Abu Ahmad blows puffs of smoke from his cigarette into the air while standing in front of a pile of used clothes he has spread out on the ground in Bab al-Sharqi, Baghdad. He admits to having experienced material losses recently due to a lack of clients. In fact, he does not make more than $600 per month from this trade, compared with double this amount in previous years.
“The new, cheap, ready-to-wear clothing that is imported from China and India is drowning the markets,” Ahmad told Al-Monitor. Meanwhile, his fellow traders provide additional reasons, such as the “security chaos” that prevents many people from shopping.
Ahmad is expanding his collection of used clothes with new and cheap items that are imported from Chinese merchants. He will put them on display by next week.
The trade of secondhand clothing has pervaded the Iraqi market in Baghdad and other cities since 2003. Before then, their presence was limited to flea markets. On the other hand, massive amounts of ready-to-wear clothing are being imported from China, Turkey and other countries. Economist Toufiq al-Iraqi told Al-Monitor, “Many Iraqi citizens embrace a negative, lavish consumer culture, which stems from an increase in personal income.”
Mohammad al-Saidi, the owner of a shop that he transformed from a center for selling worn-out material to a shop selling imported and cheap ready-to-wear clothes, said, “The markets are still packed not only with used clothes, but also with many used appliances and tools coming from Europe.”
Saidi told Al-Monitor that there has been tangible improvement in individual purchasing power, which has led to a change in consumption patterns. Consequently, individuals now desire high-quality new goods instead of used ones.