Comment la Russie contourne les restrictions sur les produits occidentaux

Comment la Russie contourne les restrictions sur les produits occidentaux

Now that the war in Ukraine has dragged on for 6 months, Russian businessmen are imagining new ways to supply consumers with Western products. Latest example: the launch of a new Russian channel by copying Starbucks codes.

Ikea, H&M or Starbucks: the list of large Western groups that have announced their withdrawal from the Russian market has grown in recent months, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin is doing his best to maintain the illusion of normalcy among his people. The Kremlin thus promotes a system of parallel imports, which has allowed businessmen to continue supplying certain Western products to consumers. Others are launching generic brands, which look like the originals.

The Russian Starbucks

This is particularly the case for Stars Coffee, a Russian chain that has replaced coffee giant Starbucks, which opened its first Moscow restaurant on Friday with the slogan “Bucks is gone, the stars have added.”

Last May, the American chain known for its lattes and frappuccinos announced its definitive withdrawal from the country. That’s when, at the end of July, an amazing duo, Russian rapper Timati and restaurateur Anton Pinski, did not hesitate to acquire the group’s 130 restaurants.

The co-owner of the Stars Coffee chain, rapper Timur Yunusov, at the opening of his cafe in Moscow on Friday, August 18. [MAXIM SHIPENKOV – KEYSTONE]

In its logo, the green and white mermaid has been replaced by a girl wearing a “kokochnik”, a traditional Russian headdress. Early customers don’t seem to see much of a difference.

“I used to love Starbucks, and now it has finally reopened, if only because of the rebranding. They will offer similar drinks anyway, so I’m very happy,” rejoices Anastasia, a young Muscovite, plastic cup in hand.

All of the chain’s restaurants will open in Russia by the end of September, according to the owners, and about 80% of Starbucks’ roughly 2,000 employees have agreed to stay with the new chain, according to the same source.

On June 12, the “Russian McDonald’s” also opened its doors to great fanfare under the name “Vkousno i totchka” (Delicious. Period).

After more than 30 years of presence in Russia, the famous fast food chain announced in mid-May its definitive departure from the country and resold its activities, but not the brand name, to a Russian businessman, Alexandre Govor, also co- founder of an oil refining company.

parallel market

The fashion industry has also experienced a stir in the country. Brands like H&M announced their definitive departure from the country in mid-July.

The Swedish prêt-à-porter giant has decided to leave its doors open for a few more weeks with the aim of liquidating stocks, and thus lower the cost of its exit, which has reached 200 million euros. At the beginning of August, customers were still running in the hope of getting the latest collection of the moment.

Customers line up outside the H&M store at a shopping mall in Moscow on August 3, 2022. [MAXIM SHIPENKOV - KEYSTONE]Customers line up outside the H&M store at a shopping mall in Moscow on August 3, 2022. [MAXIM SHIPENKOV – KEYSTONE]

To meet this demand and avoid sanctions, some investors are now sourcing through a parallel network, he explained. The Guardian in an article

Specifically, local businessmen buy Western products by bringing them from neighboring countries: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

“The idea to sell Zara products came from my wife, who said she really wanted clothes to come back,” says Aleksandr Gorbunov. The Siberian real estate investor has just opened a store – Panika (panic) – to sell Zara clothes imported from Kazakhstan.

In fact, these imports are encouraged by the Russian authorities. Objective: to ensure that the population feels as little as possible the pressure of the sanctions decided against the Kremlin.

“Western consumer products that may seem insignificant can be very valuable to the average Russian,” sociologist Grigory Yudin told the British daily.

Other categories of products, such as automobiles or certain technological products, are transported by torturous means. The Russian government has gone so far as to publish a list of foreign brands eligible for parallel importation.

two tone story

While consumers appear to be safe, the impact of Western sanctions on the Russian economy is far greater than official figures show, according to a Yale University study.

This picture of a Russian economy holding up despite sanctions is the result of “selected statistics” from Russian President Vladimir Putin, these management experts say.

With a forecast GDP recession of 6.0% in 2022 (compared to 8.5% forecast in April), the country is doing slightly better than expected according to the International Monetary Fund. But on the other hand, the recession in 2023 should be stronger than expected.

>> Read also: Sanctions weighing heavily on the Russian economy

agencies / Doreen Enssle

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