Foreign Brands Operating in Russia Face Backlash in Poland

Foreign Brands Operating in Russia Face Backlash in Poland
Polands Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki arrives at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris on March 11, 2022. (Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images)
Naveen Athrappully

Foreign businesses that have continued operating in Russia despite international sanctions and widespread condemnation are facing backlash in Poland as people increasingly boycott the brands.

Store sales at such brands in Poland have declined, according to the country’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, citing government data. “It shows that ordinary people, more than corporations, understand that current times are exceptional,” Morawiecki said to reporters on March 24. “Decency requires taking actions that trigger losses.”

Though the Polish prime minister did not state which specific brands have been affected, French businesses like Leroy Merlin, a home improvement chain, and Auchan, a grocery chain, have both been facing boycott campaigns against them.

Local entities have also taken action against some of the brands. Polskie Radio, a state-backed broadcaster, has stopped airing Leroy Merlin’s commercials. Poland’s biggest private television network TVN is suspending a sponsorship agreement it had with the French company.

Leroy Merlin shut down the six stores it operated in Ukraine after the war began. However, its 112 stores in Russia continue to operate and the company has not indicated any plans to shut them down. Leroy Merlin’s outlet in the Retroville mall in Kyiv recently suffered damage after the mall was bombed by Russia.

The company’s Ukrainian workers had signed a petition in February, asking for withdrawal from Russia. The brand eventually crippled communication within its Ukrainian unit by cutting off employees’ internal Gmail accounts, according to The New York Times.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked French companies like Leroy Merlin, Auchan, Renault, etc. to leave the Russian market and stop being “sponsors of the Russian war machine” in his speech at the French National Assembly on March 23.
Philippe Zimmermann, director general of Adeo, the parent company of Leroy Merlin, responded to the Ukrainian PM’s demands by stating that he was “hurt” by the comments. “This [kind of discourse] can endanger our employees,” he said to local French newspaper La Voix du Nord.

Meanwhile, Russia is looking to countries like China, India, Turkey, and Iran to compensate for the loss of western retail companies. The Russian Council of Shopping Centers is negotiating with the four nations to decide on alternatives to Western brands.

“A list of foreign companies that have temporarily ceased operations in Russia was sent to them so that appropriate equivalents can be found,” the organization said in a statement. “Over time this will help supplement or completely replace goods of the defunct brands with ones of a similar quality and design.”