Author: Peter Davis Sumo
Site of publication: Croatian regional development journal
Type of publication: Research article
Date of publication: October 2022
The advent of fast fashion (FF) dates back to the early 2000s. This trend aims to produce fashion rapidly to achieve maximum profit. Global clothing consumption has increased from 7 to 13 kg per person over the last two decades, amounting to a total of 100 million tones, of which two-thirds are discarded in landfills. Inaccurate forecasts are a defining feature of the FF supply chain, resulting in an imbalance between supply and demand and a reduced product lifespan. 85% of clothing that is two weeks old is either deemed outdated or worn out, at which point it must be thrown away as garbage, disposed of for recycling, or given to charitable organizations.
Overview of Liberia’s SHC Market
Second-hand clothes are imported to Liberia from the US, China, Korea, and other European countries such as Germany. SHC is a popular commodity in Liberia, even among those who can afford new clothes. This can mainly be attributed to the fact that it is widely available and is very affordable on the market.
In Monrovia, for example, the most popular places for buying and selling used clothing are the Waterside, Red-Light, Duala markets, or the recently opened Omega market. Other inland cities also have large centers or markets for buying and selling second-hand clothes. Many types of clothing are traded, such as shirts, dresses, pants, jeans, trousers, towels, and underwear for men, women, and children.
Traders recently lamented several challenges, such as the rising cost of bales and the poor quality of bales they receive. The quality of used clothes naturally varies, and the quality of bales is decided by the sorting process, which might sometimes contain items of lower quality. This is a severe challenge as buyers are not allowed to inspect the clothes in the bales they are purchasing. This presents a situation of being either lucky or unlucky.
The imbalanced gender distribution might be because most second-hand garments imported into the country are women- and children-targeted. Furthermore, women attach more passion to the sales of used clothing compared to their male counterparts and have a significantly rising comfort level with buying second-hand clothes, as they continue to compare deals and make more effort to spend less.
In Monrovia, for example, the most popular places for buying and selling used clothing are the Waterside, Red-Light, Duala markets, or the recently opened Omega market. Other inland cities also have large centers or markets for buying and selling second-hand clothes. Many types of clothing are traded, such as shirts, dresses, pants, jeans, trousers, towels, and underwear for men, women, and children
For instance, in the 2021 Thred Up report, 60% of women were identified as open to buying second-hand clothes, up from 45% in 2016. On the other hand, men’s clothing choices are more elegant, tough to decide, rare to find, and have higher market prices.
Our finding conforms to that of whose survey found 19% more women involved in the SHC wholesaling than men. Interestingly, our finding, coupled with that of, highlights a significant difference in gender participation in the SHC value chain between West Africa and the results of gender differences found in studies from East Africa.
The influence of the SHC supply chain, particularly in nations with low purchase ability, is evident. Even though the value of the SHC industry accounts for just 5% of the entire textile industry, it accounts for more than 30% of the value of imports to least developed nations and more than 50% of the volume of those imports. In Monrovia, a retailer can earn between LD$20,000 and LD$110,000 a month by selling second-hand clothes.
The responses from the participants highlighted that a significant portion of the Liberian populace favors SHC over boutique shops and, to a somewhat lesser extent, over inexpensive clothes imports from China. The product’s excellent quality, long lifespan, and competitive pricing were cited as the primary reasons for customer interest. In addition, in contrast to the low-cost polyester garments imported from China, most used clothes in the nation are made of cotton, making them more appealing to buyers.
The survey also contained four questions on government policy action toward restricting the import of used clothes, as discussed in other papers. As shown in Figure 3, SHC retailers in Liberia expressed utterly different views. 74% strongly disagreed with the government banning the importation of second-hand clothes, while the rest, 26%, disagreed. Similar responses were given when asked if they would agree for the government to impose heavy taxes to discourage the importation of used clothes.
Their opposition to banning the importation of used clothes echoes that of other studies that SHC contributes to creating jobs in both the exporting and the importing countries. The employment opportunities cover transportation, washing, repairing, reconstruction, packaging, and restyling. For example, the SHC trade offers employment for thousands of Ghanaians in the Kantomanto market in Africa, an estimated 355,000 jobs in East Africa, and over 40,000 jobs in the recycled clothing and shoes supply chain in the United States.
Conclusion and Recommendation
The growing consciousness among consumers worldwide is driving the fashion and textile industries towards sustainability. This shift toward sustainability is particularly evident in Liberia, where low-income earners are becoming part of a sustainable fashion reconsumption process.
The influence of the SHC supply chain, particularly in nations with low purchase ability, is evident. Even though the value of the SHC industry accounts for just 5% of the entire textile industry, it accounts for more than 30% of the value of imports to least developed nations and more than 50% of the volume of those imports. In Monrovia, a retailer can earn between LD$20,000 and LD$110,000 a month by selling second-hand clothes
The country’s used retail clothing market presents many opportunities that encourage entrepreneurship activities. The industry is blossoming, creating new local employment and allowing consumers to purchase quality apparel at affordable prices.
Our study is a conduit to providing Liberian business owners with an understanding of the retailing process and ideas for how they may enhance their position in the used clothes market. It emphasizes the significance of the used clothing industry in Liberia and creates avenues for future research.
From a consumption point of view, it highlights a significant relationship between sustainability and socially responsible consumption. Finally, it shows how SHC serves as a potential trade network in Liberia that generates socio-economic benefits.