April 14, 2024
How to Run an Online Thrift Store in Nigeria

An online thrift store is a type of ecommerce business that sells previously owned or used items at discounted prices.

This model has become increasingly popular around the world, providing an alternative way for consumers to shop and find deals while also reducing waste.

For entrepreneurs in Nigeria, launching an online thrift store represents an exciting business opportunity. The used goods market is still relatively untapped in the country, especially when it comes to online platforms.

But with rapidly growing internet access and adoption of ecommerce among Nigeria’s over 200 million citizens, the potential to reach customers hungry for discounted items is tremendous.

Some factors that make Nigeria ideal for an online thrift business include a large youth population that is tech-savvy and eager to shop online, high fashion interest providing steady demand for clothing resale, and an entrepreneurial culture where people are motivated to earn extra income through side hustles.

Local knowledge and connections can be leveraged to more easily source quality used inventory.

With proper execution in areas like site design, inventory management, and digital marketing, an online thrift store in Nigeria can tap into promising demand while meeting desires for greater value, variety, and convenience in shopping.

The business model is also accessible for small startups given the relatively low overhead compared to traditional retail.

Key Takeaways

  • Launching an online thrift store allows entrepreneurs in Nigeria to capitalize on growing ecommerce and demand for discounted used goods.
  • Conduct thorough market research before starting an online thrift store to gain insights into customers, competition, pricing, and industry trends.
  • Choose a business structure like sole proprietorship, partnership, or LLC based on liability protection, taxes, and ease of setup.
  • Obtain all required licenses and permits to legally operate your online thrift store in Nigeria. Requirements vary by state.
  • Select an ecommerce platform like Shopify or WooCommerce to create your online storefront and handle key functions.
  • Sourcing quality used inventory requires leveraging various channels like auctions, nonprofits, businesses, and classified ads.
  • With the right preparation and execution, an online thrift store can successfully tap into Nigeria’s appetite for value shopping and discounted goods.

1. Research the market

Before launching an online thrift store in Nigeria, conducting thorough market research is one of the most critical steps.

This research will provide key insights into your potential customers, competitors, and industry trends to inform your business strategy. Here are some tips on researching the market:

Evaluate competitor sites

Identify other online thrift stores in Nigeria and analyze their site design, product offering, pricing, shipping options, and marketing approach. Look for gaps or areas of improvement you can capitalize on. Also evaluate global competitors like eBay and Thredup for inspiration.

Determine in-demand categories

Explore what used product categories are most popular and in demand. Common categories include women’s apparel, shoes, bags, jewelry, electronics, books/media, and baby/kids items. Ensure you plan to stock adequate inventory for high-demand categories.

Conduct customer analysis

Develop buyer personas based on target demographics (e.g. middle-class women aged 18-35), preferences, values, interests, and other attributes. Survey potential customers directly through online polls or interviews to gain first-hand insights.

Research pricing and margins

Analyze the pricing structure of competitors across different product categories and conditions. Determine optimal margins for staying profitable and competitive. Pricing below offline thrift stores can be an advantage.

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Consider niche opportunities

Research whether you could occupy a curated niche like higher-end designer items, vintage or retro apparel, musical instruments, etc. A niche can attract targeted segments.

Identify supplier sources

Find out where competitors and offline thrift stores source used inventory. Good options may include auctions, estate sales, commercial suppliers, nonprofits, and individuals cleaning out closets.

Study industry data

Check industry data on projected growth for resale and ecommerce in Nigeria. High growth indicates a promising opportunity. Data from Euromonitor, Statista, and similar firms can provide market sizing.

Evaluate logistics landscape

Research shipping carriers, rates, and challenges related to ecommerce fulfillment and returns. Understand obstacles and options for delivery outside major cities.

Conducting this market research will require dedication of time and effort. But the vital insights gained into customers, competition, and Nigeria’s unique landscape will boost chances of launching a successful online thrift store.

2. Choose a business structure

Choosing the right business structure is an important decision when starting an online thrift store in Nigeria. The structure impacts taxes, liability, startup costs, recordkeeping, and other factors. Here are some top options to consider:

Sole Proprietorship

This simple structure means you will operate the business as an individual owner. There is no legal separation between you and the business.


  • Easy and inexpensive to form – just obtain required licenses
  • Full control over decisions
  • Taxable income passes through to your personal returns


  • You are personally liable for all debts and lawsuits against the business
  • Difficult to raise investment capital for growth
  • Limited life span – the business ends if you pass away


A partnership involves two or more co-owners sharing management responsibilities. There are two common types – general and limited partnerships.


  • Fairly easy to establish with partnership agreement
  • Shared decision making and workload
  • Partners often contribute investment capital


  • Partners are jointly and individually liable for business debts
  • Profits are passed through to partners to report on tax returns
  • Disagreements between partners can occur

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

This structure limits owner liability and allows pass-through taxation for members.


  • Liability protection for owners’ personal assets
  • Ownership flexibility – single or multi-member LLC
  • Less recordkeeping than a corporation
  • No limit on life of company


  • More complex formation process and state filing fees
  • Requires operating agreement between members
  • Profits passed through to members’ tax returns

For many small online thrift stores, an LLC provides the best of both worlds – liability protection while avoiding complex compliance of a corporation. But consult an attorney and account to determine the optimal structure for your specific business.

