Second-hand market draws Lebanese preparing for thrifty Christmas

Buying and selling old goods catches on as economic crisis and Covid-19 take a toll on pockets

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A hip flea market was set up in the lively Mar Mikhael district of Beirut this year to draw business to an area badly hit by the blast at the city's port in August, as the country prepares for Christmas amid an acute economic crisis.

"I have two shops in the nearby district of Gemmayze that were completely destroyed in the blast. My car was ruined," Daniele Kiridjian, a fashion designer and organiser of the annual Le Marche Aux Puces market, told The National.

“But despite everything, we are here to stay and we want to bring life and colour back to Mar Mikhael.”

Lebanon  indoor market with open-air spaces (not entirely sure what this means (mainly indoors but with outdoor spaces? Is it because of corona? Yes, maybe we can just say a well-ventilated indoor market. It essentially has a bog door through which the air comes in)
Vintage items on sale at the annual Le Marche Aux Puces market held in the Mar Mikhael district of Beirut from December 16 to 18, 2020. The National

The districts of Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael, reputed for their restaurants, art galleries and vibrant nightlife, were among the most heavily damaged by the explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital on August 4, killing more than 200 people and injuring at least 6,500.

Four months on, businesses and people have yet to recover from the explosion, as many relied on either their own funds or charity to rebuild.

Le Marche Aux Puces, a trendy market for vintage items, has been active since 2017. This year it was held for three days from December 16 to 18 at an airy indoor market where people and boutiques can sell second-hand items before the Christmas season.

A severe economic crisis has been building since September last year in Lebanon. A shortage of foreign currency has made the Lebanese pound depreciate, making imported products, paid for in dollars, more expensive and unaffordable for many in Lebanon.

Omar Sfeir of the vintage shop Le Marchand de Reve said he had noticed Lebanese buying more second-hand items since imported clothes become more expensive.

“I was always into vintage and I believe in its importance, but this year a lot of people are making the shift too because they can no longer purchase from regular stores so they are going for second-hand items in thrift stores,” Mr Sfeir said.

The trend has also encouraged some Lebanese to sell off the luxury items they could once afford as a source of income.

Sherine, who gave only her first name, said she was selling personal items including Dolce & Gabbana bags and Stefanel clothing.

“I am trying to reduce my spending. After all that’s been happening, you don’t care for materialistic things anymore. I’d rather spend the money on myself rather than on these items. It’s a good income to have,” Sherine said.

A few dozen shoppers were at the market when it opened on Tuesday. Sebastian, from Scotland, who also gave only his first name, said he and his friends had come to support local businesses during a challenging time.

“A lot of Lebanese businesses are struggling and many people want to support them. That’s why we’re here today, doing our small bit to try and support Lebanese,” Sebastian said.

For Ms Kiridjian, whose shops sold new and vintage clothing, holding the event despite all the difficulties of 2020 is a victory in itself.

“We wanted to make it a point to hold the market here, in Mar Mikhael, despite everything,” she said.

“Whatever happens, we will remain.”