How businesses from democracies stay in Russia despite promising to leave. Gap case
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After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, there were quite a lot of famous brands, that promised to leave Russia, but struggled to deliver on said promises. For example, Coca-Cola, SAP, and now - Gap. The famous clothing brand said it would leave the country back in March. Yet, according to a Reuters report, it was still shipping clothes to Russia till mid-July.

Russian customs records reviewed by Reuters show that between March 11 and July 16, Gap’s franchisee in Moscow received 1,585 clothing shipments with a declared value of $5.2 million. More than three-quarters of the deliveries list the supplier as Gap Europe Ltd, a London-based unit of Gap Inc. According to Reuters, Gap shipments included everything from “knitted children’s socks” and “children’s pajamas” to “textile blouses for women” and “textile shorts for men.”

Asked why the clothing shipments to Russia continued until July, a Fiba Perakende (an Istanbul-based retailer that runs all the Gap stores in Russia, Turkey and Ukraine) manager said in a statement, “These shipments were delayed due to longer transit times via Turkey, as well as additional handling time at Russian customs.”

But according to the Russian customs records reviewed by Reuters, the vast majority of the clothing shipments make no mention of Turkey as a transit point. Abnd more interestingly, after July 16, the customs records show no shipments to Gap Retail in Moscow, indicating that the apparel flow to Russia had stopped. But at the same time, when the media called a Gap store in central Moscow last week, a woman answered the telephone and said the store is still open with some choice of clothing.

The Gap case sheds light on two problems, still present almost nine months into the war Russia wages in Ukraine. First, businesses promising to leave Russia take a long time to deliver on that promise and are not transparent when the public notices these struggles and asks questions. Second, even after all the struggles are over and the company stops shipments of its goods to Russia, they are still available in Russia, three months after the shipments have stopped. This implies a possibility of grey imports of said production to Russia, and it is unclear if the brand owner really is unaware of it given the general non-transparent approach some companies take on exiting Russia.

While B4Ukraine welcomes every company’s decision to leave Russia, we believe that companies should follow on their promises to leave the country in the orderly fashion and do it as soon as possible, to cut Russia off and means to continue to wage destructive war against Ukraine.

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