Carrefour opens up in Moscow for the longer term

Europe's top retailer - Carrefour - opened its first hypermarket in Moscow this week at a cost of €8 million. Despite the economic downturn the company plans to open two more shops this year.

With unemployment on the rise and incomes on the descent, Russia's retail market has demonstrated more or less flat growth in the first 5 months of 2009.

But Viktoria Grankina, Analyst, Troika Dialog says new shopping centers and stores have been opening their doors in Moscow, anticipating a reversal in the situation.

“If you look at the top five operators in Russia, they saw some 30-plus percent growth rates in Rouble in 2009 despite the crisis, so clearly there is still demand from the consumer. Going forward, smaller retailers that are very leveraged will be pushed out by larger operators like hypermarket chains that have the finances to expand and invest in Russia.”

The top five players only have about a 12% market share on the Russian food market and will increase that by less than 2% in 2009, according to analysts.

There is a lot of room for potential growth, and changing more traditional forms of commerce in the country.

Closed and open-air markets have as much as an 18% market share in Russian retail, and it is worth noting that while stores have been having difficulties seeing growth, this shopping format has managed to increase its position so far this year.

With larger retailers having nowhere near the 80% of market share they have in Europe, a number of foreign retailers have made their entry to the Russian market. Leading French retailer, Carrefour, is looking to the longer term for its new store according to Thierry Garnier, Member of the Carrefour Group Executive Committee

"We are confident that retail business in Russia has considerable long-term potential, and the market is strategically important for the development of our company."

That "long-term" could be, experts suggest, at least a decade away.