Wider choice and more bargains spell decline for secondhand clothes shops

There was something in the paper this week about how used clothing stores in the Czech Republic have had their day: there are so many bargains to be had elsewhere now that Czechs are turning away from once ubiquitous secondhand shops.

I had never seen so many secondhand shops before I came here in the early 1990s - they seemed to be on every corner. In those days there weren't many decent men's clothes shops, and the few you could find were rather overpriced. (In fact, I think one well-known Italian franchise probably charge no more for their tasteful sweaters today than they did a decade ago - because now they have competition).

High prices on the high street go some way to explaining the fact that while your local "sekac" may have been a cheaper option, secondhand shops weren't actually THAT cheap. Especially considering their wares: pastel-coloured floral shirts, crinkly synthetic jackets with florescent designs, purple chinos and other tat that often seemed to originate in Switzerland, of all places.

By the way, if I had a pound for every secondhand shop that tricked me into entering by claiming to stock "exclusive" imported garments, I'd have a tidy sum indeed. They would usually have a Union Jack on their shop front and a few half-decent looking brand items in the window - but once you got inside it was the same old horrible rubbish. Vintage clothing emporia these places most certainly were not.

There was one huge secondhand outlet near Prague which was basically a series of barely-converted and unheated farm buildings, and which sold old clothes by the kilo. I remember driving out there with friends once and coming back with a double-breasted military-style jacket, which I thought looked rather nifty. That was until my mate started calling me a "Sergeant Pepper's reject". So I threw it away. Anyway, the buttons were all rotting.

Today the Czech Republic is a richer country and there is a far wider array of clothing stores, with the latest development the planned opening of two huge factory outlet type places on the outskirts of Prague.

But already the arrival of many of the western world's best known chains in the Czech Republic had put the writing on the wall for used clothing stores. In the sales especially you can pick things up for not much more than you would pay in a secondhand shop. And of course they haven't been worn by complete strangers in Switzerland or somewhere, and are not ten years out of date.