These shop owners sell secondhand clothing illegally

July 25, 2019

Secondhand clothing sales are “detrimental to the economy”

For decades, the Philippine government has banned the sale of secondhand clothing. It’s necessary to “safeguard the health of the people and maintain the dignity of the nation.” Health concerns remain the #1 reason for the ban. The government proclaimed buying secondhand clothing “detrimental to the economy” as well. Filipinos should support the manufacture and sale of clothing within the Philippines only. In spite of the illegal sale of used clothing, the industry thrives.

Where does the secondhand clothing come from?

bundles of secondhand clothing for saleUnder the guise of being a donation, many countries fuel the secondhand trade. Hong Kong sells goods from warehouses that store Salvation Army’s leftovers. They’re often sold at half the already low Salvation Army price. The US is the largest exporter of used goods. We’re also the largest buyer of fast fashion, so it makes complete sense. A statistic from 2016 indicated “the average American alone discards 67.9 pounds of used clothing and textiles.” Alibaba eagerly promotes the export of used clothing out of Toronto, Canada. An article in the Rappler, stated that in 2015, 21 containers of secondhand clothes were discovered. Estimated to be worth P52.5 million ($1.02 million), they came from Malaysia and Korea. As you can see, many countries from around the globe eagerly export secondhand clothing.

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The Ukay-ukay way

Baguio Philippines is a secondhand clothing mecca

Baguio Philippines

In the Philippines, used goods such as clothes, bags, shoes, etc. sell at an Ukay-ukay. The name comes from the word “halukay.” It literally means “digging.” You’ll find any number of Ukay-ukay on side streets, plazas and even in dilapidated buildings. Blogs and articles publicize their locations. Stores like WCHA Fashion House and Ukay-ukay 4 Less have Facebook groups and Instagram posts. The Ukay-ukay “mecca” is Baguio City. Confiscation and 2 to 5 years in prison is the punishment for running an Ukay-ukay. Officials are required to burn the confiscated merchandise in the presence of members of the Department of Finance. So, how can they be so public and yet remain in business? The absence of state regulations and the presence of corruption keep shops open. Government officials turn a blind eye when necessary.

The secondhand clothing trend is booming

Many believe secondhand clothing sales exploit the poor. Clothes earmarked for donation sell on the black market, now requiring the poor to pay. Despite the chair of the Federation of Philippine Industries warning used clothing sales “may cause the spread of virus and diseases,” sales are booming. Filipino youth recognize the need for sustainability and the end of fast fashion. Like the US, they hate the slave labor and fossil fuel consumption it requires. In addition, wearing secondhand clothing is becoming acceptable among older generations too. Some Ukay-ukay stores only sell better quality or “Class A” items. Furthermore, Filipinos recognize the uniqueness of choosing pre-loved clothing.

Deb McGonagle

I have been a writer for various forms of marketing for over 40 years. I've written my share of radio and TV scripts, magazine and newspaper ads as well as direct mail brochures and newsletters. Currently, as the Marketing Coordinator for Traxia, home of SimpleConsign software, I've moved into blog posts, eBooks and website text. It's been an ever changing and ever challenging journey but I've loved it all along the way.