How to Start a Mitumba Retail Business in Kenya in 2022

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What are mitumba clothes?

Mitumba generally refers to clothes that get into the country as donations.

They are not always secondhand clothes.

Some are actually new clothes purchased for donations while some are surplus stock given out to clear cloth stores abroad.

And yes.

Mitumba clothes are sometimes repurchased clothes.

There are such large buffets and a variety of terms used in the business too.

If you’re foreign, you may get confused by terms like a bale, camera, etc as used in the business.

Here’s a guide on how to start a mitumba business from home.

Read to the end and use this guide as a benchmark for your own successful mitumba business in Kenya.

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mitumba retail business in Kenya

Where do Mitumba clothes come from?

Well, the chain is interesting because most people who have these goods in the first steps never really intend to make money from them.

But as we get to the last people involved in distribution, the wholesalers and retailers, these seemingly ‘unwanted’ clothes quickly turn into ‘hot commodities.’

a. Producers:

These are simply the companies that make the clothes and sell them to the original consumers.

b. Original consumer:

Most items of clothing come from Europe. There is a number that comes from Australia, Canada, the USA, and other European countries.

Where Do Mitumba Clothes Come From?

Well, most items of clothing come from Europe. There is a good number that also comes from Australia, Canada, the USA, and other European countries.

As correctly assumed by many, the clothes are originally purchased for wear and later given out as donations. I emphasize, however, that this is not always the case.

c. Collectors:

The collectors are usually, charities, non-governmental organizations, and foundations.

They sell about 10% of the clothes within their countries and the rest to profit companies in the textile industries.

With that said,

I unravel another myth in this seemingly profitable small business: – 

Developing countries are not the only consumers of second-hand clothes.

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Asian countries have also gotten involved in the business by packaging the clothes for shipping. Some even collect them.

d. Textile recycling/reclamation companies: They grade the clothes and ship them to Africa, the largest consumer.

e. Large-scale importers: They are the ones that bring the clothes into the country and sell them to wholesalers.

Wholesalers then sell to retailers or directly to consumers or sub-retailers.

Read – More Business Ideas in Kenya.

Licenses Needed to Operate a Successful Mitumba Business in Kenya. 

Which licenses do I need to operate a mitumba business in Kenya?

Fortunately, there are not too many licenses needed for a mitumba retail business.

Only a business permit provided by the county is required and sometimes, taxes are collected in the form of daily dues.

Fortunately, there are not many licenses needed for a mitumba retail business.

Only a business permit provided by the county is required and sometimes, it is collected in the form of daily dues.

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Setting up the premises.

When it comes to premises, it all depends on the type of business you want or need. The options are;

  • Street vending.
  • Small stalls.
  • Shops within buildings.
  • Virtual businesses.

The factors to consider when choosing a location for your clothing business are;

  • Population

In this kind of business, the population matters.

You have to be able to reach more people to sell more.

Try as much as possible to set up in densely populated areas.

  • Economies of location

The price to set up your location matters. 

Go for the most affordable premises since your goods are targeted at middle-income and low-income consumers.

  • Foot traffic

Consider the number of people that walk in the area of your business.

Your location should be easily accessible on foot.

Avoid remote locations.

  • Demography

The nature of the population should also be observed as it influences consumer behavior.

  • Business style

It all depends on what you prefer and the amount of capital you have.

If you want to target high-income consumers, this should be reflected in your location.

  • Competition

Most of the time, this is not a big factor, as several retailers operate within one area without stifling the others.

Identify a second-hand clothes supplier in Kenya. 

It is important to know where to source the goods.

The area with the highest concentration of suppliers is Gikomba in Nairobi.

When it comes to choosing a supplier, you look at consistency, the type, and quality of goods they sell, and their prices.

If you want a bale, it’s advisable to get trustworthy suppliers who’ll be straight-up about the kind of goods they get in bales.

If you are getting single items, pricing is what is key.

Look at the cheapest for the best quality.

It is also important to form a relationship with these suppliers as sometimes they can reserve some items for you and make your work easier.

