Empty shelves, huge discounts as Russia’s Decathlon stores close

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Empty shelves and prices discounted by as much as 70% greeted shoppers who visited Decathlon stores in Russia over the weekend before the French sports equipment retailer closed its stores on Monday, hampered by supply constraints.

Scores of Western brands have left Russia following a backlash against its military incursion into Ukraine, with McDonald’s, IKEA and Renault among the more high-profile. Others have reported struggles with logistics and supply chains amid Western economic and financial sanctions.

One shopper, Lyubov, said Decathlon’s departure was “sad”, but was adamant that Russian consumers would cope.

“We are flexible people, we will adapt,” she said.

Another customer, Ivan said: “It really is a shame that it’s closed. As a climber, I’ll miss Decathlon, but what can you do? In principle, there are other things we can buy, but still, Decathlon will be missed.”

Part of a retail empire owned by the Mulliez family, Decathlon imported most of the products sold in its 60 Russian stores. It announced in March that it was suspending operations as “the supply conditions are no longer met to continue … activity in Russia”.

The stores closed in waves, and from Monday, Russian consumers were no longer be able to shop in store or online, the company’s local website said, although some branches stayed open for returns.

The company’s repeated use of the word ‘temporary’ suggested that it may try to reopen stores when possible. On an FAQ page, it promised to save accrued loyalty points and let customers know when they could be used.

Decathlon declined to offer further comment on Monday.

The Mulliez family is also behind DIY retailer Leroy Merlin and food retailer Auchan, both of which remain open in Russia.

In March, Decathlon said it would continue to support its 2,500 Russian staff, some of whom have been involved with the company since 2006.

(Reporting by Reuters, Editing by William Maclean)