How to Start an Ukay-Ukay Business in the Philippines in 2023

How to Start an Ukay-Ukay Business in the Philippines in 2023

What is Ukay-Ukay?

Ukay-ukay stores are thrift shops specialising in secondhand clothing, shoes, bags and other goods sold at much lower prices than brand-new items. Ukay-ukays have become a trendy shopping option in the Philippines due to their ability to save money and remain stylish. In addition, sustainable fashion and an increase in concern about environmental protection have rendered the ukay-ukay business more relevant than ever before.

However, launching an ukay-ukay business can be profitable but requires careful planning, market research and knowledge of legal requirements. In this article, we will walk through how to start an ukay-ukay business in the Philippines, including legalities, market research costs, startup costs, inventory sourcing requirements for store setup/design, and operations/management considerations.

Legalities of Ukay-Ukay Business in the Philippines

Despite its popularity, it is important to note that ukay-ukay importation has been illegal in the Philippines for 55 years under RA No. 4653. This law was enacted to protect Filipinos’ health and maintain the nation’s dignity by prohibiting the commercial importation of used clothing and rags.

Aspiring ukay-ukay entrepreneurs must understand that selling used clothing and other garments is only allowed if the items are sourced and accumulated within the Philippines. The law does not explicitly state the liability of those who buy and resell imported ukay-ukay items, but importation is still strictly prohibited.

However, it should be emphasized that not all ukay-ukay stores are automatically illegal. Those who operate ukay-ukay businesses must be aware of the laws and regulations concerning the sourcing and selling used clothing and other items. This includes obtaining the necessary permits and licenses to operate legally.

Regarding enforcement, the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) and Bureau of Customs (BOC) are responsible for ensuring the importation and sale of illegal ukay-ukay items are prevented. While ukay-ukay stores and online sellers are not the primary targets of the authorities, they should still comply with the laws and regulations to avoid any legal complications.

To operate a successful and legal ukay-ukay business, it is important to stay updated on the laws and regulations concerning the industry. In addition, ukay-ukay store owners must establish a reliable and legal supply chain for their inventory.

Market Research

Launching any business requires an in-depth knowledge of both customers and markets; opening an ukay-ukay store is no exception. Here are some key aspects to keep in mind when starting an ukay-ukay business:

  • Identifying the Target Market and Location: The initial step in market research involves identifying your target market and location. Since Ukay-ukay stores typically cater to budget-minded customers, an ideal spot would be near public markets, schools or busy commercial areas with heavy foot traffic. Furthermore, demographic factors should also be considered, such as age ranges, income levels and fashion preferences in that region.
  • Competition Analysis: To effectively compete, it is crucial to conduct an in-depth competitive analysis in your area and understand their pricing, product offerings and target market. Doing this will allow you to develop an attractive unique selling proposition and set competitive prices.
  • Price Points and Potential Profitability: Establishing reasonable product prices is critical to drawing customers in and making a profit. This requires considering costs related to goods production, overhead expenses and desired profit margins as well as considering potential demand and whether higher-priced points could be sold successfully.

By conducting extensive market research, ukay-ukay store owners can make educated decisions regarding location, pricing and product offerings that maximize profitability.

Startup Costs of an Ukay-Ukay Business in the Philippines

Starting an ukay-ukay business in the Philippines requires initial investments that cover various expenses. These may include:

  • Required Permits and Licenses: As part of their legal obligations in the Philippines, every business requires various permits and licenses to operate legally, such as barangay clearance, mayor’s permit and Bureau of Internal Revenue registration. Their costs depend on factors like location and size.
  • Rent and utilities: One of the primary expenses involved with opening an ukay-ukay store is renting physical space; its rental cost depends on its location, size, condition and rental agreement terms. You also must cover utility costs such as electricity, water and internet service to run it smoothly.
  • Inventory Costs: Your inventory costs depend on the quality, quantity and variety of items in your stockpile for sale. Items may come from wholesale suppliers, garage sales or flea markets – among others – so factoring transportation fees and cleaning/repairing expenses into the equation could prove crucial to its success.
  • Other Expenses to Consider: When starting up an ukay-ukay business, other expenses should also be factored in: employee salaries, marketing/advertising budgets, accounting/bookkeeping services fees, and insurance costs should all be considered.

An effective business plan will enable you to determine how much capital is necessary to start an ukay-ukay business and effectively distribute resources. In addition, knowing your startup costs allows for setting realistic expectations while preventing financial pitfalls that could compromise its success.

Sourcing Inventory for the Ukay Ukay Business

Once you have secured the required permits and licenses and set up your store or online platform, the next step should be sourcing inventory. Here are some tips for finding suppliers, evaluating quality items and negotiating prices:

  • Find Potential Suppliers: To locate suppliers, attend garage sales, thrift stores and flea markets, and search online or social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram for them. In addition, warehouses that sell secondhand clothing in bulk could also be great places to look.
  • Evaluate Quality of Items: Before buying anything, carefully examine its quality. Look out for any damages, stains or tears which could erode its value; remember to wash and sanitize before listing on eBay or anywhere else for sale.
  • Negotiate Prices: In the ukay-ukay business, bargaining is standard practice – don’t be intimidated into offering less than you need when negotiating prices with suppliers! Instead, negotiate to secure the best possible offer while ensuring that selling them remains profitable.

