The global financial crisis hit hard in central and eastern Europe, but as Hayley Platt reports, one industry has thrived: second-hand clothing stores.
Truck loads of unwanted clothing from the West arrive in Hungary. Once sorted they'll be sent to second hand stores across the country. The market for them is booming and retailer Hada is cashing in. It owns one in three of the country's second-hand clothes stores and pays between $9 - $20 a kilo for stock. Its founder is Gyorgy Hada. (SOUNDBITE) (Hungarian) FOUNDER OF SECOND HAND CLOTHES CHAIN "HADA", GYORGY HADA, SAYING: "We started from zero. Now after 19 years we can say that we have grown into a large group of companies. We employ nearly 900 people and have 62 shops." Hungary has the highest debt in Eastern Europe. By the end of the second quarter its debt mountain rose to 85 percent of GDP So any spending is welcome. It's not alone - but while squeezed consumers in the west turn to budget stores like Primark, those in the east are snapping up cast offs. (SOUNDBITE) (Hungarian) CUSTOMER TERI RYJAK SAYING: "I haven't calculated precisely but know I save thousands of Forints by shopping here." (SOUNDBITE) (Hungarian) CUSTOMER TIMEA DAROCZI SAYING: "The price is good but the main thing is that I find things here that I cannot find elsewhere." Hada buys all its used clothing from the UK. It began selling to locals in remote villages. And now has stores in city shopping malls - turning over more than 32 million euros. (SOUNDBITE) (Hungarian) FOUNDER OF SECOND HAND CLOTHES CHAIN "HADA", GYORGY HADA, SAYING: "Last year we made a profit and this year I hope we will make a profit too." The fashion for second-hand clothes is everywhere in eastern Europe. In Poland over 40 percent of shoppers regularly buy used items. And last year 100 million euros of stock was imported - 40 percent more than in previous years. In Bulgaria - where the Russia/Ukraine crisis is hurting the economy - one second-hand retailer Mania now has 50 stores in three countries. It's hired 100 of its 600 employees in the past 12 months. But finding quality clothing is also proving hard. A consumer spending squeeze in western Europe means people are holding on to their better items for longer.