10 Helpful Tips For Shopping in Idumota

Idumota market, popularly called Lagos or Eko market is located on Lagos Island, and is the largest open market in Lagos state. It is also one of the largest open markets in West Africa, and there is hardly anything you want that you cannot find there, either at wholesale or retail prices.

The trick is to know the the specific area of the market to look, in order to get the best bargain. There are different areas of the market, which are big names in their own right, with what they are popularly known for.

For instance, the Balogun section is popular for fabrics, female clothing items, and other fashion accessories. The Mandillas section is known for high quality suits, office shirts, shoes, jeans, especially for men. For kitchen items like pots, utensils, and coolers, you will find them at Gorodom, and if you are in search of provisions, Oke Arin is your go to place.


Shopping in Lagos is a full time job, especially for people who are not too familiar with the nitty gritty details of how things work. Based on my experience at Idumota, I’ve complied 10 helpful tips for anyone who plans to shop there.


1. Chose right day and time to visit the market.

If you are going from the mainland to Idumota, I will advise you leave home early to beat traffic. Although this doesn’t apply in all cases, because, let there be unpredictability and there was Lagos traffic.

My best day of the week to visit the market, any market at all, is on Thursdays due to the environmental sanitation in Lagos markets. There’s usually lesser traffic on Thursday mornings, and depending on when you leave home, you will arrive the market just in time for them to open at 10am and get the first pick of the day in the first few shops you visit.

 

2. Dress in comfortable clothing and footwear.

I cannot stress how important it is to be very comfortable in what you are wearing to visit the market. Idumota is not called the largest market for no reason, and it will not make any sense to trek the length and breadth of the market wearing uncomfortable shoes.

Depending on the weather, the roads might be muddy and with the human traffic, you will definitely bump into other people and be bumped into. Avoid sandals that cut easily or spoil when in contact with water.

I prefer wearing jeans and dark tops which can take stains or spills of any kind. I also recommend wearing flat shoes or sandals which won’t hurt your feet even after wearing for hours. They are also easy to slip off to test new footwear you might wish to purchase at the market.

If possible, carry a sling bag with little cash and your ATM card. Most shops accept bank transfers and the big ones have POS machines too. There are also a number of ATMs around just in case you need more cash.

 

3. Plan to go with a friend.

As much as possible, I recommend going to the market with a friend, preferably one with more experience and who knows the nooks and crannies of the place.

Pros: Two heads are better than one. It never hurts to get a second opinion on whatever you are buying, and it’s better to get that opinion from a trusted person than from the sweet talking traders who just want to make sales. This is especially important for people who are not too good at bargaining, or who don’t know the difference between inferior quality products and the original ones. A friend with good bargaining skills and a better eye for detail will definitely come in handy for a better shopping experience.

Cons: You might have opposing views with your friend concerning a particular item you want to buy. Your friend might also be impatient, and you may not be able to visit all the sections to get everything you want.

 

4. Make a list and a budget and stick to it.

Before going to the market, it is advisable to determine your budget and make a shopping list in order of importance. This will guide your purchases and ensure you don’t forget to buy some things, or go overboard. With this economy and the rising cost of things, it is best to save as much money a possible and not buy unnecessary items.

From the roadside and streets to the shops, you will find a galore of traders displaying their wares attractively left and right. It takes self discipline not to be tempted to give in to the flashy sights and go outside your shopping list. Of course, some items not on the list will eventually make it into your shopping bag, but be absolutely sure you need those items before buying.

 

5. Price items at different places before making a purchase.

Every trader is out to make a profit, but that doesn’t mean they should make their daily quota at your expense. Try to price what you want to buy in at least three or four shops, to get a general idea of the price, before purchasing.

Items sold on the roadside are a bit more expensive than those sold in the inner parts of the market, because the traders outside get their wares from inside too. For cheaper purchases, especially when you’re buying in bulk, it is advisable to go deeper into the market for better deals.

