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What influences the purchase of Made in Rwanda apparel?

By  Yvette Ndabaga Shumbusho

Secondhand, mutumba, caguwa, vintage, mivumba; there are various names for secondhand clothing depending on what part of the world you reside in. It is a thriving industry that deprives Africa of hundreds of millions of dollars in a year.

According to a study by USAID, in 2015 the East African Community (EAC) accounted for 13% of global imports of used clothing amounting to $274m (approx. Rwf271 billion) and more specifically, Rwanda spent over $15 million (approx. Rwf14 billion).


Some of these clothing items have been worn and others are brand new, just ‘out-of-season’ in the United States.

It is therefore not all that bad from a consumer’s point of view, bearing in mind that they don’t have many avenues to purchase affordable trendy clothes, at least this is what we are made to believe.

But how about the forex that is lost? What of the local apparel sector?

Indigenous textile industries in the region (East Africa) are either under-developed, growing at a rather slow pace or simply can’t meet consumer needs regarding production capacity, trends etc.

From my own experience, before the introduction of the Made in Rwanda (MIR) about five years ago, I do not remember the last time I had bought a locally made apparel.

I’m not talking about the fashion forward, form fitting, customer made clothing items from a tailor. I’m talking about the ready-made pieces you find in stores, the ones that are part of collections and have been produced in bulk and branded. Think about it, when was your earliest purchase of Made in Rwanda apparel? And how often do you buy them?

As you continue to pounder on those questions, let’s delve back into secondhand clothing and what the industry is doing to our economies.

The most glaring evidence is the amount of money spent on importing such apparel and the lost opportunity by our local textile industries.

For such reasons and others, the Government of Rwanda established and campaigned for the Made in Rwanda policy that has been under implementation for about five years now.

A number of studies have been conducted and valuable insights have been ploughed back in policies, marketing efforts, and even other studies as supporting guidelines.

This then brings me to the purpose of this article. During my postgraduate studies at Birkbeck, University of London, I dedicated my thesis to identifying the factors that influence the purchase intention of MIR apparel.

However, the thesis on its own is a huge chunk to swallow, making it easy to miss the insights I uncovered in my study finding, hence the purpose of summarizing it into an article that can be disseminated and applied to further contribute to the apparent efforts of promoting Made in Rwanda apparel and growing market.

This article will delve into the factors that influence purchase intention of MIR apparel and the recommendations.

I will save you all the “nitty-gritty” of my research study and jump straight into the findings. There were four factors that influenced the purchase intention of MIR apparel: consumer ethnocentrism, consumer attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioral control. What does this really mean?

Consumer ethnocentrism

Consumer ethnocentrism is the social identity and nationalism that consumers value when purchasing clothing items. It is most evident when purchasing domestically-produced items such as MIR apparel.

According to my findings, consumer ethnocentrism has the strongest influence on the purchase intention of MIR apparel, which means Rwanda professionals find value in knowing that the clothes on their backs were made in their country by their fellow country people.

Therefore, business owners of MIR apparel or marketers of said clothing items should promote them using appeal on social identity and nationalism. Combining national pride and the history behind the business in marketing would be beneficial in building brand resonance and growing sales.

Subjective norms

The study illustrated that subjective norms had moderate influence on the purchase intention of MIR apparel. Subjective norms are the beliefs consumers have that have been influenced by their family and friends. In other words, their close circles can be persuasive in encouraging them to buying certain clothing items. Interestingly, family and friends came in at a close second place as the preferred source of information. Therefore, marketing campaigns that incorporate referral programmes would be able to draw in new customers and even act as retention strategies for retuning customers.

Consumer attitudes

Though consumer attitudes towards MIR apparel was somewhat negative leading to only a slight influence to purchase intention, there are attributes that were rated highly by participants. These included good fit, quality, attractiveness, fashionable, comfortability, durability and price, therefore business owners should center their promotional material around these attributes and ensure to deliver given that these are the ones consumers mostly keep an eye out for.

Perceived behavioural control

The final factor is the perceived behavior control (PBC), which assesses whether certain beliefs can lead to the participants willingness/unwillingness to purchase MIR apparel.

These include whether they believe the purchase of MIR apparel is entirely up to them stating that if they wanted, they would buy MIR apparel instead of imported apparel items.

This suggests that the choice is based on preference alone. However, even with that, participants believe that it takes a lot of time to find MIR apparel to purchase. This indicated that accessibility is limited, which illustrates that the MIR apparel market is still growing and could use more market players to meet possibly growing consumer demands.

Though consumer ethnocentrism had the highest positive correlation to purchase of MIR apparel, the incorporation of the other factors in various marketing efforts would be advantageous to MIR apparel industry players in developing the market.

Other interesting findings, showed that the age group (25-29) bought more MIR apparel than any other age group and that social media was the preferred channel of receiving information followed by family and friends.

The beauty in all of this, is that these findings can be strategically integrated in business plans, leading to a more competitive environment.

At the end of the study, I envisioned the practical application of this knowledge on the field. I thus encourage other researchers or research institutions to carry out probability-based studies that can be generalized and provide data-driven insights to the MIR apparel industry for expansion and contribution to our growing economy.

The writer graduated with a Master of Science degree in Marketing Communication (Merit) from the University of London, Birkbeck.


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