How will pausing sales in Russia affect giant brands in the Chinese market?

The retail giant H&M has announced they will pause sales in Russia and have closed all stores in Ukraine due to the ongoing invasion. Many other well-known brands have also cut their ties with Russia, including IKEA, Nike, Burberry, Boohoo, Apple, ASOS, Netflix, and BMW, etc.

According to H&M Group’s statement, “H&M Group is deeply concerned about the tragic developments in Ukraine and stands with all the people who are suffering.” IKEA also announced that “the war has had a huge human impact already. It is also resulting in serious disruptions to supply chain and trading conditions. For all of these reasons, the company groups have decided to temporarily pause IKEA operations in Russia.”

H&M, IKEA, and Nike are the three main brands that have been most talked about on Chinese social media, especially H&M and Nike because of last year’s Xinjiang cotton controversy. Chinese netizens are urging H&M and Nike to exit the Chinese market and encouraging consumers to choose alternative Chinese brands, which will potentially affect these two brands’ performance in China in the near future.

The hashtags #H&M announced that they will suspend all sales in Russia# and #Russia consumers are unable to buy products on Nike’s official website# reached 350 million views and 13.24 million views respectively on Weibo.

One of the reasons why some Chinese netizens have been sympathising with Russia is because of Putin’s speech that he gave last Thursday, portraying Russia as a victim of the West’s political, ideological, and military aggression.

The speech resonated with Chinese netizens with some saying the situation Russia faces today is similar to the struggles that China had experienced before. Some mentioned Russia’s action as being the last resort as the expansion of NATO to the East [Europe] threatens Russia, which might further pose a threat to China, especially the Western part of the country.

Meanwhile, a large group of Chinese people firmly oppose the war and Russia’s actions. The article named “All those who encourage wars are idiots” was widely shared on WeChat but has now been censored by the platform.

“This is 2022, not 1914. We should not ignore and forget the heavy price that we paid in the past. When you encourage the war, think about the innocent people who died, think about the lives that have been destroyed.”

An extract from the article

Pulling out of Russia is a way to protect brands with Western consumers, but on the other hand, they are potentially losing not just the Russian market but also the Chinese market. 


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