Published On  Jan 01,  2012






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With the increasing number of people moving into and out of different homes, partially due to the large number of condos being transferred to new owners and tenants as well as people moving out of and back into the country, the market for second-hand furniture has recently boomed, writes HADRA AHMED, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER. There has been an increase in the demand as well as the supply.


Used Furniture Market Boom Comforts Smaller Budgets




Alike most of the used furniture shops in Addis Abebe, the one shown in the picture has no name as well. It just simply displays furniture at an open area around Urael, off Haile Geberselassie Street, in the afternoon of Tuesday, December 12, 2011.

When Yohannes Tameru, 28, a structural engineer expecting a son, decided to settle in Addis Abeba, leaving a job that paid him 8,000 Br a month. He had to find a house to rent, which he did, and buy furniture to make it comfortable. This is where he stopped with some shock and surprise.

His sister informed him that it cost her 80,000 Br to fill her house with brand new furniture. He did not want to splurge away so much money on new furnishings. He decided to look for the next best option.

With an increasing number of people in Yohannes’s situation, second-hand furniture stores are mushrooming on most major streets in Addis Abeba. One of the significant reasons for the demand boom, according to Robel Teferede, marketing lecturer at Unity University College, is the construction of condominiums in Addis Abeba.

Since 2004, when the Addis Abeba Housing Development Project Office was launched, 80,246 condominiums have been built, out of which 63,677 have been transferred to owners, according to data from the Office in 2010.

“The increasing number of people living in condominium houses has had an influence on lifestyles, leading to a lucrative market for used furniture,” Robel says. “People with low disposable incomes or those who would like to save look for materials with a smaller price.”

Alemayehu Dessalegn, 34, initially wanted to buy his used items directly from original sellers when he moved from his parents’ place to a condominium at Goterra, six months ago, where he pays 1,500 Br in rent. A retailer of Chinese garments, he bought a sofa set and bed for 7,000 Br and 4,500 Br, respectively, from a second-hand shop, near Meskerem Mazoria on Debre Zeit Road.

‘‘I am not an expert, but what I bought is pretty cheap, and I feel good when I use it,’’ he said.

Most of these stores can be identified by the piles of old items they have inside their shops and out. Some also have simple signs welcoming buyers and sellers, alike. Others have proper signs with the name and description of the business.

Evidencing the lucrative nature of the business, some sellers of new furniture also sell used furniture on the side.

One of the many entrepreneurs that have been attracted to the business is Seid Ziad, who moved to Addis Abeba from Gondar, 764km north of the capital. He opened a store eight years ago on Djibouti Street, which runs from Haya-hulet to Tele Medhanialem, using a capital of 10,000 Br.

The people who sell the furniture to Seid and others like him include those leaving the country and those who need immediate cash. The price of the furniture depends on the quality and the estimated age.

There is never a guarantee for quality or consistency, however. One has to be lucky enough to get good quality material, according to some of the customers who were seen shopping at such stores.

“It does not matter if the furniture has been used for only a week,” he said. “It is still considered used, and the price will be based on its durability and the amount it costs to repair it, if necessary.”

His shop has all kinds of furniture. The calling price for sofas is between 7,000 Br to 11,500 Br, cabinets 3,500 Br, and computer desks 300 Br to 450 Br.

‘‘The prices are appropriate,” said a father of four, browsing at Seid’s store, on the afternoon of Thursday, December 22, 2011. “But, it is hard to tell which ones are good because they sometimes repair them.”

He had just been passing by, when he saw some customers in the shop and decided to enquire about the price of a computer table, which he wanted to buy for his son in college.

His eyes wandered towards a sofa set, including six baby pillows and two ottomans. It ended up selling for 8,500Br.

‘‘I have never been to a used furniture shop before, and the prices are surprising for people visiting for the first time. Now I know why I always see a crowd of people at these shops,” said the man, requesting anonymity, who has a monthly income of 6,000 Br from consultancy work, and gets as much money from a daughter who lives in England.

Those who have the means for original material may pay as much as 100,000 Br for a sofa set at Waryt Mulutila International Plc, although there are some for as low as 12,000 Br. They sell a range of furnishings with black or white leather or with different colours of fabric.

A sofa sold at Technostyle Plc, known for office furnishings, sets one back between 22,500 Br and 72,600 Br. All of their products are imported.

Ethiopia imported 26.8 million dollars-worth of furniture weighing 12,673tn, at a net price of 2,115 dollars a tonne in 2010. Its furniture exports, during the same period, totalled merely 13,441 dollars-worth at 6.9tn, with an average of 1,948 dollars a tonne.

Waryt was established in 1990 to sell household and office furniture and water purifiers with dispensers imported from China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Turkey, Spain, and Taiwan and now has an equity capital of 50 million Br.

‘‘There is a demand for imported and locally made furniture, but it is all about meeting what would satisfy our customers,’’ Tehetena Legesse, senior deputy general manager of the company, says.

An official at Alpha Furniture, a local manufacturer with a utility model license for its L-shape sofa, agrees that the quality of local furniture is not always up to par.

‘‘Raw materials, including wood, fabrics, sponge, and accessories used for furniture are not readily available, since they are not produced here,’’ he said.

Low quantity and even poor quality timber are among the problems, resulting from the country’s deforestation, Tsegaye Tadesse, programme manager of the Bale Eco-region Sustainable Management Programme (BERSMP), says, sharing his sentiment.

“People who can afford quality go to those who import it,” he says.

‘‘I would rather spend as much money as I could just to get new, quality, long-lasting furniture, because I like it when it is beautiful,” said  Asnakech Haileselassie, 57, who was negotiating over an 83,000 Br sofa at Waryt on Wednesday, December 23, 2011.

She has been moving around to places like Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and South Africa for about half of her life from job to job, she says. It is now time to settle in Addis Abeba, she decided, where she rented a place around Ayat two weeks ago.

‘‘I do not know about the prices of the used furniture, but I could guess that the quality is not much,” she said.

The regular second-hand shoppers, on the other hand, know the prices well. For two sisters, Selamawit and Sara Mesfin, university students who live with their parents and two brothers around National Stadium, with a total family income of 2,000 Br, buying a TV stand with enough space for a TV, stereo, and DVD player for 1,300 Br at a second-hand store in Lideta saved them a lot of money.

‘‘We asked for a similar TV stand at one place around Urael that sells original items, and it was 5,000 Br,’’ Selamawit said.

Most shoppers at all of the nameless second-hand shops in Torhailoch, Lideta, Urael, Haya-hulet, Shola, and Beklo Bet seem to share the same opinion on the services that these shops provide. Yohannes, who is now making 15,000 Br at another job in Shashemene, 250km south of Addis Abeba in Oromia Regional State, is happy with the bargain he got for the items he bought for his home in Addis Abeba, where his wife is living with their newborn child.

‘‘Purchasing from the used shops helped me a lot in minimising my spending,’’ he says.

He bought a set of sofas for 4,500 Br, a bed for 2,500 Br, a TV stand for 1,300 Br, and a baby bed for 800 Br from a used furniture shop around Haya-hulet area. The total of 9,100 Br that he spent was a good deal lower than the 80,000 Br his sister paid, although her furniture is brand new.




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