BUENOS AIRES – Affluent Argentines, who are tightening their pockets with inflation at 140% and rising, are increasingly turning to second-hand clothing markets, both to find affordable bargains and to raise extra money by selling old clothes
The South American nation, the region no. The world’s second largest economy and a major grain exporter is facing its worst crisis in decades. Two-fifths of the population live in poverty and a looming recession is rocking the second round of Argentina’s presidential election next Sunday.
Growing voter anger is galvanizing a radical outsider, Javier Milei, the slight favorite in the polls to beat Economy Minister Sergio Massa, the candidate of the ruling Peronist coalition, whose candidacy has been hampered by his inability to stop the increase in prices.
“You can’t just go to the mall and buy something you like like you did before. Today the prices are unthinkable,” said Aylen Chiclana, a 22-year-old student in Buenos Aires.
New jeans cost more than double what they did a year ago, and that purchase alone represents more than a third of Argentina’s monthly minimum wage.
Annualized inflation, already at 138%, will rise further when authorities release official data for October on Monday; The monthly increase alone is estimated to be around 10%, slightly below the August and September highs.
Argentina has struggled for years with high inflation, which economists attribute to money printing and a deep-rooted lack of trust in the local peso. Inflation has accelerated over the past year, reaching its highest level since 1991.
Beatriz Lauricio, a 62-year-old semi-retired teacher, said that she and her husband, a bus company employee, go to a clothing fair on weekends to sell old clothes to make ends meet.
“We are middle class, lower middle class, I would say. “We have our jobs but we have to come to the fair,” she said, adding that when one weekend was canceled due to bad weather, the couple’s finances “collapsed.”
“We are not doing this as a little extra to be able to go on vacation to Brazil, we do it out of daily necessity,” Lauricio said.
María Silvina Perasso, organizer of the clothing fair in Tigre, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, said many people shop there because prices have risen much faster than wages. The local monthly minimum wage is 132,000 pesos, $377 at the official exchange rate, but half that at the real exchange rate due to capital controls: restrictions on currency transactions.
“With the economy the way it is, they buy clothes at 5% or 10% of the value in a store and they can buy things for their families,” he said.
María Teresa Ortiz, a 68-year-old retiree, lives off her pension and an occasional sewing job, where she earns 400 pesos an hour, officially about a dollar. She goes to the fair so she can buy clothes that she otherwise wouldn’t be able to buy.
“We just can’t buy new things. You can’t buy new sneakers, you can’t buy new flip flops, you can’t buy new jeans, you can’t buy a shirt or a t-shirt either. So you have to look for them at fairs,” she said.