Swedish fast fashion giant H&M has reopened its outlets throughout Russia but will only stay open until it has sold off the last of its stock in the country.
While it has not given a timeframe for its inevitable exit from the Russian retail scene, it stated in a recent release that the continuing conflict between the country and Ukraine makes it impossible for the brand to continue its operations.
H&M suspended sales in Russia in March of this year at the start of the Ukraine war, affecting over 150 outlets and around 6,000 employees.
Company CEO Helena Helmersson expressed great sadness as to the economic implications H&M’s departure will have on its employees. While she added that she was grateful for the Russian team’s dedication to their jobs, she felt it would be morally wrong to continue operating in the country.
Helmersson also thanked Russian customers for their patronage over the years.
When War Hinders Growth and Expansion
Before H&M’s initial closure in March, Russia ranked sixth among its biggest markets, making up for around 4% of its total group sales towards the end of last year.
When the war began, the company expanded its presence in the country through other brands in its portfolio, including Monki, Cos,& Other Stories, and Weekday. In fact, until recently, Russian customers could still order clothing from these brands online.
It is expected that H&M’s eventual closure in Russia will cost the company approximately US$ 192 million overall.
An En Masse Departure in Retail
Aside from H&M, numerous global brands have ceased operations in Russia since the country invaded neighboring Ukraine. Many felt a moral responsibility to stop doing business with the country and its people. However, some gave in to pressure from its customers throughout the globe.
Mostly, these multinationals have cited how Western sanctions against the Russian economy following the invasion have made it harder to stay operational. As a result, trading has become unviable, even impossible, for numerous industries.
Other clothing and footwear brands like Asos, Boohoo, and sportswear giant Nike have also closed their online sales to Russian customers.
Asos, in particular, stated back in March that it was neither right nor sensible to continue selling to the Russian market.
Tech leader Apple likewise ceased selling its products on and offline in Russia, declaring that it stood with the people of Ukraine who have suffered the most from the violent incursion by its neighbor.