Sales of secondhand or lightly used items are booming in many parts of Kuwait. One would wonder why such a demand exists in a rich country like Kuwait, but there are many compelling reasons for this. The expat population is transient, while wealthy locals frequently replace old items for new ones.
Home goods such as furniture and decorative items, books, carpets, clothes and shoes are easily accumulated as time goes by. These items usually end up at online markets, garage or car boot sales as well as the Friday Market or Souq Al-Jumaa, Kuwait City’s Souq Al-Mukhaseen in Mubarakiya or in some lanes near mosques.
Secondhand items are a big help for low income laborers in the country, but they are also useful for business-minded people. In fact, some are already making a profit out of it. They buy and resell goods here and outside the country. Garry, from the Philippines, buys secondhand clothes and anything useful like shoes and carpets from the Friday Market, then sends them to the Philippines by forwarding services.
“I am here to select the best clothes that can be sold in the Philippines,” said Garry, selecting from the assorted clothes in one of the many stalls at the Friday Market. “I buy them and send them by cargo,” said Garry, a restaurant worker and entrepreneur. “My family receives the clothes and they sell it for a very low price in the market. We are earning a bit from this smalltime business. Maybe after three years, I will be able to start a new clothes shop back home due to this venture,” he said.
The Friday Market sells almost everything under the sun – used and new clothing, electronic appliances, home decor and furniture. The market is also home to sellers of old and new Iranian carpets, office tables and chairs, paintings, cabinets, bicycles even fishing rods, books and stationery. Sports shoes sell like hot cakes. “I buy used original Adidas and Nike shoes from Kuwaiti houses and I sell them here,” said Juman, a Bangladeshi stall owner said. “Filipinos love these shoes,” he added. “The prices of secondhand ‘branded’ shoes range from KD 6 to 16, far lower than the original price of KD 45 to KD 100,” said Juman.
The Friday Market opens for business from Wednesday to Saturday evening. All unsold items displayed at the venue have to be removed by Saturday evening or they get dumped in the garbage after the market closes. Adjacent to the Friday Market is a permanent shopping complex known as Rai Center, which also sells old and lightly used goods. Some of the items being sold have been repaired, which make the products cost higher compared to the Friday Market. They are displayed in a smaller area unlike the Friday Market. Rai Center is open throughout the week.
“Our prices are higher because our shops are permanent,” said a shop owner at the center. “Our products are purchased directly from the owners of houses and villas in Kuwait who want to replace their old furniture,” he said. Items are also obtained from expatriates who are leaving the country for good. “People are moving all the time, so whatever they value less is sold or given away. Things that were accumulated are left behind, and that’s how we have many old and lightly used items sold at the Friday Market,” the owner said.
Some people buy and sell used goods by other means. Noora has transformed her villa basement to hold garage sales every Friday in Egaila. She collects items like bags, shoes and home decor stuff and sells them at her garage sale. Proceeds of the garage sales are given to charities in the Philippines. “I visit the garage sale every Friday. The owner of the garage is a Kuwaiti who is very low profile and doesn’t want any publicity,” said Bong, a shopper.
Renz posted his old Canon camera to sell on Facebook. He posted it on a Friday and found a buyer by Sunday. There are other online shops where you can sell your old but reusable home items. “I needed cash immediately so I tried the FB account. A buyer from my work, who wanted it at a lower price, suggested to post it online, and that’s how I got a buyer for the price I wanted,” Renz said.
By Ben Garcia