- Uniqlo said it will close stores in Russia after previously promising to keep them open.
- The Japanese chain condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a statement Thursday.
- It has 50 stores in Russia.
Uniqlo is closing its stores in Russia after all.
Just days after its CEO promised to keep stores open because “clothing is a necessity of life” and “the people of Russia have the same right to live as we do,” the company has backtracked and is suspending operations immediately.
In a statement on Thursday, Uniqlo’s parent company, Fast Retailing, condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and said that it has become more difficult to do business there because of the conflict.
“We have recently faced a number of difficulties, including operational challenges and the worsening of the conflict situation. For this reason, we will temporarily suspend our operations,” the company said.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for stores to operate in Russia since most major logistics companies have halted shipments to the country. Sanctions also threaten to cripple the economy – crimping consumer spending – and make it more difficult to process international financial transactions.
Uniqlo is among a growing number of major global brands that are retreating from Russia as the conflict in Ukraine intensifies. Over the past few days, retail giants such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, KFC have pulled out amid rising pressure from customers and politicians to do so. Others are still resisting, however.
Uniqlo has 50 stores in Russia, its largest footprint in any European country. It doesn’t split out its sales numbers for Russia, so it’s not immediately clear how important the market is to the brand. However, data analytics firm Global Data estimates it accounted for 1.3% of total worldwide sales in 2020.
Analysts told Insider that its original decision to stay open in Russia could have been driven by a motivation to keep its most important and fastest-growing market – China – on side. While China has not actively supported Russia’s invasion, it hasn’t condemned it either.