You could also get different suppliers so you source the best of what you need from all of them.

Purchase stock.

As said before, this is up to you. Try to purchase a stock that you have an eye for.

For example, don’t purchase men’s clothing, if you have no idea what they like, current trends, and what to look for.

The number one rule for purchasing stock, however, is to select products that move.

our style and preferences are not what will sell the business.

The products that usually move the most are women’s clothing, especially those preferred by women in their twenties.

They are the ones that are most likely to buy mitumba on impulse.

Mitumba retail business in Kenya

Ensure the item you are purchasing is relevant to your area.

For example, near a college or campus, do not sell clothes for an older crowd.

But within some neighborhoods, you may have to step up the quality of your items and the prices too.

Observe things like weather and fashion trends since some items are seasonal.

Decide on whether to start your mitumba retail business with bales or individual items.

Bales are significantly cheaper than individual items but riskier as you can never be too sure what’s inside and finding the market for it is difficult too.

Not all items in a bale are of high quality.

Most of them have 50 percent of the clothes in the expected condition while some maybe even as low as 10 percent. Therefore, getting scammed by the wholesalers is very easy.

Pricing. 

It is possible to make a 100 percent profit on some goods or even 200 percent.

It all depends on your salesmanship.

There is always haggling and negotiation during the selling and a good salesperson needs to know and enjoy haggling.

Sometimes, the retailer even quotes a higher price than what they want to sell it for just to give the customer the satisfaction of having negotiated to a lower price.

Do not scare away your customers with unrealistic price margins though.

How Much Profits Can I Make Selling Second Hand Clothes in Kenya?

As mentioned earlier in this Mitumba business plan, there is never a fixed amount of revenue that you’re expected to get.

Running a successful mitumba retail business requires you to be flexible.

Adapt to seasonal changes and be willing to adjust your prices now and then.

The items you’ll get will never be the same and you’ll need strategies on how to make enough from them.

Revenue is influenced by:

  • Type of items.
  • Quality of items.
  • Price at which you purchase the items.
  • Price at which you sell the items.
  • Your location.
  • Target market.
  • Expenses.

How to Stay in Business Selling Second-Hand Clothes in Kenya. 

Survival in the mitumba retail business is very easy when you have an eye for good clothing.

The capital required in starting a clothing business is as little as Ksh. 500, so you don’t stand to make any losses unless you decide to take unnecessary risks.

Always try to minimize your operating costs as much as you possibly can.

It is possible to run a business with an initial capital of 1,000 Kenyan shillings.

However, most mitumba businesses shut down because: –

  • They search for more profitable alternatives and leave gaps in their business.
  • Losses from taking risks such as buying unwanted bales.
  • Lack of consumers due to failure to know the market and product.
  • Poor location.
  • Constant hustling by the county government, especially when it comes to illegal hawkers.
  • Mismanagement.

Trends in Retail Mitumba Business.

As the business continues to grow, several strides have been made in diversifying the mitumba retail business.

One such trend is selling mitumba clothes on social media.

Today, many retailers are buying clothes and posting them on sites such as Instagram, Facebook, and Whatsapp.

The online shops allow the consumers to book clothes from them, pay through services like M-Pesa then negotiate delivery.

Most of these online shops sell to customers within their towns.

However, there are quite a few that deliver nationwide.

Some online mitumba businesses have a physical location and simply use online tools for marketing while some operate fully online with no location.

Another trend that is seen is the selling of second-hand clothes in buildings with mirrors and changing rooms, as opposed to stalls and street-vending.

Perhaps, the most common example of such in Nairobi is think-twice.

However, Think-twice is a foundation that collects revenue to fund its activities rather than focus on wealth creation.

People are starting to refurbish second-hand clothes.

As opposed to before where clothes were sold to the consumer as received.

Today, tailors make so many adjustments to the items to enable them to sell the goods at a higher price.

Retailers resize, dye, or add additional elements like embroidery and elastic bands, all to fit the markets’ needs.


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Kenn Omollo is an investment writer and a business management consultant at Joon Online Limited. Reach him at - kenn@joon.co.ke

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