January-March 2018 #1 (21)

Imagine there is a premiere in a theatre. Who sits in the first row? The most respected people: the store director, his deputies, the meat salesman… Why them? Because they have the power over your groceries. You can’t get anything without their help!

This is the plotline of a comedy that used to be especially popular back in the Soviet era, when there were shortages of just about everything – sausage, cheese, butter… Back then, people could not simply buy things. They had to obtain them by waiting in long lines, often getting into quarrels and even fist fights. Sometimes deficits resulted in social upheavals, in mass anti-government demonstrations. From the 1960s on, these demonstrations took place in Novocherkassk, Karaganda, Murom, Temirtau ...

Remember the scene from Paul Mazursky’s “Moscow on the Hudson,” where the main character buys toilet paper after waiting in line for hours just so he can proudly give it to his girlfriend? “I like to fall asleep and wake up among supplies. Food everywhere. Just a little peace for some time,” popular Soviet writer Mikhail Zhvanetsky wrote in one of his stories back in the 1960s, “Who knew that we would have vinegar, but mustard would disappear?”.

Of course, when there were food and consumer goods shortages everywhere, there was no such thing as “service.” It did not exist in the USSR. There was no reason to attract people to stores with empty shelves. It’s the same reason there was no advertising in the country. What could you possible advertise when the stores were all but completely empty?!

Why was the same country that was sending fantastic ships into space unable to keep stores stocked with things like toilet paper, sausage, shoes, cars? After all, these terrible shortages are the main reason that the USSR ceased to exist after sixty-nine years.

In an attempt to alleviate the problem with food shortages, a new food program was introduced in the USSR in 1982. It didn’t help, and the shelves of Soviet stores remained empty.

Young people born after 1985 have trouble imagining that there was a time shelves in grocery stores had almost nothing aside from expired canned fish.

Today the capital has over 56,000 stationary trade enterprises, over 11,000 cafes and restaurants, and

22 agricultural markets.

There are more and more foreign companies in the trade and services sector as well. Almost everybody in Moscow is familiar with brand names like Metro, Auchan, Selgros, Globus, OBI, IKEA, Media Markt, and Leroy Merlin.

Philippe Roger, Deputy General Director at Leroy Merlin, cited interesting figures during his presentation at the Confindustria Russia general assembly in November.

He reminded the audience that retail is a great reflection of the state of the economy, since it has to do with the general population’s purchasing power. In 14 years, this major company opened 1,700 stores in Russia and continues to open another 16-17 every year. According to him, this was decided back in 2011, and the company is adhering to its original plan. In 2016, 17 Leroy Merlin stores were opened in Russia. Another 16 were opened in 2017, with the opening of yet another 15-16 stores scheduled for next year. At the end of his presentation, Philippe Roger optimistically said: “The sanctions did not affect us. We invest 400-500 million euros here every year. We are confident in the Russian market, and in Russia’s stable development.”

Sergo Kukhianidze

Editor in Chief



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