By Jackie Eager
Bale shopping is one of my favourite things to do. There are plenty of bale shops around Honiara, all with their own prices and special discount days.
Bale shops are the clothing shops in Solomon Islands. Large quantities of clothes are shipped to the country in ‘bales’. These clothes are often second hand but they can also be end of line or excess stock. In store, they are packed onto racks, divided into male and females sections, with tops and bottoms separated. Clothes shopping is very popular in Honiara and these shops are often packed to the brim with people searching frantically for a favourite item.
As a bargain hunter from way back, I love the anticipation of a bale shop outing, the extreme focus of my hunt and the immense joy I feel when I find a treasure. The prices in Honiara allow me to regularly buy brands that I would think twice about in Australia. It also encourages me to take risks with fashion and try looks or styles I wouldn’t dare of at home (such as yellow items or trendy shorts). Sometimes I get home and the clothes do not fit me (there are no change rooms in the shops) but I pass these along to friends who are always happy to have them.
As an example of the value, today I spent $280 SBD at the bale shop, this equates to roughly $40AUD. For this amount, I was able to purchase four dresses, nine tops, two shirts, a sarong, a cardigan and a belt. Pretty much my wardrobe for the next year!
As new bales are unloaded, the prices are high (sometimes $50 SBD for a tank top) but a few days later prices are reduced, often to as low as $8 per item. The clothes move quickly so if you’re after the good stuff, it pays to go early. Going when the prices are high also typically means less people in the shop, more room to move and therefore a lower temperature.
I’m very choosy when it comes to quality and tend to stick with brands well known to me. Today’s finds included Ralph Lauren, Cue, Country Road, Pilgrim, Veronika Maine, and JAG. Some have been worn before but some still have the tags on and are in mint condition.
I also make sure to check what the items are made of – cotton being a plus and polyester or silk a certain no-no. With the climate in the Solomons being tropical, clothes need to be light and breathable so you don’t over heat. They also need to be fairly tough as they get washed a lot due the sweat they soak up!
Like any shop, there are ups and downs with the stock. Sometimes I struggle to find my favourite brand names and then other days, a good shipment has come in and there will be ten Country Road garments in a row. These are the magic days that a bale-shopper dreams about and keeps us going back for more!