In the litany of Western companies’ exit from Russia, an exercise that has become almost routine for a week, the last two announcements so far will have sparked more emotion than usual.
Because McDonald’s, which announced Tuesday, March 8, to temporarily close its restaurants in Russia, is a very popular chain in the country, with 850 brands. By then the brand had become an emblem of post-communist openness. On January 31, 1990, the day the first restaurant in Moscow opened, no fewer than 30,000 customers were served… In 1988, the giant Coca-Cola had installed its first red distributor in the Soviet capital.
Thirty-two years later, it is against the backdrop of war in Ukraine that these two brands take a step back, this time symbolizing Russia’s growing isolation, both economically and politically. They have both been criticized in the United States for their slowness to act, as has PepsiCo, which announced Tuesday night it would curtail its operations by suspending sales of its beverages but continuing to deliver food.
“By respecting our values, we cannot ignore unnecessary human suffering in Ukraine”McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski wrote in a statement. The company, which indicates it does not know how long this closure will last, will continue to pay its 62,000 employees. Russia, where McDonald’s directly controls more than 80% of the restaurants that bear his name, represents 9% of group sales and 3% of operating profit.
Another major player in the country, the Starbucks coffee chain, announced the same decision Tuesday evening, with 130 stores temporarily closed. A little earlier, in a very different sector, the giant Unilever (Dove, Knorr, Ax, Rexona, Domestos, Cif, etc.) had announced the suspension of delivery of its products, following Procter & Gamble.
Auchan and Leroy-Merlin continue their activity
Such temporary closures have been decided by at least 250 foreign companies, in the most diverse sectors. The very popular Swedish Ikea stores were among the first to close, causing huge queues. The powerful French retail chains, such as Auchan or Leroy-Merlin, did not follow this move.
Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Rolex, Hermès or Prada in the luxury sector have ceased their activities. In the legendary Moscow shopping center GUM, in Red Square, these stores were closed on Tuesday, March 8, but the explanatory panels shouted “technical reasons”†
In the field of clothing, H&M or the brands of the company Inditex (Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, etc.) have also ceased operations, as have Nike, Adidas and Puma.
In the computer department, Apple, Microsoft or Adobe have suspended the delivery of their products or software. “The latest iPhone is the one you have in your pocket”, says a joke that has become popular. Visa and Mastercard have suspended their services for foreign cards in Russia and for Russian cards abroad. This latest decision makes life very difficult for the thousands of Russians who have left their country since February 24, fearing an economic crisis, political hardening or even military mobilization. Airbnb and Booking have also stopped their activities in Russia.
Ford, BMW, Hyundai, Skoda, Volkswagen and Nissan have stopped marketing or manufacturing their vehicles in Russia. AvtoVaz, a subsidiary of Renault, points out the logistical difficulties in operating its factories.
In culture, the shutdown of Netflix and Spotify was very noticeable, as was the decision by Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros, Sony and Disney not to broadcast their latest movies there. Access to Coursera’s online college courses has also been cut off.