In 2018 when Usama-bin-Yousuf started his startup, a digital marketing agency in Dhaka, he had a limited budget to work with. After purchasing necessary equipment for his business, he was unable to spend much money on decorating the office. So, he went to a second-hand furniture store in Banasree and bought a few chairs, tables and other office appliances for a fraction of the price.
The capital's second-hand or preloved furniture market thus has a specific target audience, which is 'entrepreneurs, students, bachelors, lower-income group people, and currently some interior loving people who prefer to upcycle furniture,' said Mizanur Rahman, a furniture shop owner on Panthapath.
The market survey done for this article revealed that there are mostly six types of furniture available in the market- kitchen furniture, dining furniture, living room furniture, bathroom furniture, indoor furniture, and outdoor furniture. However, the overall market can be divided into two broad categories- commercial and residential.
For residential furniture, you will find appropriate second-hand products in Panthapath, Khilgaon, Kajipara, Shewrapara, etc. And for commercial and office appliances, Banani, Banasree, Notunbazar, etc will be perfect for you.
How the business works
The prices in the second-hand furniture market are set based on the physical condition, how long it has been used, the size and detail, and, of course, the wood used to make it.
Prices for Shegun or teak wood furniture are almost similar to those of new ones. For example, if you want to buy a teak or Mahogany bed, a new one with a moderately simple design will cost between Tk 25,000 and 35,000, while an old or used one will cost between Tk 15,000 and 30,000. On the other hand, if it is made of another wood, such as Koroi, or imported wood such as Malaysian or Canadian Oak, the price can range between Tk 4,000 and 15,000.
A second-hand almirah can cost you from Tk 7,000 to 30,000 depending on the wood and quality. A dressing table is available for Tk 2,500 to 4,000.
The office furniture is comparatively less expensive as it is not made of wood. You can find a moderately good quality office chair for Tk 1,500 to 3,000. And a moderate computer table may cost you from Tk 1,000 to 4,000.
Md Nadim, proprietor of Woodvally in Banasree says, 'Generally furniture is mostly sold in the first 5/6 days of a month as people usually have money in their pockets during this time. Because students and people with lower incomes have a limited budget, they tend to buy second-hand furniture more.'
Weddings are a big occasion for the furniture business as newly formed families tend to buy new home appliances. But Nadim says they don't want to buy old furniture.
Where do the furniture come from
Md Seraj, Secretary of the Khilgaon furniture market says, "In the last 46 years, people's lifestyle and attachment style has changed a lot. In the past, families had a strong attachment to their furniture, and you could find old items as a part of the family. People nowadays tend to change the interior, especially during Eid or other special occasions. That's when they sell the old ones and buy new furniture.'
According to Seraj, there are brokers in every area of the capital who go around looking for people who are moving from one house to another. This network is so intricate that they even have connections with housemaids who provide them with information.
They buy the furniture from households and sell it to the furniture market. These pieces are then mended, polished, and sold as refurbished furniture.
Ship furniture collected via auction from the Chittagong dock market is in high demand in the market. Md Raju, proprietor of DC foreign furniture in Panthapath says, "These are built to last in the harsh environment of the sea, so they are strong and of high quality. And because they're foreign-made, they're somewhat expensive."
The market is growing online
Recently during the lockdown, Salma Nasreen, a housewife in Dhaka sold her teak-bed and a showcase on Bikroy.com. She reflected on how quick and easy the process of selling these online was, saying, "All I did was take some photos and with some descriptions and a price, uploaded on my account that I created on their platform. My bed and showcase were sold in three days."
Aside from Bikroy.com, there are other online marketplaces with a furniture section, such as kroybikroy.com, clickbd.com, olx.bd, bagdoom.com, daraz, ajkerdeal.com, and so on, and these platforms have grown exponentially in popularity, particularly during the pandemic. Not only e-commerce websites, but also social media pages such as Recycle bin have grown in popularity.
Florida Sharmin Shetu, a housewife and the founder of the Recycle Bin group said, "Every day we get 500 to 1000 posts regarding furniture. In fact, this item is so popular that we have decided to have a certain day for this on which members of the group and others can only post on furniture sales." Florida also noted that almost 50-60% of products are sold successfully. The rest take time as the buyers generally show resistance to lessen the price.
She says, "We have a rule on the platform that the selling price must be 50%-60% of the market price. But sometimes the buyers don't want to let go of that money and it's very obvious that their products don't sell."
Generally speaking, if you sell and/or buy furniture for business purposes on an online marketplace, you must pay a commission to the platform. However, it is free for non-commercial use.
A sustainable option for living
The country's furniture market is rapidly expanding, with over a hundred medium and large furniture factories opening in the last 50 years. The industry requires wood.
The market analysis says that there are more than 80,000 entrepreneurs in the market, in addition to the big brands. This means that if each of them cut a tree every year, they would cut down 80,000 trees per year!
Recycling, upcycling, or reusing a piece of preloved furniture has thus grown in popularity in the west as a way of sustainable living.