Manila store offers fix for bagaholics on a budget

MANILA Wed May 27, 2009 2:29am EDT

A luxury leather bag hangs on display in the window of a Louis Vuitton store as shoppers buy gifts on Christmas Eve at the Beverly Center shopping mall in Los Angeles, California December 24, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

A luxury leather bag hangs on display in the window of a Louis Vuitton store as shoppers buy gifts on Christmas Eve at the Beverly Center shopping mall in Los Angeles, California December 24, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

MANILA (Reuters Life!) - Handbag lovers addicted to Louis Vuitton and Prada, but on a budget because of the financial crisis, are indulging their cravings at a Manila store that buys and sells used, authentic designer totes.

In the Philippine capital, the cash registers of luxury goods stores are still ringing, thanks to the super-rich who appear immune to the economic downturn.

But business is also booming at Bagaholic, located at the New World Hotel in Manila's financial district, whose range spans everything from Louis Vuitton Monogram Denims and Balenciaga Motorcycles to Chanel Bowlers and Gucci Hobos.

"Women in general, especially Asian women are very crazy over high-end designer bags, and I am one of them. So it actually solves my problem. I don't have to buy bags anymore, I can use what I have here," owner Gigi Asok Bambroffe told Reuters.

Several websites offer used designer clothes and accessories, but one-year-old Bagaholic allows customers to try on their purchases before committing to them. And unlike designer stores which often have a fixed-price policy, you can bargain.

Depending on the bag's quality and popularity, Bambroffe sells them for a discount of about 30 to 70 percent of the brand-new item's price.

A used classic Hermes Birkin, which sells new for half a million pesos ($10,600), can be bought for less than 60,000 pesos ($1,270) at the store. A Louis Vuitton Speedy, the store's bestseller, goes for as low as 15,000 pesos ($320), compared to its original price of around 40,000 pesos ($850).

"The price is definitely to die for, because instead of just buying one purse, now I can buy three purses, and instead of just being stuck with one color, now I can actually do more colors," said businesswoman Danielle Parker, who has recently taken to buying more used bags than new ones.

With the help of books and her own experience, Bambroffe has developed a keen eye for spotting genuine items from fakes and says only one out of nine sellers would offer a copy.

Most of Bambroffe's loyal customers are professionals and women with rich husbands. Some want to get rid of last season's "it" bag to buy a new one, while others don't mind being slightly unfashionable and buying an older model.

She said she was surprised at the number of Filipino women willing to buy used goods. And the designer boutiques in Manila don't seem to see her store as competition, sometimes even sending clients over.

"Vuitton actually sent them here to sell their stuff, and they go straight to Vuitton and buy a new one, so I think I'm helping them more than I'm affecting them sales-wise," Bambroffe said, referring to some of her customers.

And the bag addiction can start early, with one of Bambroffe's customers, 16-year-old Sham Kawit, buying four bags in one excursion.

"The quality is okay, they look brand-new for 10,000 pesos. It's a practical choice, right?," Kawit said.

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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