An H&M store in a Moscow shopping mall

Russia will open stores for foreigners to capture foreign currency and maintain imports


They will sell imported products that are increasingly difficult to find, although not just anyone will be able to buy from them.

An H&M store in a Moscow shopping mall.Natalia KolesnikovaAFP

Russia introduce duty-free shops to sell Western imported goods to diplomats in exchange for foreign currency. It is the same idea that was launched during the USSR through the famous stores beryozkaa symbol of official privilege during the daily scarcity of the Soviet era.

These selective stores will sell imported products that are increasingly difficult to find in ordinary Russian stores as foreign brands leave the country due to the war in Ukraine. They open in the fall and Among the products that can be sold, alcohol and tobacco stand out., as well as jewelry, cosmetics, perfumes and sweets. According to the Russian portal Mediazonephones and watches will also be sold, although it is not clear if the iPhone, whose days are numbered in Russia, will be available.

These stores will not be for everyone. To make a purchase, visitors must present an official document that proves that they are foreign diplomats, employees of an international entity or relatives. Payments will be accepted in dollars and euros: the same as in stores beryozka Soviet countries, it is hoped that these businesses will be used to capture foreign currency at a time of partial financial isolation and in the midst of a continuous exodus of brands. But, according to some analysts, above all it will serve to indirectly legitimize the ‘parallel export’ with which Russia is dodging some sanctions, importing brands that have left the country by resorting to third countries.

The direct role of the state in trade also returns: these stores will be owned by a company created by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and another entity chosen in a contest.

The Russian Foreign Department has been toying with the idea of ​​starting these stores for years. Since 2015 it is not possible to find many European products in supermarkets due to the ‘counter-sanctions’ dictated by Moscow in response to the vetoes that were imposed after the illegal annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.


These days shoppers have flocked to brand-owned stores to take advantage of the last few days. It’s what happened at some H&M when the Swedish clothing retailer reopened its doors this week in a final liquidation of your inventory before leaving the country for good. The same thing happened with Ikea, which organized a sale for employees and then on the Internet.

H&M opened in Russia in 2009 and stopped operations in March. Like other brands, it announced its complete withdrawal in July. Around 6,000 employees will also lose their jobs at the company in Russia due to the departure of H&M.

Lego stopped supplying products to Russia in March, but its stores remained open as rival retailers pulled out. Lego has now announced that it is ending its association with Inventive Retail Group, which runs 81 stores under its name. “We’re still open, but we don’t know for how long,” a toy store employee explained this week.

KFC and Pizza Hut are leaving Russia. McDonald’s announced in May that it would close its restaurants in the country, which were later sold to a local company. Some companies sold their products through franchisees in Russia and had to undo complex partnerships with Russian companies.

The news of the opening of stores for foreigners has brought back old memories to the most veteran ‘expatriates’: “I bought in a beryozka when I came to the summer university in 1988. Being a foreigner and paying in dollars was enough for me. It was more of a souvenir shop; I bought vodka, a deck of cards and maybe something to eat”, remembers a Spanish woman who lived through the last bars of the USSR.


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