Akube, Bosikoro, Okrika, Bend down select among other names are the appellations used for second hand clothes which many people now prefer to new clothing materials and now creates employment opportunity for many, inspite of health hazard associated with it. AMINAT AHMED monitored the growth of the business in Osun State, particularly, Osogbo and writes.
The clothing market in Africa is a booming multi-billion dollar business with a high profit yielding potential. You can attribute this to a rapidly growing population in the continent and also the fashion consciousness of its young adults. The good news is that it will remain like that for a very long time until man is able to discover an alternative to clothing.
Some decades back, the purchase of used clothes was a thing of shame. People usually buy it behind closed doors and special care is always given to get rid of the smell that comes from them. Amazingly, in recent years, the sale of used wares have become a lucrative business and its purchase is as good and as open as buying from boutiques.
Used cloth, popularly known as Akube, Bosikoro, Okrika, Bend down select, are fairly used cloth from overseas which so many have come to accept as the best and cheapest way to get good and lasting clothes. These clothes are delivered through Cotonou, and sometimes after ‘bribes’ are paid to some customs and border officials, from where the clothes comes into Nigeria markets.
The importation and sales of used clothes are considered illegal in Nigeria, but it has become a tangible alternative for some people while others consider it as their best choice. Meanwhile, it is also an alternative source of income for some people while some invested in the business because of the high demand of the goods.
To survive in this harsh time, many middle and low income families have had to sacrifice standard and luxuries for more affordable alternatives. Gas cylinders have given way to kerosene stove, movie night have become an occasional luxury and, where packed shirt in sealed nylon were the norm, more people now use “Bend down select”.
Interestingly, Akube is one of the few businesses you do not need an advert for and it requires little capital. So for those who are considering doing the business, this is a good news.
The sale and use of second hand cloth is not new by any interpretation of the word. At Igbona Market in Osogbo, particularly at Cemetery Area, there is nothing that indicate the presence of a massive market more than the display of mountainous heaps of cloth, spread out everywhere as far as your eyes can see and as you pass by the sellers, you hear different advert from different sellers such as “your size dey here” “new new open” “try and check here” amongst many others. Some even went to the extent of running after buyers while others throw the wears at prospective buyers to make them come and have a look, at least.
Earlier in Nigeria when we still have our own indigenous textile industries such as the Kaduna Textile , Aba textile mill, the Nigerian textile mill and the Bendel textile mill, purchasing new clothing materials was very affordable for the citizens.
Unfortunately, as the years went by, all the locally owned textile industries went into extinction and the major reason for this were the transition from a civilian government to military rule, mismanagement and embezzlement of funds and the Nigerian civil war.
The importation of used clothes to Nigeria started as a charitable act from the developed nations of the world but corruption has touched every corner of the world such that those charitable organisations that received these clothes end up selling them to exporters who pack them up in bales and ship them down to the country and when they arrive, they turn to hot cake and people bend down to pick from the large variety.
When OSUN DEFENDER interacted with some buyers and sellers at the fast growing Igbona Akube market, it was gathered that the reasons for high patronage of Akubes transcends the cost implication.
Some buyers claimed that wares from second hand markets are always more durable than the newly-purchased ones, while others are of the opinion that in every bale, there is always one type of clothes, so hardly will you ever find second hand clothes you are wearing on others in the street.
Chidinma, a regular customer in the Akube Market said, “whenever I buy clothes from here, I feel on top of the world because till the cloth will turn into rag, I will never see that type on someone else and all those people with boutiques these days don’t even buy new stuffs again, what they do is they buy from here and give it to dry cleaners to wash and they finally repackage and put their own hand made labels to deceive buyers, meanwhile, I don’t have money to waste”.
“I buy my first grade trousers at a give away price of four hundred Naira here, trust me even with two thousand naira, I won’t even get to buy a trouser of good quality from a boutique, now the point is do you know how many trouser I will buy from here at that range”, another buyer by name Kolapo said.
In previous years, you will only get to see few sellers displaying their merchant by the road side at the prominent Igbonna market but just like magic, the market has evolved into a major market on its own and hardly will you have to search too far before you get whatever you want ranging from denim to hoodie, skirt, shirt, under wears, scarves, children wares, talk of anything.