3. Obtain licenses and permits

To legally operate your online thrift store in Nigeria, you will need to obtain the necessary licenses and permits. Key requirements may include:

Business License

One of the first licenses you should apply for is a general business license from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). This certifies that you have registered and can operate your business in Nigeria. The general process involves:

  • Choosing a unique business name and checking availability
  • Filing registration documents and forms with the CAC
  • Paying registration fees around 30,000 Naira
  • Receiving your certificate of incorporation
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Sales Tax Permit

If your projected annual turnover exceeds 25 million Naira, you must register for a value-added tax (VAT) permit with the Federal Inland Revenue Service. This allows you to charge VAT on sales and remit taxes to the government. Requirements include:

  • Filing the VAT registration form
  • Providing a copy of your certificate of incorporation
  • Supplying company statements of account
  • Paying a registration fee of 25,000 Naira

State Government Requirements

Depending on where you operate in Nigeria, additional permits or licenses may be required by state government agencies. For example, Lagos state requires a business premises permit. Reach out to your specific state to find out if any other licenses or levies apply.

Business Location

If you operate an office or retail location for your online thrift store, you may need permits related to zoning, parking, fire safety, signage, and more. Find out requirements for business locations in the city where you are located.

Reseller’s Permit

Some states require a reseller’s permit or license if you plan to buy wholesale inventory for resale. This may involve registering as a vendor and collecting/remitting sales tax.

Professional Certification

If your online store focuses on a specialty vertical that requires specific expertise or certification (like musical instruments, antiques, luxury goods etc.), additional licensing could be mandated.

The registration process can be tedious. Consider hiring a professional consultant or attorney to guide you through the regulatory requirements and paperwork. With the right licenses and permits, you can operate your online thrift store legally and avoid issues down the road. Be sure to renew licenses on time as well.

4. Set up an ecommerce platform

Selecting the right ecommerce platform is a foundational decision when starting an online thrift store in Nigeria. The platform will handle your store hosting, site design, product listings, payment processing, shipping management, and more. Here are top options to consider:


Shopify is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms worldwide. It makes it easy to create a customized online store with themes, marketing tools, and integrated payment processing.


  • Wide range of beautiful themes and design options
  • Easy to customize storefront and pages
  • Handles hosting and security
  • Integrates with shipping carriers, payment gateways
  • Scales with your business growth


  • Transaction fees on top of monthly subscription plan
  • Less flexibility compared to self-hosted platform like WooCommerce


This WordPress plugin allows you to build an online store on top of the WordPress content management system.


  • Completely customizable on self-hosted WordPress site
  • Large selection of themes and extensions
  • Open source platform with robust community support
  • Very scalable as your catalog grows


  • Requires more technical skill and effort to set up
  • Must pay separately for hosting, security, payment processing

Custom Development

For extensive customization needs, having a developer build a custom platform may be an option.


  • Fully customized to your brand and specifications
  • Own the entire tech stack and platform code
  • Not constrained by limits of off-the-shelf platforms


  • Very high upfront development costs
  • Significant ongoing maintenance and costs
  • Dependency on developers for enhancements

Evaluate these options and consider your budget, timeline, technical capabilities, and specific features needed. Shopify can be great for launching quickly, while WooCommerce offers more control. Custom development works for large brands with complex needs.

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5. Inventory and pricing

Sourcing good quality used inventory at the right price will be crucial for your online thrift store in Nigeria to succeed. Here are some tips for building your inventory:

Leverage Personal Connections

Let your family, friends, and personal networks know you are looking to purchase used items for resale. Offer them a percentage of the sale price as an incentive to sell high-demand items.

Partner with Non-Profits

Build relationships with local charities and nonprofit organizations that receive donated items. Offer to buy certain high-value products directly.

Attend Auctions and Estate Sales

Regularly attend local auctions, estate and garage sales to source everything from clothes to furniture, electronics, and collectibles. Be ready to bid for the best pieces.

Scout Thrift Stores and Flea Markets

While thrift stores are your competitors, you can still scout them for unique vintage items or products priced below market value. The same goes for flea markets and swap meets.

Look for Bulk Suppliers

Search for commercial companies that supply bulk quantities of general merchandise or specialty categories like books or music. They frequently liquidate overstock and returns.

Advertise to Buy Inventory

Place classified ads in local newspapers or online groups indicating you pay cash for used goods. Specify the categories and condition you are looking for.

Source from Businesses

Contact businesses to buy their customer returns, overstock items, display models, or other excess products. Examples include electronics stores, furniture shops, appliance retailers, etc.

Inspect Carefully

Closely inspect each potential item for flaws, damage, missing pieces, stains, or other issues that may impact resale value. Test electronics fully.

Negotiate Prices

Don’t be afraid to negotiate better prices when buying inventory, particularly in large bulk quantities. Know your margins and offer fair prices.

With some hustle and relationship building, you can source quality used goods for your online thrift store. Keep inventory organized and cataloged using a central spreadsheet or database.

Final Thoughts

The opportunity to launch an online thrift store catering to Nigeria’s market holds much promise, but also requires thorough preparation and strategic execution.

By researching your target audience and local landscape, choosing the right business structure, obtaining necessary permits, leveraging a robust ecommerce platform, and building relationships to source inventory, you can position your thrift store for success.

A few key factors to keep in mind include staying abreast of fashion and category trends to inform your product mix, maintaining competitive yet profitable pricing, establishing reliable logistics for delivery, and deploying savvy digital marketing tactics.

Providing excellent customer service and secure payments will also be imperative.

While the ecommerce and thrift store space in Nigeria is still emerging, acting now allows you to build brand awareness and loyal customers from the start.

Launching as a lean startup enables testing different products and promotions without major upfront investment. Being adaptable to pivot based on data and feedback will be an advantage.

With proper execution and perseverance through initial challenges, an online thrift store in Nigeria can thrive.

Tap into the opportunity to provide value, convenience, and selection to consumers while also reducing waste – a win for customers and the environment.

The time is right to translate Nigeria’s love for fashion, mobile commerce, and saving money into a thriving digital business.

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