With these steps in place, your ukay-ukay store can guarantee a constant stream of quality items to offer its target market.

Store Set-up and Design for the Ukay Ukay Business

After you have secured your inventory and identified your target market, the next step should be creating an inviting atmosphere for customers to shop at your store. Below are a few factors you should keep in mind for creating the ideal store setting:

  • Choosing a Location: Select an accessible and visible spot that serves your target market, considering factors such as foot traffic, parking availability and public transit accessibility.
  • Interior Design and Layout: Establish an interior layout that allows customers to browse comfortably and efficiently, using racks, hangers, shelves and decorative elements as needed to organize items in your store neatly and pleasantly. Make sure it is well-lit and clean as well.
  • Marketing Materials and Signage: Draw customers in with eye-catching signs and marketing materials by using social media to promote your store and showcase its best finds. You could also offer promotions and discounts to encourage them to visit.

Remember that your store design and setup should reflect your brand identity and appeal to your target market.

Marketing and Promotion of the Ukay-Ukay Business

Marketing and promotion are essential in any successful business venture, including ukay-ukay stores. Here are some practical strategies you can employ to promote your ukay-ukay shop:

  • Establishing Social Media Presence for an Ukay-Ukay Business: Social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok and Instagram offer great ways to showcase your inventory and connect with potential customers. You can set up a business page, post pictures of products, use relevant hashtags to increase brand recognition, and engage with followers – all ways of building social media presence for an ukay-ukay business!
  • Utilizing Online Marketplaces and Live Selling: Marketplaces like Shopee and Lazada are widely popular in the Philippines, so use these to expand your audience. Furthermore, live selling through Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, or other social media platforms may allow you to showcase inventory life while engaging potential buyers directly.
  • Traditional Marketing Strategies: In addition to using modern tactics like flyers and posters to promote your ukay-ukay store, traditional strategies such as attending local events or sponsoring community activities to raise brand awareness may also prove effective.
  • Promotions and Discounts for Customers: Promote special discounts on specific items or offer buy-one-get-one-free offers to lure more sales.

Implementing these marketing strategies will increase visibility and draw more customers to your ukay-ukay business.

Operations and Management of the Ukay-Ukay Business

Successfully running an ukay-ukay business involves overseeing several aspects of its operation to ensure its success. Here are some essential considerations when overseeing such an endeavor:

  • Hiring Staff: Decide the number of staff needed to run your store, hiring individuals who understand the products you sell while offering exceptional customer service.
  • Establishing Policies: Develop policies and procedures for your store, such as operating hours, payment methods and return policies. Ensure your staff consistently adheres to these to prevent confusion and customer dissatisfaction.
  • Managing Inventory and Sales: Track your inventory and sales regularly to optimize both. Adjust inventory levels according to specific items’ popularity; utilize sales data as an informed basis for what items to stock and when discounts should take effect.
  • Maintaining Customer Satisfaction: Provide exceptional customer service to keep your customers coming back and coming back for more. Train your staff on how to effectively deal with customer complaints while offering tailored recommendations based on individual customer preferences.

You can ensure its long-term success by effectively overseeing these aspects of your business.

Step-by-Step Guide Summary on How to Start an Ukay-Ukay Business in the Philippines in 2023:

  1. Understand the legalities of operating an ukay-ukay business in the Philippines and acquire the necessary permits and licenses to operate legally.
  2. Conduct market research to identify your target market, competition, and potential profitability. Determine the location of your store and the price points for your items.
  3. Determine your startup costs, including inventory, rent and utilities (if applicable), permits and licenses, and other necessary expenses.
  4. Source your inventory from reputable suppliers, evaluate the quality of items, and negotiate prices.
  5. Set up your store, considering the location, interior design and layout, and marketing materials and signage.
  6. Establish policies and procedures, manage inventory and sales, and maintain customer satisfaction.
  7. Utilize social media platforms to build your online presence, utilize online marketplaces and live selling, traditional marketing strategies, and offer promotions and discounts to attract customers.


Establishing an ukay-ukay business can be highly profitable if the correct steps and regulations are followed. Market research to assess target customers and competition are paramount in assessing its viability; also essential is understanding all legalities surrounding the industry (including any import restrictions or bans) to operate legally.

Also Read: Top 15 Profitable and Unique Small Business Ideas in the Philippines 2023

To successfully launch an ukay-ukay business, securing all necessary permits and licenses and sourcing inventory from reliable suppliers is necessary. Furthermore, setting up your store and hiring staff are necessary steps towards long-term success, while managing inventory sales and customer satisfaction must also be prioritized for long-term success.

Marketing and promotion are also integral parts of growing a successful business. Establishing a robust social media presence, using online marketplaces such as live selling platforms like Facebook or Tiktok for sales, employing traditional marketing strategies, and offering discounts or promotions can help your company attract and keep customers.

As previously discussed, beginning an ukay-ukay business requires careful planning, research, and compliance with legal regulations. However, by following the steps outlined here and remaining committed to your venture, you can succeed in this booming sector in the Philippines.



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