One of the sellers, Mrs Olarewaju said “as lucrative as the business seems to be, I was not happy doing this, because I am a graduate but when I couldn’t sit idle at home, I had to result into this. However, I am grateful because I can afford to take care of myself and my family from this”.
It was gathered that the economic situation of things in the country has contributed immensely to the growth of the market in recent times. Many sellers of the second-hand clothes were reported to have joined the market recently.
However, Mrs Olanrewaju said, “when we started, we were not even up to five but our market was moving very well, people always come around to buy but as you can see, there are no employment opportunities in the country, when people pass by and they see the number of customers patronising us, they make enquiries about the business and in no time they have joined the trade as well”.
However, it is also worthy to note that Igbonna market is not the only place where fairly used clothes are sold in Osogbo, moving around the nooks and crannies of the State capital, one will spot different road side sellers and various store owners who are into the business.
Speaking with Mrs Abolushade Kehinde, a store owner at Jaleyemi Area, off Girls High School, she explained that “A bale of fairly used clothes should cost between N70,000 and N100,000 and there are grades AA and AB. The grade AA are the high quality bale clothes. They are very nice and look almost new but are more expensive while grade AB is a mix of high and low quality, which are cheap than the former”.
A fact that cannot be over emphasized is that the Okrikamarket is saturated but yet the supply is not enough. And no matter how saturated the market is, people will always lose customers and others will always gain them. In order to have a competitive edge in the Okrika market front, it is advisable to note the following
– Before the wares are displayed, they should be properly washed and well ironed so that they will appear neat and have a clean smell. Torn parts should be neatly and carefully stitched, loosed buttons should be replaced and the clothes should be displaced in the most attractive appearance.
-Items with high demands should always be in stock, in order to retain your customers for a long period.
-Creativity makes some sellers stand out, as your business grows, try to stand out among others. Explore different rebranding and repackaging tactics you can think of, make customized nylons to pack customers wares, get hangers and mannequins, give complementary goods to customers who buys in large quantity, be neat and orderly; this will enable customers to reach out for whatever they need with ease.
-Sellers should avoid hoarding of goods with the expectation that there will be an increase in the price range. Sell out goods in good time, as long as there is a market for it. Avoid unnecessary increase in price, even regular customers will take to their feet once they discover that your goods are more expensive.
-As it is said that satisfied customers means repeated business, create a good customer relationship with your customers and always put it at the back of your mind that customers are always right.
However, as good and as lucrative as the business seems to be, wearing fairly used clothes comes with many health hazards and medical experts have raised several alarms on this. They said some fungi, bacteria, parasitic and viral infections can be contacted through contact with second hand clothes. Also, experts have been able to prove that the sexually transmitted diseases can also be transmitted through the wearing of clothes that have been worn by an infected person during the infection period most especially under wears.
Some of the diseases linked to handling and or wearing of second hand clothes, especially under wears include virginal or Skin Candidiasis, Scabies, Tinea Corporis, Syphills, Gonorrhea, chicken pox and or worse still, hepatitis A,B and C. One is at the risk of contracting any of these diseases if one has the misfortune buying or wearing any second hand item, particularly underwear previously used by someone infected with any of these diseases. Dermatologists however claim that the risk of infection becomes higher when the user fails to disinfect, wash and iron the cloth before wearing it.
Corroborating this view, a medical consultant who pleaded anonymity said “there is no need contesting the fact that there are great risks in using fairly used clothes, especially underwears, as fungi infection like genital warts and even parasitic infestations such as scabies, body lice, etc, can be contracted, aside STDs. And the truth is that the possibility of contracting these diseases becomes higher if the used clothes are not thoroughly washed and ironed before use”.
According to him, bacteria are very resistant and survive extreme conditions for long, hanging on clothes. “A regular wash, sometimes, may not get rid of some of the bacteria, particularly those that come with discharge from the body of a previous user”. He therefore recommended that strong reagents be employed to get off these bacteria as well as proper ironing before wearing the used clothes.
Despite several medical warnings about the likely health hazards that might be caused to the body through the wearing of already worn clothes by others who are of different race, unknown health conditions and different climate and environmental conditions, the market for Akube keeps increasing. In fact, we can say that almost everybody, most Ladies, youths or specifically university undergraduates want to “Bend down and select”.