look as good as others of the same size.
The traders who come for the secondhand clothes to sell in areas such as World Business Centre, Westlands, Jamia Mall and exhibition centres in Nairobi charge much higher prices. Below are minimum prices of some selected items in these areas.
These prices will widely vary depending on the area you set up to sell your clothes. This is a business you can start with as low as Ksh1,000.
The above quoted prices are not fixed, neither are they the same in all stalls. These are random prices from various traders within the market. This market is very big and has very many traders, some temporary while others are regular. The prices are also very negotiable. Different sections are known for selling different items and as a new person in the market, it is a good idea to ask around or go with someone who already knows the way around.
It would be almost impossible to direct someone around the market since there are no stall numbers and the routes are not clearly marked.
Posted on Kenya Business