For many years, the business of buying and selling second-hand clothes (popularly known as “foss”, “broni wawu”) was done at the “bend-down boutique” in market centres or shops.
However, lately, the business has found a new home —online— particularly social media platforms: Facebook and Instagram.
The new home came with new terms describing the age-old business. Some call it “thrift”, others “pre-loved”, “pre-owned” or “Budget-style”.
Vendors on these social media platforms, mostly young people, select the items ranging from dresses, shoes, bags and other accessories, clean them and share pictures on their handles.
The size, price, name of designer and payment and delivery terms are stated in the caption accompanying the item to make it easy for buyers to decide.
The prices and sizes are stated on pictures posted
This week, on Instagram alone, this reporter counted more than 10 of these vendors who sell different items.
One of vendors, Ms Thelma Yeboah, told The Mirror in an interview that most buyers had moved online and so she took the opportunity of growing online sales to start her business.
The 24-year-old university graduate who is yet to find a job after her national service said selling second-hand clothes was how she earned a living.
On Wednesdays and Saturdays, which are the market days at the Central Business District (CBD) in Accra, she visits Kantamanto, the hub of everything second-hand. There, she “competes” with other buyers for items in good condition.
“The Kantamanto search is like a survival of the fittest. There are many bales and you have to be smart to get items which customers will patronise. After my national service, I used to buy them in bales but I realised there were many times I had to throw some of the clothes away or use them as rags. These days, I buy from other dealers who buy the bales or import them. With that, I am able to select the items I know will be easy to sell,” she explained.
Due to the competitive nature of the search for clothes in good shape, she has to be at the market by 4 a.m.
“The selection process requires special skills. A dealer may decide to sell to you at a higher price depending on how you are dressed. You have to look ordinary and put up a tough behaviour. They assume that those of us who sell on Instagram are rich and tend to mention outrageous prices,” Ms Yeboah stated.
The “bend-down-boutique” is now available online
Posting on social media
Ms Yeboah said to be successful on Instagram, a vendor must be creative and know how to take pictures. She uses other props to style the items she sells in order to attract buyers.
“I wash the clothes, iron them and put them on a dummy. The clearer your picture, the higher the chance of your item being purchased. Sometimes some buyers complain about the price but a lot of work and costs go into getting the item form Kantamanto to Instagram.”
“You have to add the cost of data used in uploading the pictures as well. I have also invested in a ring light which enhances the quality of the pictures. All these are costs which are factored into the pricing of items on sale,” she explained.
Some vendors post videos detailing the style and size of the clothes they sell
There are many businesses similar to what Ms Yeboah does on social media and so to stay relevant, she ensures that her items are different and images attractive.
According to her, she had been able to build a good customer base on social media and had some customers to who she sends pictures of her items before posting on social media.
“It’s just like having a shop and keeping a database of your clients so that anytime you get an item you think they will like, you share with them first,” she added.
Doing business online comes with some challenges and this young vendor has had a fair share of them. She recounts that there have been instances when customers who have ordered for items refuse to pick calls when dispatch riders get to their destinations.
“For deliveries in Accra, I accept payment on delivery but some customers just don’t respond to your calls. In such instances, I have to pay the dispatch rider. There are also others who choose an item and once it’s delivered, they will call to complain of a change in colour or difference in size. It’s not easy but I’m still learning on the job,” she said.
Also available online are shops that sell items used by people. These are not necessarily imported goods. For instance, if someone has a used item in good shape and wants to sell them, they are traded on such pages.
There’s kids_declutter_place, a platform to buy and sell new and pre-owned items for children. On the page, parents of young children can use walkers, clothing, book and toys in good shape.
Mr Francis Osabutey is an IT expert and he advises that although online purchases are convenient, there is also a tendency of being defrauded on such platforms, so both buyers and vendors must be cautious of the people they do business with on these platforms.