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Pressure mounts on French brands to close stores in Russia

Auchan, Decathlon and Leroy Merlin have been the subject of protests and calls for boycotts after the offensive in Ukraine

Auchan logo on the top of a building

Auchan has 30,000 staff and 231 shops in Russia, with business figures of €3.2billion in 2021 Pic: StockPhotosArt / Shutterstock

Pressure is mounting on French brands including Auchan and Decathlon, which are continuing their sales and activities in Russia despite the invasion of Ukraine.

Adverts and logos of the stores have been defaced or digitally altered – such as Leroy Merlin being changed to “Leroy Kremlin” in one image, for example – while social media messages against the groups are increasing, along with calls for boycotts.

Among the brands targeted are Auchan, Leroy Merlin, and Decathlon, all of which are managed by the Mulliez company.

Eco-activists mounted a protest against the group at its headquarters in the north of France, calling for citizen pressure to make the company change its policy in Russia.

Two municipal workers and one local councillor (of the green EELV party) joined the protesters to chant slogans such as “peace, climate, same fight” and “Auchan, Mulliez, stop Russia”.

Marine Tondelier, regional councillor of Hauts-de-France, told BFMTV: “We have seen many groups, including very capitalist ones, ready to give up profits because, in terms of image, it is no longer possible to stay in Russia. It puts consumers off.”

So far, Mulliez directors have remained silent on the issue. The group has more than 400 stores, and employs more than 90,000 workers, across Ukraine and Russia.

  • Auchan: 30,000 staff and 231 shops in Russia, with business figures of €3.2billion in 2021 (10% of its global revenue)

  • Decathlon: 60 shops in Russia and around 30,000 staff

  • Leroy Merlin: 36,000 staff and 107 shops. The brand’s second-largest market after France. Represents more than 18% of its global activity.

Last week, a spokesperson for Auchan's Russian subsidiary denied (to the Russian newspaper Kommersant) that it was planning a withdrawal from the country. It assured the newspaper that its stores would continue to operate as usual, to “feed the population”.

Internally, the group is communicating the same message, said a representative from workers’ union CFDT. 

Auchan has said that it will stay in Russia so it can continue paying salaries and feeding the population. However, the same union has warned that this policy may be increasingly difficult to maintain, as public pressure due to the offensive against Ukraine continues.

Auchan particularly has come under scrutiny for its continuing operations in Russia, as have other French companies including Renault, Engie, Airbus, and TotalEnergies.

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