A pricing hack is to start from a third of the asking price and work your way up. Never buy at the asking price, as usually, the traders build up on that price, knowing the customers will eventually bargain to beat down the prices. So buying at the asking price is really the customers loss.

 

6. Ask questions, but avoid direct referrals.

It is almost inevitable to ask around to locate some items, but as much as possible, avoid being directly referred by people to shops.

For instance, you want to buy a bag and ask someone to show you where to get one. The person personally takes you to a shop and you get the bags, price and pay then go your merry way along. Good for you, right? You save yourself the stress of looking around the wrong places for the bag.

But do you know that a good number of times, the bag seller has added a bit of money on that bag of yours as a token of appreciation for the person who referred you. You can get the bag for let’s say, 600 naira, when if you had come yourself it would have been 500. The extra 100 naira ends up being a referral bonus paid from your own pocket.

You probably won’t feel the difference if you are buying one or two pieces, but imagine buying in bulk. This is why it is always better to get the directions from people and head towards that direction, asking one or two other people for confirmation, rather than being taken to the shop personally.

 

7. Be vague and avoiding giving too much away.

Most traders understand how psychology works and study their customers to know how to set their prices. From body language and facial expression, to actual language and manner of speaking, the traders are experts at gauging the size of a person’s purse and what they have to offer.

Most times, when you appear overly excited about an item, they will almost never go below a certain price while you bargain because they know you will eventually buy it, since you like it. Other times, when you come across as an English speaking JJC, you are likely to buy an item at a higher price than someone who speaks the trader’s native language.

Sometimes, depending on the way you dress the asking price can either be higher or lower. Unfortunately, sometimes when you dress too down, especially in big shops they might treat you dismally as they believe you cannot afford their goods.

In any case, dress smartly, learn how to read the room and adjust appropriately as the situation calls for it.

 

8. Build a rapport with the traders and collect their contact information.

Apart from the discounts and offers you can get from being friendly with the traders, you can get to learn some hacks and market tricks from them. Most shop owners have a business card at hand and readily provide it on request. Due to the large nature of the market, locating your way back to the shop another time might not be easy, but with their contact information, you can always reach out to them for directions, and they can also inform you in case they have moved to another location within the market.

Also, having the contact information of the traders can save you the stress of visiting the market yourself, as you can just call to inquire about the availability of what you want to buy and the prices. A good number of traders are now on WhatsApp and can snap and send across pictures and details of what they have to you. You can even transfer to them and get your items delivered to you at home or wherever you want.

Although it is quite easy and tempting to just stick to one particular trader for these runs, especially when you are very sure of their pricing and quality of their goods, it is not advisable in the long run. You might get a cheaper and better deal elsewhere, so widen your network as you shop.

 

9. Check your items properly, especially when buying in bulk.

There will always be a Judas among the disciples, and these days, you can’t trust anyone. When buying in bulk, don’t just rely on the samples you see displayed. Make sure you check each item properly to be sure a Judas or two are not packed among the disciples you are purchasing. Imagine making the long trip to the market and back home only to discover that some inferior quality items have been smuggled into your bulk items.

It is especially important when you are purchasing from the roadside, as most of the traders there don’t have a fixed spot. You might not meet them where you did previously, for a refund or exchange the next time you come to the market.

 

10. It’s okay to make mistakes.

There will always be a better hack, a more helpful tip and a better bargain that what you got, and it’s okay. Practice makes perfect and every experience is a learning opportunity. If there is anything Lagos as a whole will teach you, it’s street smartness, and the market is the best place to learn that. After going to the market at least three times, you will definitely be better than the first time you went.

 

These tips also work well for Oshodi, Tejuosho, Yaba, Ikotun and other markets in Lagos, so have them at the back of your mind when shopping in these markets too. I find this thread particularly helpful for navigating Idumota, and you can go through it for more information. So, are you ready to explore Idumota?

Happy shopping!