CAMBODIA imported almost 10 times as many used clothes as new ones in the first 11 months of last year, according to statistics from the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
Some 79,217 tonnes of used garments worth $61.5 million were brought in during that period, compared with 8,134 tonnes of new garment products, worth $2.6 million.
The figure was a 2 per cent increase on the first 11 months of 2011.
According to industry players, the growth in the old garments market was fuelled by a growing middle-class interested in affordable, well-known brands.
“Second-hand items tend to be attractive and stylish and at a similar quality to new items, but much lower in price,” said one of the main importers of second-hand clothing in Phnom Penh, who declined to be named. She imports about 10 to 15 shipping containers of used clothes a month.
The imported clothes are not just distributed within Cambodia. “Local distributors are my main market, but I also have other sub-distributors who export further afield to Vietnam and Thailand,” she added.
The items imported include shoes, handbags, hats and belts, she said, but clothes form the bulk of her business.
Meas Chandalin, owner of First Quality Shop for Men, with 12 branches in Phnom Penh, said that well-known fashion labels like Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, Pierre Cardin, Arrow and Valentino Rudy are imported from Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan. She sells them for between $4 and $15.
“Customers may need to spend about $40 to buy the item new if they wanted the popular brands,” Chandalin said.
“Our products are similar in quality to the new items, so many of my customers are surprised because they spend so much at a new clothes store but find similar quality here at a cheaper price.”
Cambodia’s economy is largely driven by the garment industry. There are 470 garment and textile factories in the Kingdom, but they are all producing for overseas markets, Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia operations manager Ly Tek Heng said.