In Moscow, a few Nike outlets remain open although the company said more than a week ago that they were halting their Russian business
With Western sanctions against Russia following Vladimir Putin’s attack of Ukraine, Nike was one of the earliest brands to announce the halting of business and operation in the country of the authoritarian-aggressor. On 3 March, the company said this would include the temporary shutting of Russian stores. Recent investigation conducted by Reuters, however, found that “some independent stores remain open”. Nike is believed to have about 100 stores throughout Russia and more than a dozen in Moscow. When Reuters checked six of them in the capital, they were opened, as of Friday. A call made by the news agency to one of the outlets was met with an employee saying, “We don’t have information yet, but I think the store will be open for at least, like, for a month.”
These opened outlets are believed to be “independent” operators, meaning they are not directly run by Nike. Such arrangements by brands with partner retailers in countries not their own are common. On our island, dedicated Nike stores are operated by SUTL Group’s Sports Retailing division. They run some half a dozen Nike freestanding stores in Singapore and nine in Malaysia (interestingly, Nike only operates their own ‘outlet’ stores here through Nike Global Trading, based out of the Netherlands). These retail shops are considered to be “independents”. It is not know if the arrangement allows them to continue their business in states where global sanctions are held against them or if their business decisions are independent of corporate Nike’s own. But as one retail manager told us, in times of war, “most brands would consider humanity before profits”.
But if Nike’s retail/distribution partners in Russia are local companies, it would not be surprising that the native decision makers would choose to keep their business open. Or, adopt a sneakers-are-essential stance. Reuters reported that “Nike said on March 3 that it would temporarily suspend operations at all its Nike-owned and -operated stores in Russia”. There was no mention of those managed independently. Days before the announcement, the Swoosh’s RU online platform has kept to the brands official decision: purchases are not available. Nor is the use of the Nike app. Nike also announced previously that the company would contribute USD1 million to the United Nations Children’s Fund and the International Rescue Committee to support the relief efforts in Ukraine.
The West’s cutting of commercial links with Russia began with financial and tech sanctions in the first week following the war, and has intensified to include those against the oligarchs deemed to be close to the Russian president, as well as the recent announcement by the EU about halting luxury exports to Russia. The measures will serve as “a blow to the Russian elite”, according to the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. “Those who sustain Putin’s war machine should no longer be able to enjoy their lavish lifestyle while bombs fall on innocent people in Ukraine,” she said. This move comes after leaders of the G7 nations agreed to refuse Russia the status of “most favoured nation” on key products. Many French luxury brands have announced the stopping of operations in Russia, so the latest sanction will placed obstacles to the export of high-end everything—from cognac to cars—to the country. But, with Russian troops closing in on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, it is uncertain if this economic constriction now really matters.
Photos: Jim Sim