The French-owned DIY giant Leroy Merlin is looking to expand its presence in Russia to replace the other brands which have halted their operations in the country, The Telegraph reports.
The company, which sells homeware and gardening products and is owned by the Mulliez family’s Association Familiale Mulliez, reportedly stated in the letter, seen by the UK media, that its Russian “sales have significantly increased” since President Vladimir Putin’s government began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
"Since the disappearance of certain companies from the market, we are open to your proposals on the increase of supply and the increase of your assortment of products," the letter from Leroy Merlin’s Russian bosses told suppliers.
"In the next three to four months we plan to fully replace imported products with those produced in Russia," it added, according to The Telegraph report.
The Connexion has contacted Leroy Merlin for clarification on the contents of this letter.
Leroy Merlin has not responded to previous media requests to comment on its continued presence in Russia, and Jean-Marc Cicuto, a delegate from the CFTC union which represents the brand’s workers, has said that he is “extremely angry” with its bosses.
“We are angry that the company is moving into a deep silence, even internally,” he told Franceinfo.
Les salariés ukrainiens appellent le groupe à quitter la Russie ➡️ Pour Jean-Marc Cicuto, "si Leroy Merlin devait fermer" en Russie, "on va se battre pour qu'ils continuent à être payés". "On est en colère que l'entreprise se mue dans un silence profond." pic.twitter.com/w5HhZO9TZl— franceinfo (@franceinfo) March 22, 2022
Leroy Merlin, Decathlon, Auchan
The Mulliez family also own the brands Decathlon and Auchan, which have recently come under fire for not withdrawing their operations from Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. The family is thought to be worth $45.9 billion, Bloomberg reports.
Leroy Merlin has 112 shops in Russia while Auchan has more than 300.
Leroy Merlin alone has 36,000 Russian employees, and turns over €4.2billion in the country, equating to 18% of its global turnover and making Russia its second biggest market after France.
The brand has previously argued that: “It is extremely important for us to guarantee the availability of goods for our customers” in Russia.
A message reading: “Stop sales in Russia” was posted on Leroy Merlin’s Ukrainian Instagram account on Monday (March 21), with a link to a petition calling for the same thing.
In a tweet about the brands which are still operating in Russia, including Leroy Merlin, Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko said: “They pay tax, which pays for bullets that kill Ukraine’s children.”
Auchan, meanwhile, employs around 30,000 people in Russia, told The Telegraph that "the company stood beside Ukrainians by keeping stores open and providing humanitarian aid” in Ukraine. The supermarket has also said that it continues operations in Russia “to feed the population.”
On Sunday (March 20), the Retroville shopping centre in Kyiv, which contains an Auchan branch, was bombed by Russian forces.
The Ukrainian defence ministry tweeted: “Leroy Merlin became the first company in the world to finance the bombing of its own stores [referring to a bomb blast at a branch in Ukraine] and killing its own employees.
“Inhumane, harrowing greed.”
French-Belarussian journalist Andrei Vaitovich also posted a picture of the bombed shop with the words: “A Leroy Merlin shop in Kyiv, or what remains of it.
“The Russian occupants say ‘thank you’ to the French company, which is staying faithfully in Russia, by bombing it.”
Un magasin Leroy Merlin à Kyiv... ou ce qu'il en reste.— Andreï VAITOVICH (@andreivaitovich) March 21, 2022
Les occupants russes disent « merci » à l'entreprise française, qui reste fidèlement en Russie, en la bombardant...#UkraineRussiaWar #Ukraine pic.twitter.com/tId5xJIpVA
Oleksiy Goncharenko, who is a member of the Ukrainian parliament, commented: “People have died here. Maybe these videos will influence in one way or another your decision to continue paying Russian taxes and therefore funding what is happening here.”
As other companies withdraw and those remaining face criticism from politicians and the public, French car manufacturer Renault, which owns two thirds of Russian manufacturer AvtoVaz, has announced that it will be resuming its operations in Russia after it halted production at the beginning of the war in Ukraine last month.
Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the UK Commons foreign affairs committee, criticised this decision, telling The Telegraph that this would only "cushion" the Russian economy against sanctions from the West.