New cloth store drives Meru mitumba traders out of business

Peter Muthuri shops at the Baltic Textiles Ltd, a second-hand clothes dealer in Meru town last week. Manager Georgina Gattwiri said the business is booming. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

Second-hand clothes dealers and buyers in Meru have a new source of supplies for their fashion trends.

Even those who used to travel to the sprawling Gikomba market in Nairobi and Gakoromone market in Meru no longer need to travel.

Think Twice, a second-hand store which opened its doors to the locals in Meru this year, has been slowly wooing customers from the main market as well as adjacent traders.

The firm, which has replicated its business franchise in Nairobi estates and other major towns, is fast spreading its wings. Its trendy women dresses going for between Sh200 and Sh500 are selling like hot cakes. 

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Men can get a trouser at Sh300, and the most expensive is at Sh500.

While traders at Gakoromone market - the traditional source of second–hand clothes, shoes and accessories, count their losses, managers at Think Twice are smiling to the bank.

This is as more customers who fear to trudge to the muddy and dusty market depending on the season throng in. Linda Ruteere, who runs the Diligent Spa in Meru town, said she would rather walk across to Think-Twice than Gakoromone market, where tens of second-hand traders spread their ware.

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“When it rains or it’s dusty, there is no fun in visiting Gakoromone market. I cannot bear the mud or the dust. The human traffic during market days is bad, so I just step into the new store where I get what I want. The prices are not bad,” she said.

“Unfortunately, there are price tags so there is no bargaining, unlike Gakoromone. But the prices are almost the same; only that Think Twice is more accessible.”

She would rather shop ‘indoors’ instead of shopping in sweltering heat, rain or biting cold.

 The dealer is making a kill even as other clothes and shoe dealers suffer. Joyce Muriuki, a second-hand clothes seller at Gakoromone, says she buys in wholesale at Think Twice - a departure from the past when she travelled to Gikomba.

“It takes a lot of resources, including time, for me to travel to Nairobi to buy five bales of clothes and shoes. I found that my costs became less by shopping in Meru town,” said Muriuki.

“But some of my colleagues are complaining, because of the reduced market as more customers opt to go to the central business district.”

Benard Kimathi said the ‘playing field’ is not level.

“Think Twice are in a tarmacked, central location which is accessible from all directions. Gakoromone needs to be tarmacked,” said Kimathi. Peter Muthuri, a customer said he previously used to go Gakoromone market which offered affordable clothes but he now prefers to do it in town.

Baltic Textile Ltd Manager Georgina Gatwiri (owners of Think Twice) said they make good money because they supply all types of clothes at affordable rates.

“We knew that the vast majority of Kenyans are facing hard economic times, yet they must wear clothes. We import and sell at wholesale and retail prices. But the majority of our customers are families and individuals,” she said.

“People cannot do without clothes. The idea was to meet the demand while at the same time making prices affordable.”

“Business is good and getting better. We are happy with the numbers, though we would like to see more people streaming in,” said Gatwiri.

She is encouraged by the huge number of customers who visit the store.

Margaret Muchiri, the assistant manager says a better market price has attracted more buyers to the outlet.

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Gikomba market