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The second‐hand clothing distribution channel: Opportunities for retail entrepreneurs in Malawi

Mary W. Mhango (Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA)
Linda S. Niehm (Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA)

Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management

ISSN: 1361-2026

Article publication date: 1 September 2005




This preliminary study describes the Malawi second‐hand clothing market and recommends strategies for improved distribution by entrepreneurs. We explore the potential for formal retailing of second‐hand clothing in Malawi and present avenues for further research on the topic.


A critical content analysis was conducted using data from secondary sources. Data reduction, data display, conclusion drawing, and verification allowed for organization and compression of information, and assisted in identification of research gaps.


Preliminary findings suggest organizational structure and effective distribution channel relationships may lead small‐scale entrepreneurial ventures to grow in the Malawi formal market. It is apparent that second‐hand clothing retail entrepreneurs have significant location and resource advantages to leverage in the Malawi domestic market.

Research limitations/implications

This analysis was based on limited literature given the undocumented nature of Malawi retailing and the second‐hand apparel market. Potential research phases that could build from this study includes ethnographic study of current second‐hand clothing distribution and consumption practices in the Malawi context, stakeholders' perspectives on formalizing the second‐hand clothing trade, and a feasibility study on entrepreneurial training and start‐up program for small formal retailers of second‐hand apparel.


The paper highlights the second‐hand clothing trade as an under researched area with much fruitful potential for future study. Also the proposed framework for understanding retail development and distribution of second‐hand clothing from an embedded market perspective may be transferable to other developing nations who rely heavily on second‐hand clothing to meet consumer apparel needs.



Mhango, M.W. and Niehm, L.S. (2005), "The second‐hand clothing distribution channel: Opportunities for retail entrepreneurs in Malawi", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 342-356.



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