Things to Know About Ukay-Ukay Shopping in Cebu

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Ukay-ukay businesses are considered Filipino thrift shops.

Getting to cop a sweet bargain when shopping is a satisfying sensation. Retailers from malls and business districts around the city have items considered as “steals” due to their value at a lower price.  

But what if there was a place where you could get a whole month’s worth of clothes? What if their quality is good enough to one-up your OOTD game? 

In the Philippines, this is possible at a Filipino thrift shop called an ukay-ukay.

Ukay-ukay businesses sell second hand clothes like tops, jackets, pants, and shoes at criminally low prices. Some stores also sell overruns and company rejects that did not pass quality control tests.

These establishments display large piles of clothes that customers dig into to find a good deal. This is where the name “ukay-ukay” comes from, as “ukay” means to dig through.

Many of these businesses can be found inside major markets like Carbon, as well as along the sidewalks of major streets like Osmeña Boulevard. 


Clothes sold in an ukay-ukay store

Filipino thrift stores are known to sell hundreds of second hand clothes.

Wearing used clothes or buying company rejects is not all that uncommon, but you can definitely benefit from purchasing these items at affordable shops in your local area.

Filipinos have relied on ukay-ukay establishments to look for cheap clothes to wear or to get as gifts for their loved ones. These dirt-cheap items also allow everyone from fashion gurus to thrifty shoppers to purchase branded clothing that they wouldn’t otherwise find anywhere else.

T-shirts from an Ukay-Ukay in Cebu City

These Filipino businesses are a go-to venue for budget shopping.


1. Extremely Cheap

You probably wouldn’t have expected to buy a good quality shirt for less than 50 or 100 pesos, or a good quality pair of sneakers at a quarter of the price of the more popular shoe brands

Ukay-ukay products are so cheap that many customers tend to buy them in bulk. All you need is a few hundred pesos and you can have a number of clothes to upgrade your wardrobe.

Influencers and vloggers alike love posting about their ukay-ukay hauls and showing off what they bought. Many of these items didn’t cost them as much, as if they decided to go on a shopping spree in official stores at shopping malls.

2. Environmentally-Friendly 

Thrift stores can help the environment. Rather than throwing away that shirt you once loved, you can give it a new home and even earn a profit.

Recycling pre-loved items is one of the benefits of buying second-hand clothes, as it helps reduce waste, preserving Cebu’s rich natural resources. 

One thing to take note of when purchasing these items is that you don’t know where they may have come from, so it’s best to wash them before you decide to wear them. 

3. A Good Source of Income

Aside from benefiting budget shopping enthusiasts, you can also gain a good profit when you set up an ukay-ukay business for yourself. All you need is to find a good supplier or gather your own clothes to sell at a physical store or even online.

These thrift shops have a simple business model that is easy to learn for beginner entrepreneurs: stack a pile of second hand clothes for customers to rummage through.  

They are also easy to market, especially since Filipinos love cheap and trendy goods. Ukay-ukay items are easy to sell since profit is computed per sale, and you can get a lot of money fast.

Ukay-Ukay shop in Cebu City

You can visit ukay-ukay stores to find your next OOTD.


1. It can be exhausting.

Rummaging through a pile of clothes is fun, but it can get frustrating if you can’t find clothes you like that fit you.

You can browse through the clothes hanging by the racks, but you’ll never know what’s under a certain pile that you might like. Plus, there are no extra sizes, so you may not find another size if something you like doesn’t fit you.

This is even clearer when you run your own business since you will initially have to stack loads of clothes before selling them. After that, you have to pack, fold, and hang them for the customers.

2. You’ll have to rely on the “eye test.”

Since most of these products don’t have extra sizes, you have to meticulously look for clothes that fit you perfectly. However, some sizes might vary depending on the brand or where it was manufactured, so you will need to rely on the eye test to figure out which clothing fits you best.

There aren’t any exclusive changing rooms for you to try out the clothes either. This might not be a problem if you’re looking to buy shirts, but it might not be a safe risk if you want to purchase a pair of jeans. 

3. Second hand clothes may not be of the best quality.

People don’t just sell pre-loved clothes because they no longer fit or they don’t want to wear them anymore. Some may be selling them because of a few blemishes that are unfixable. 

Double-check for any major damage on the items you find. If you think it can be fixed, you can bring it to a tailor or a cobbler. 

Some clothes may also have stains that you can’t take off. If you end up buying one of these, try to wash it to remove the stain.

Buying second hand clothes at thrift stores or ukay-ukay shops is a lesson in sacrifice. You may be buying something extremely budget-friendly, but there are other things you need to consider as well.

These items may not be in the best condition, but a few alterations can make an old piece of clothing feel brand new. If that is something you are willing to go through, you will find ukay-ukay stalls very useful. 

This Philippine business model takes a unique spin on thrift shopping, making use of a simple venue to sell cheap but usable clothing. All you need is a few hundred pesos, and you can find the ultimate OOTD to turn the city sidewalks into your own runway. 

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