Bishambar Lal is sitting by a heap of old clothes. The world calls this heap “rags”, but for those who understand, it’s the “tag” that matters. From Calvin Klein to Banana Republic and Tommy Hilfiger, you name it and that brand is beneath Lal’s feet. Once an option only for the poor, the “rags” or second-hand clothes market in the city is finding customers in the middle class and above. There is a romance to it too.
Lal, 58, who has been running his business in the Sector 19 Patel Market since 1972, recalls how the market used to be identified because of its second-hand clothes. “It was generally the choice of the poor then. Earlier, everyone would wear clothes stitched by tailors, which would cost a lot. With the emergence of readymade clothes, the poor now have a large number of choices in new clothes too,” he says.
The scene in the market also supports Lal’s argument, which is full of new summer clothes, T-shirts priced below `100. Similarly, prices of new shirt start at `100. “Now, we get a large number of customers from the middle class and above; people who come enquiring about branded clothes,” says Praveen Palta, 61, another seller from the same market. Palta is thus reinventing the business. He gives a new look to old clothes, irons and packs them before selling.
However, not all have been as smart. In the market once identified as an essentially a second-hand clothes market, much fewer such sellers remain. But the business is spread in Sector 22 too, besides being found in its old avatar at the apni mandis and other temporary spots.
Bring up the past and Lal gets romantic. “Earlier, the first thing we would do after getting a consignment was checking pockets of clothes. We would sometimes find even small gold ornaments. US dollars were a routine find,” he says. The clothes mainly come from North America and Korea to Kandla Port in Gujarat. From there, it reaches Azad Market at Delhi. It is country’s biggest wholesale market for second-hand old clothes. 90% of goods there arrive from Kandla. Traders from across the country reach there to get the stuff.
Know the biz
Price and margin: Sellers generally have a margin of 50-80%; summer clothes start at `50 to `400; winter jackets and sweaters from `200 to `800
Source: The clothes mainly come from North America and Korea, where people pawn or sell these, to Kandla Port in Gujarat. From there, these reache Azad market at Delhi. Traders from across the country reach there to get the stuff
Winters are peak season in second-hand clothes’ business
Lottery: An old clothes’ consignment is like lottery. It is never opened and shown to retailers. They are just told about the types of clothes. Consignments could have brand new clothes or complete junk. Sometimes clothes are completely unused.
Available where: Sector 19, Sector 22, Sector 45 (Burail)
Next Saturday: The tea-sellers