We Spoke to Six Young Thrift Shoppers About Inflation in the Nigerian Thrift Market


The thrift market in Nigeria started as Okrika, Bend down select, amongst other iterations, providing a way for everyday Nigerians to access clothing for a reasonable price. The term ‘Okrika’ is thought to have its roots in the town of Okrika in Rivers State as the town was an ideal location for receiving goods shipped from Europe.

They are essentially second-hand clothes that were sold for at least a quarter of the price, these clothes come in bales, mostly coming from the UK, China and Korea. These clothing bales represent a bulk quantity of clothes traded in large quantities, used clothing bales undergo sorting, cleaning, and are subsequently sold in smaller quantities for distribution. 

In the earlier years, one could not declare that they thrifted the clothes they had on simply because of the kind of stigma that came along with the statement. A lot of factors now contribute to us embracing this culture and Okrika sellers having transitioned from over-crowded, sweaty, markets to shops with a significant upcharge. When discussing the lack of affordability in the current thrift market in Nigeria, one cannot deny the hand Nigeria and her economy had to play in this. 

The current state of Nigeria’s economy is a consistent rebuttal to the statement ‘It can’t get worse than this’. The decline of the naira and the removal of fuel subsidies have made businesses and individuals run about like headless chickens in the face of precarity. 

A drastic surge in prices occurred because man must chop and if the government has decided to hands off, they will chop each other. Unfortunately for the fashion guys and girlies, it has reached the Thrift market. This is seen in the way a 10,000 Naira market run in 2024 would not get you even half of the things a 10k market run in 2022 would.

With the target audience of Okrika changing we see income gaps between the usual visitors at the bend-down select stores and the ones that now go because they simply cannot afford anywhere else. This is a game changer for the wholesalers and encourages a price rise for retailers. 

The state of affairs of the country is enough to blame for why I could only get three shirts last market day instead of my usual six. More people are poor, in the manner that to afford to look the way your place of work requires you to look, you need to get second-hand clothes. I spoke to a few Nigerians who regularly interact with the thrift market, and 

Bunie 26 (F) (Retailer @wear.awake)

When I talk to the sellers I buy from, it’s like, T-shirt bails going from 400 to 600, and jeans bails jumping from 400 to 700, it’s crazy! and all those additional costs like shipping. It’s a struggle for sellers, and they can’t turn a profit quickly, you know?

But then there’s this other thing where some people are just hiking prices for no reason. I mean, who sells a pair of sandals for 7k? That’s just nuts. I used to buy similar stuff at a supermarket for almost the same price. Now it’s like they’re taking away our access to quality products for less. It’s not just about the money; it’s about affordability and having access to good stuff without breaking the bank. But now, it feels like they’re just being greedy.

So yeah, it’s been crazy these past few months, and everyone’s just blaming it on the dollar. 

Saint 24 (M)

Yes, thrift prices have gone up, and it’s impacting me personally. Thrift clothing is supposed to be a budget-friendly option, but lately, it’s become pricier. Growing up, I didn’t even realize some of my clothes were thrift items. Now, as an adult managing my purchases, I’ve noticed the surge in prices. I understand the economic factors like inflation and currency fluctuations, especially since many thrift clothes are imported.

The issue isn’t just economic; some Instagram vendors seem clueless about what thrift means. They slap on exorbitant prices without understanding the essence of affordability. It’s frustrating how words lose their meaning here, just like a restaurant calling itself a bistro with crazy prices.

Tomiwa, 20 (F) (Retailer @thrift_bytom)

I don’t think Okrika prices changed from the Igbo traders, it is people like me, who go and pick let’s say a gown of 2k, and because they know the worth they will make it way more expensive than they purchased it and they know the price and know that no matter how high they make it, it will not be as high as the original price.

Georgia, 22 (F)

I don’t know if I would say that it is because of the type of people that buy thrift now that thrift has become expensive, I mean people that don’t need to buy shein clothes have been buying shein clothes and doing 700-dollar hauls and shein prices haven’t increased at all, I think it is just good ol’ inflation that hiked the prices

Abiodun 22 (M)

It is given where if there is a community I am trying to fit into it helps to look a certain way, I don’t think anyone needs to tell you that you need to dress this way to garner their approval, It is not something that is said it just sort of ingrained into the culture of what the community is about, It does kind of encourage consumer behaviour because the desire for a lifestyle will drive you to acquire items that will feed that desire but it does depend on how much you want to live that lifestyle. 

Red Negro 23 (F)

Sense of style has always been a commodity, for emo kids, hipsters etc from 70s to 00s. Dress sense has always been among the key points in all communities. 

Consumerism culture is the only thing we know in Africa, we want to “Cop the look”. So you can automatically be a cool kid. A Look that’s supposed to stem from personality, and all brands bank on these things; The alté for example started as people that don’t really give af about how they’re “supposed to look” Now you can buy that look of looking like you’re not supposed to look. 

The ideology behind it is ZERO. Thrifting used to be a whole spiritual experience.

It has been destroyed because of this. People block it from reaching the general markets so they can inflate prices for the same old shit. Big brands do their fast fashion nonsense & style the clothes after ideologies that are against fast fashion. The irony is mad.

The rise of consumerism has been exacerbated by social media aesthetics and fashion trends. Could it be the hopelessness of the country that forces people to focus on mundane things like what they wear? Perhaps, it is the way the government treats Nigerians with reckless abandon which encourages this generation of fashion-forward individuals to form a community that resides on sustainability and reconnection to our roots. Dressing a certain way has unconsciously become a token of acceptance and a social statement. 

Okrika has come a long way from its origins in a town in River State to Instagram vendors repackaging it as thrift and vintage. Now, our transition from bend-down select buyers cheering ‘Na mumu dey go boutique’ to now, various shop owners wearing a badge of ‘Go to boutique, I dare you, you will come back and meet me here’ has affected the everyday Nigerian in ways we could not expect.


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