In my early 20’s I admired my neighbor who ran a second hand clothes business, commonly known in Kenya as ‘mitumba’ and the cream of the clothes as ‘camera’. I observed the business from its forming stages and it seemed to grow every year with her selection of clothes on display improving every time I checked. She specialized in kids and ladies’ clothes which attracted teenagers and campus students who knew they could get the latest trends from her outlet. I got very intrigued by the entire business. I approached her and she was kind enough to share her trade secrets, and here are some of them.
- Know your target market – Most people over-look this step, understand who and how you’re going to target your market. Develop a business plan and define your target audience. If you don’t understand who is going to be your client, it is going to be pretty hard for you to succeed in this business. The same is true of marketing. You can’t persuade a person to visit your business if you don’t know who they are and what they care about most.
- Location – Consider an area with high traffic since the more people walk-by or near the business most likely the more profitable it will be. If there is more traffic, people see your product and are drawn in to buy; then word of mouth will spread about the business thereby pulling more people.
- Marketing – Word-of-mouth marketing is the most valuable source of marketing. It is very effective in communicating interest as people trust those that they are familiar with. The use of social media is an affordable way of marketing and enables ones business to reach a wider audience.
- Customer’s retention – It is easier and less expensive to retain customers than to acquire them. This is important because once your customers know and trust you; there will be no need to spend resources trying to win them back to your product.
- Product Sourcing – One needs a ‘good-eye ‘for the right bales for his/her clientele to keep the standards that they have set from the get go. This gives confidence to the buyers that they will find something they like at your shop. They can also place orders for items they think they would want and know that you will be able to meet or even exceed their expectations.
- Record Keeping – A business owner should manage records to ensure that the business profit is either ploughed back or used to grow the business. They should also avoid selling on credit. This is a common weakness with such businesses due to familiarity with the clientele.
The profit that Bree’s gets from the business is invested in chamas which has helped her secure loans and is in the process of constructing her own home.
There is currently a ban on the import of second hand bales which is due to the COVID-19 pandemic; most second hand clothes are imported from China and Pakistan, considered to be the epicenter of the pandemic. It is our hope that the temporary ban will be lifted immediately the disease is under control.
A new entrant into the business should not be discouraged by this ban because they can get the already imported bales from the go–downs along Mombasa road and Industrial area.
Author: Brenda Laboso (Bree’s kids and ladies wear)
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