Retailer H&M exits Russia as war with Ukraine rages on

The logo of Swedish fashion retail group H&M. File photo

The logo of Swedish fashion retail group H&M. File photo

Published Jul 18, 2022


H&M, the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer, which has stores in South Africa, said yesterday that it had decided to wind down its business in Russia, joining a growing list of companies fully exiting the country, and sending its shares down 1 percent.

The company suspended its business in Russia in early March in the wake of Western sanctions against Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine. Russia was H&M’s sixth biggest market and the company was increasing its store count there while reducing physical stores in many other markets.

“After careful consideration, we see it as impossible given the current situation to continue our business in Russia,” chief executive Helena Helmersson said in a statement.

“We are deeply saddened about the impact this will have on our colleagues,” Helmersson said, but did not elaborate. A company spokesperson said about 6000 employees in the country would be affected.

The entire wind-down was expected to cost about 2 billion Swedish crowns (R3 billion), of which about 1 billion crowns would have a cash flow impact, H&M said. The full amount would be included as one-time costs in the results for the third quarter.

H&M intends to temporarily reopen physical stores to sell its remaining inventory in Russia.

The shutdown would affect the company’s 170 physical stores in the country and its online sales channels, a spokesperson said.

H&M’s biggest rival, Zara owner Inditex, told shareholders last week that it would keep operations suspended for the time being.

“We are in contact with all actors that have been affected by the suspended measure and we are exploring different alternatives. But at this moment there is no other decision than to continue to monitor the situation,” said Inditex CEO Oscar Garcia Maceiras.

Hit by sanctions and supply chain issues, Russia has legalised so-called parallel imports, which allow retailers to import products from abroad without the trademark owner’s permission.

- Reuters