Storehouse returns to Russia

STOREHOUSE, the BhS and Mothercare retailer, is returning to Russia eight months after stopping shipments to the country as the local economy teetered on the brink of collapse. Storehouse has resumed the supply of product to its branch of BhS in Moscow and claims trading is "very strong". It plans to monitor performance with a view to the possible opening of more Russian stores.

Storehouse virtually pulled of Russia in August after its franchise partner over-extended itself and required re-financing. The combination of the devaluation of the rouble and plunging levels of disposable income had savaged sales making trading almost impossible.

"We are one of the first retailers to really go back," Storehouse said. "We have always thought the area had a lot of potential." Other UK companies have been badly affected by the Russian crisis. They include Unilever and Cadbury Schweppes, which has a chocolate factory in Russia. Storehouse claims the financial impact of the Russian meltdown was minimal, as it was structured through a franchise partner and was insured.

Storehouse's expansion abroad comes at a time when Storehouse is also re-grouping at home. Last week it cut 90 jobs at BhS as it tries to streamline buying and merchandising functions while making the structure "more customer- led rather than product-led". Forty of the jobs were compulsory redundancies, with the rest achieved through natural wastage. The company said the cuts were not a reflection of group trading.

Separately, BhS plans to test new products and ranges in its stores over the next few months. Following the success of its Christmas gift shop concept it plans to introduce gift sections all year round. It also plans to move into new areas, such as mobile phones. The stores have already been selling large volumes of mobile phone accessories, the group says.

Other seasonal sections are being launched. New "Holiday Shops" are being opened in BhS branches to capitalise on summer spending. "School Shops" will open in time for the back to school period at the end of the summer.

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