Sales of second-hand clothing from western countries are booming in the former Soviet state of Belarus. In the past five years, sales of used clothing have increased four and a half times, now accounting for 10% of all Belarus clothing sales. Small Belarus entrepreneurs have popped up selling the western cast-offs:
“We wear second-hand all our lives,” said Alexander, a trader at the “field of wonders” market. “In the kindergarten we share common bed linen, then you wear your older brother’s clothes and in prisons and armies even underwear is shared. So what’s the difference if you wear your brother’s clothes or your neighbour’s or some Irish guy’s?”
Government and trade officials have pleaded with the populace to buy domestic clothing only, but so far no one seems to be listening. Apparently the Belarus clothing is poor quality and the population has low spending power.
Of course, none of this should come as a surprise to anyone in the West who surfs eBay. Sales of second-hand clothing in developing nations support a global daisy chain of entrepreneurs. For instance, I know several U.S. entrepreneurs and moonlighters who scour the garage sales and flea markets snapping up used blue jeans, polo shirts, and other clothes. They then turn around and auction them off on eBay. Right now on eBay there are over 87,000 pairs of blue jeans for sale. I wonder how many of them will end up in Belarus, being re-sold by a Belarusian small businessman?